The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is growing. While it’s not yet worth quarantining the infected countries, we aren’t even taking steps to screen airline passengers for symptoms of the disease—the only international steps taken are to send aid, and to recommend no one fly to the region unless absolutely necessary.
First, let’s talk about how Ebola spreads. Ebola is transmitted by bodily fluids—you won’t catch it from a fellow airline passenger unless they cough right in your face. Most people are catching it from loved ones—they care for a sick spouse or sibling, and get sick themselves. This is why our main fight against Ebola right now is focused on sending aid—in the form of healthcare workers and supplies. We’ve got to stop the spread by getting people who are sick with Ebola away from healthy people who aren’t trained to care for them (or to dispose of the medical waste they generate).
Whether Ebola makes it’s way around the world will depend on how well we (world governments) track it, and how well we (the people) respond. Once there is a risk of catching Ebola, the way we react to being sick HAS to change.
In the US, the vast majority of workers go to work when sick—especially food service workers, who don’t get sick days and aren’t really paid well enough to miss weeks of work if they get sick. Even office workers tend to work while ill—after all, we’re used to having top tier medical treatments available. If Ebola hit tomorrow, and we didn’t realize it, we’ll be incredibly vulnerable because of our existing overconfidence and habits.
So, how do we treat Ebola? We get those who are sick to professional care facilities.The good news is that, although this is the biggest outbreak ever, we’re doing a great job at keeping people alive. Care is limited to rest and fluids (no specific treatment), but we’re beating past survival rates. Still, it’s a scary, deadly disease, and we should take it very seriously and not forget that.
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