Earlier this month, Facebook and Twitter were loaded with posts like this one from Donald Trump:
At first, I too, was alarmed at the thought of bringing such a deadly disease to America. Then I thought about the virus life cycle, how it infects humans, and how it spreads and I was, at least somewhat, relieved. You see, ebola virus does not spread through the air like some other viruses including influenza. The virus is present in bodily fluids such as blood and urine. In order to spread, one must come in close contact with an infected individual. I refer you to the World Health Organization (WHO) ebola viral disease website for more details on this pathogen. Ebola spreads readily within some African communities partially because of their burial customs, which include cleaning, and therefore touching, infected corpses riddled with virus. Further, quarantine procedures are less commonly practiced in remote villages without international presence, which can also exacerbate an outbreak.
Two Americans were in Africa assisting in the treatment of patients during the largest ebola outbreak in recorded history. As of August 22nd, 2615 cases of ebola infection have been confirmed in West Africa, causing 1427 deaths, so far. The ebola-infected U.S. citizen missionaries Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were transferred from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta earlier this month. The Emory unit, along with coordination of the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), who also have a lot of great information about Ebola on their website, took the highest of biosafety precautions in the transport and containment of both individuals. As of this publication, both individuals are doing well, but the backlash of their transport into the U.S. has caused quite an uproar.
Nanjala Nyabola presents a great perspective on the irresponsibility of inciting a panic. Although the focus of his article was how the ebola outbreak is influencing political pressures in West Africa, his words are not without relatability to the panic in the U.S. Especially this quote:
“We don’t need panic. We need a human response that recognises that each life is valuable
and that a concerted effort should be made to protect it.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Nyabola. So next time your friend, family member, or colleague mentions their distrust and concern over bringing ebola-infected individuals to the U.S for the very best medical care, just remind them not to touch the patients and they will be just fine.