While the US and it’s NATO allies are fretting about what military action to take against the ISIS in Iraq and Syria and while assimilating military response teams around Ukraine in case Russia really does invade some day, it seems that relatively little attention is being paid to the mounting death toll in west Africa from the Ebola epidemic that is spreading death and fear in the region.
This Ebola episode was first noted in the small country of Guinea. However, the hardest hit have been Liberia and Sierra Leone The latest figures I’ve seen, which experts believe to be under estimated, have the death toll over 2100 and the number infected around 3800. That’s a mortality rate of over 50%. Obama and friends decided they had to attack Libya when their civil war death had reached 2000. Obama’s red line in Syria was drawn at about the same death toll.
Some engineers applied some statistical analysis to the Ebola data and produced this very disturbing graph of where the death toll could go if current trends continue.
Although the Ebola outbreak received much media atention for a few weeks, most of the efforts to confront and control this tragedy have been by local medical services, missionary workers, and other voluntary medical service groups, like Doctors Without Borders. Yet, as the above graph clearly shows, the epidemic is anything but under control. In fact, the situations is getting progressively worse. That doesn’t necessarily mean that in another 15 weeks we are going to see the death toll reach 30, 000. But, some experts in WHO are fearing the death toll could reach 20,000. And, now it is being reported that a different strain of Ebola has broken out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
These poor and backward countries are not equipped to deal with an epidemic of this scope. They lack knowledge, sufficient health care professionals, protective gear for health care workers, beds and isolation centers, and they lack the means to educate an illiterate populace. Look at these quotes from a Reuters aricle on the situation in Liberia:
When a starving Ebola patient escaped from a treatment center in Monrovia and staggered through a crowded market in search of food, bystanders who scattered in his path voiced their anger not at him but at Liberia’s president.*
Panicked residents said the patient was the fifth to escape in recent weeks from the understaffed ELWA hospital. Dozens watched anxiously as workers in protective clothes bundled the struggling patient into a truck and drove him back.
“The patients are hungry, they are starving. No food, no water,” said one terrified woman in the crowd. “The government need to do more. Let Ellen Johnson Sirleaf do more!”
But the disease is far outpacing efforts to control it. Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said this week a further 800 Ebola beds were needed in Monrovia alone, and it called for foreign military teams to be deployed.
A major challenge has been informing a poorly educated population about a disease which had never before struck in West Africa. Burial traditions of washing the dead by hand have fueled the spread of the highly contagious disease but with many citizens unable to read, education campaigns have been slow to reach their mark.
The president has admitted that Liberia – which had only 50 doctors for its 4.5 million people on the eve of the outbreak – does not have the resources to cope.
But the suspension of flights by international airlines and the closure of borders by neighboring states has complicated efforts to respond.
“How do we get in the kinds of supplies that we need? How do we get experts to come to our country? Is that African solidarity?” Information Minister Brown asked.
On top of all of that, people with routine illnessses are not going to hospitals for fear of becoming infected with Ebola.
This article at Zero Hedge has sixteen alarming quotes from global health officials on the Ebola epidemic. Her are just a few:
#1Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic, and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, and it’s going to get worse in the very near future. There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing. We really have to act now.”
2Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders: “Riots are breaking out. Isolation centres are overwhelmed. Health workers on the frontline are becoming infected and are dying in shocking numbers.”
#5Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization: “…we hope to stop the transmission in six to nine months”.
#7Gayle Smith, senior director at the National Security Council: “This is not an African disease. This is a virus that is a threat to all humanity.”
#10Dr. Richard Besser, health and medical editor for ABC News: “Emergency rooms are closed, many hospital wards are as well leaving people who are sick with heart disease, trauma, pregnancy complications, pneumonia, malaria and all the everyday health emergencies with nowhere to go.”
#15Official WHO statement: “Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”
To President Obama’s credit, it is reported this morning that he intends to have our military “would be involved in setting up isolation units and other equipment, as well as providing security for public health workers from around the world.” The same report says he also has asked congress for $250 million to send more CDC personnel and equipment to west Africa. That’s a start, but where is the rest of the world? If Ebola should show up in the US or another developed country, that would be bad; but, at least, these countries are better able to control such an outbreak. Can you imagine the toll if Ebola broke out in a country like India, with its extremely high population density?
Isn’t Ebola as much a national and world security risk as ISIS and the Russians?
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?