Becoming ill is never fun. Luckily, in this day and age getting sick is not nearly as fatal as it used to be, since most of the deadly and contagious diseases like the bubonic plague and smallpox have been eradicated in the United States thanks to modern medicine. However, there is still a substantial amount of illnesses that modern medicine has difficulty treating or has no treatment for at all. Ebola is one of those diseases. Thankfully, the arrival of experimental drugs gives us hope that scientists are on their way to curing it. However, Ebola is still a serious matter that demands the attention of the global community and serves to remind more developed nations that they are not invincible against disease. First, let’s take a look at what the EVD (Ebola virus disease) is.
The Ebola virus disease is a disease that affects humans and other primates. As the name indicates, the disease stems from an Ebolavirus. Symptoms typically begin after two to 21 days; they include a fever, sore throat, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as a decrease in liver and kidney activity. Around this time, those affected may begin to bleed both internally and externally. The virus is contagious, though there is not much potential for an EVD pandemic, since catching the disease requires one to physically come into direct contact with the secretions from an infected person. However, the virus has killed a sizeable number of people in places like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. In such places, there is a general lack of proper medical equipment and hygienic practices. To make matters worse, family members of those killed by the Ebola virus often help prepare or embalm the body for burial, which means that they will come into direct contact with the cadaver, which carries a surefire risk of infection. In addition, there is currently no vaccine available for humans. Despite this, Dr. Kent Brantly, an American aid worker diagnosed with EVD, has recently experienced a significant recovery, which may be attributed to the use of an experimental drug called ZMapp. Dr. Brantly was given Zmapp while undergoing treatment at Emory University Hospital.
Regions like East Asia, Western Europe, and the United States have overcome many afflictions that, in the past, caused great suffering and death. However, it is important that we recognize our vulnerability to disease, and therefore should not regard the Ebola virus or it’s outbreak in Africa as a trivial matter. It is also important to note what doctors can do for people suffering from EVD. While there are ways to slightly improve the conditions of patients suffering from Ebola, they are mostly supportive in nature. They include minimizing invasive procedures and balancing fluids and electrolytes to counter dehydration. However, as of August 14, the FDA has not approved any medications or vaccines to treat Ebola. The treatment that Dr. Brantly received was experimental in nature. Like all experimental drugs, Zmapp requires more research and testing in order to become FDA certified. In other words, there are not many treatment options for patients suffering from Ebola.
The global community should not overestimate its ability to combat disease, even when armed with modern medicine. Americans especially need to acknowledge what a disease like EVD can do. It reminds us that there are still diseases for which treatment options are limited or nonexistent. Naturally, many Americans do not like to hear such news when discussing a loved one who is suffering from a disease, Ebola or otherwise. This is primarily because family members love and care for relatives, but it is also because of the “can-do” society that we live in. Many Americans are used to having solutions on hand at all times. If we have a leak in the sink, we’ll call the plumber. If we can’t decide what class to take, we’ll talk to a guidance counselor. The most obvious example of on-hand answers resides in our smartphones, which have the capability to surf the web almost instantaneously and provide a lucid answer. As a result, we have come to expect quick solutions in almost every realm of our lives. While it certainly is convenient to be able to procure solutions for lots of problems, we also need to learn how to deal with issues that don’t have many effective, foreseeable answers, especially when it comes to disease management.
The Ebola outbreak might also cause the global community to convene and work together in a positive manner, since all corners of the globe can relate to the subject of dangerous diseases. In Europe, the bubonic plague absolutely devastated the population throughout the 14th century, killing an estimated 25 million people, or 30-60 percent of the population. In colonial America, smallpox and yellow fever were constant, potentially fatal afflictions that many suffered and died from. In terms of worldwide illnesses, the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people across the world and killed 50 to 100 million. Cholera still has a presence today, affecting between three and five million people and causing between 100,000 and 130,000 deaths per year as of 2010. In summary, every region on Earth can relate and empathize with the EVD-stricken regions of Africa. If people see that we all have the potential to be affected, then perhaps more people will reach out to try and prevent EVD from spreading any further than it already has. However, that won’t happen if people decide that this outbreak isn’t worth their attention, or that they live far away enough to never have to deal with it. Even if the disease is successfully contained, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can turn a blind eye to those who suffered.