Ebola: What it Truly Means

The news, for the past few weeks, has been fervently covering the same topic: Ebola. As a gruesome and merciless killer, Ebola has made it’s way to an international public health emergency, as declared by the World Health Organization. However, we cannot look past what the outbreak of Ebola really means- although a global health epidemic, it raises questions on the equality of health conditions in less fortunate countries like Africa.

Countless sources have instilled the fact that this epidemic is one like never before; it’s different from the past 19 outbreaks that have already affected Africa. Now, it has spread across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone, taking almost five thousand lives and infected almost ten thousand- also making it the largest outbreak yet. When Ebola resurfaced in West Africa, most Americans did not bat an eye or lift a single finger in effort to combat the situation. Rather, they hid under the comfort of the words, “Ebola will never come to the US”. And this percepted idea just happened to be proved false: on September 30th, 2014, Thomas Eric Duncan, who had flown from Liberia to Texas, tested positive for Ebola. This event induced fear and worry into almost every American household, and it has not ceased to do so. To many, it had seemed like there was no hope.

If Ebola was on such a deadly degree, then what happened with Nina Pham? As the nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, she was the first person in the US to contract the disease. Many people lost hope in the chance of her recovery, believing that the malice of Ebola would only repeat itself on Pham, just like it had on the thousands in West Africa. However, just after being admitted into a special facility at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland for two weeks, Nina Pham was claimed to be Ebola free. Pham delivered a well- written speech on the day she was released, requiring no assistance in moving around. She even met with the President on her way home to Dallas, Texas. Pham’s incident gave rise to thoughts on the following: If the Ebola outbreak had hit the US instead of West Africa, would there be any doubt that it couldn’t be eliminated right away? Of course not. In the US, the hospitals would be organized and up to date with the latest and cutting edge technology. The health workers would be fitted head to toe with the strongest and most protective safety wear. Everything would be swiftly directed with an efficient health command center.

Nurse-Nina-Pham-declared-free-of-Ebola-meets-President-Obama
Nina Pham, with President Obama, shortly after being released.

Now we must ask: how come this is not happening with the current outbreak in West Africa?  Despite the effort and money the US continuously put in, public health systems are still too weak, the cost of providing an effective care is still too high, and the amount of workers able to help are still too scarce.

The Ebola outbreak is not just an epidemic that people fear, but it’s also a representation of the inequality present between the US and Africa. If Africa and other less fortunate countries had an equal public health system and health care, the thought of such a deadly Ebola outbreak like today would never even cross one’s mind.

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