'Groundbreaking' is a word frequently used to describe things that are innovative or inventive. This word is often paired with other words that hold significant weight, such as 'discovery.' At this time, a groundbreaking discovery with worldwide benefits would be a vaccine able to treat Ebola. Whether or not such a vaccine exists we still are not certain. Possible vaccines are still in development and trial phases, but what is increasingly present is a need for such a vaccine. However, even after a vaccine is deemed a success on candidates in one regoin, there is no guarantee it will be successful elsewhere, as people around the globe carry different antibodies that will impact the vaccine's ability to perform its job.
Ebola virus disease (EVD), also referred to as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a serious illness with a high death toll. Among the infected, up to 90% will die. The incubation period for Ebola is between 2-21 days. It will materialize in the form of fever, weakness, sore muscles, sore throat, and headaches but will soon advance to include rash, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as internal and external bleeding. In the past, fear of contracting Ebola was not problem faced by United States residents as Ebola did not exist on our soil. Well, that was then, and this is now.
In the past week, two individuals infected with Ebola have arrived in this, their home country: the United States. With them arrived Ebola. Steps have been taken to ensure their illness remains contained and they are being cared for by one of the premier medical teams in the country, at a stellar facility. Even so, the public outcry has been filled with protests suggesting they should not have been brought here for treatment, reasons for which include citing the presence of Ebola on U.S. soil for the first time in history.
Making history is a double edged sword. On one hand, you have the potential to learn and do good things, which is the argument adopted by the medical staff treating these people. On the other hand, there is the potential for chaos, chaos which in this case can result in an enormous death toll. Emory hospital is located in Atlanta, Georgia, which is not only a large city but also a large transportation hub. Millions of people pass through Atlanta annually, then disperse to other parts of the country. If Ebola were to break free of the hold Emory hospital currently has on it, chances are that a large number of people stand to bring home a very unpleasant souvenir from their time in Atlanta.
We are told to feel safe because the staff at Emory is well trained and, as medical professionals, understand disease transmission and prevention. We are told containment is something they can achieve while they treat the infected. We are told that the people brought back to the United States deserve only the best care because of their humanitarian efforts, which is a qualifying statement if ever there were one, but the argument of who is worthy and for what reasons is one we can save for another day.
What we are not told is that someone made a mistake. You see, the people who contracted Ebola in this case knew what they were dealing with. One was a doctor. If a trained doctor was unable to prevent himself from acquiring an illness that he was aware was present in his environment, how are we to believe that the same thing will not happen again, this time in a new place with a much greater potential impact? After all, Ebola does spread from human-to-human contact; all it takes is contact with blood, body fluids, or organs of the infected through broken skin or mucous membranes. If you are male, you can pass the disease for up to seven weeks after you have recovered through your semen.
Now that Ebola is here, we must face the reality that it could be spread. This may be a very unlikely scenario as of now, but unlikely is a far cry from impossible. While we hope that the medical professionals tasked with the care of the infected will be diligent in their duties, we must keep in mind the reality of the situation. If we survive this Ebola outbreak without spread, who is to say that we will survive the next one, or that something worse is not waiting around the next bend in the road?
To the affected both in the United States and worldwide, our thoughts are with you. May the groundbreaking outcome of this outbreak ultimately be an end to the horrible illness that is Ebola rather than continued, tragic loss of life.
What are your thoughts on the Ebola outbreak and its worldwide ramifications? How are you prepared to face a widespread illness with an overwhelming fatality rate? Please share your thoughts, feelings, and preparedness methods in the comments.