It is important for the governments to provide money to things that are beautiful and not just for things that are practical.
IN SEPTEMBER 1976 scientists in Antwerp received a Thermos out of Yambuku, in what was then Zaire, with two samples from a nun who was fatally ill. One of the vials had smashed, but after scooping the other out of a pool of icy water, blood and broken glass, they discovered that they were handling a deadly and unknown virus. To spare Yambuku from infamy, they named the infection after a local river, the Ebola.
The next 36 years saw about 20 Ebola epidemics. Each was in a village or small town in central Africa and subsided after claiming fewer than 300 lives.
Today’s crisis is of a different order. It has struck down three countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—with a combined population of over 20m. Almost 4,500 deaths have been recorded: the actual total is much larger. The epidemic is still rampant, destroying communities as it goes. It has spread sporadically to other African countries and to Spain and America.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) fears up to 10,000 new victims a week by December, perhaps 70% of whom will die. Its chief calls the epidemic “the most severe acute public-health emergency in modern times”. Now that the world has woken up to the danger, the task is to stop the toll reaching hundreds of thousands, if not millions. That is feasible only with sustained international collaboration. And so far, collaboration is something the response has tragically lacked.
This time it’s different
Like any epidemic, Ebola is best stopped early. It kills health workers by exposing them to patients who, by the end, exude up to ten litres of virus-laden fluids a day. The number of infections seems to be doubling every two to four weeks. As health-care workers fall ill and the infection grows exponentially, a society’s defences against Ebola are rapidly overwhelmed.
This time the response has been fatally slow. One reason is that an Ebola epidemic had never been seen in that part of Africa. The disease may also have been helped by urbanisation and development, which strengthen the transport links that shuttle virus from villages to the town and back into uninfected country. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before Ebola would find its way into a slum too chaotic and vast to cope.
There is no denying that governments facing the spread of epidemic, especially when it comes to Africa, should give top priority to practical things. It is hard not to admit that Ebola has triggered quite a stir, which is a fatal virus dating back to few decades ago carried by a nun of Yambuku firstly and then distributed to a cyclopean scale. According to the latest estimate, Ebola has caused more than 4,500 deaths and the actual situation runs deeper than the data has shown.
It is reported that the infections have reached 10,000 a week, among whom, 70% would die eventually and, the number of the infections seems to be doubling two to four weeks. That is to say the draconian mortality rate grows exponentially. The chief of the WHO called the disease the most severe acute public-health emergency in modern times. Besides, the disease may also have been helped by urbanisation and development, which strengthens the transport links that shuttle virus from villages to the town and back into uninfected country. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before Ebola would find its way into a slum too chaotic and vast to cope.
To add salt on the injury, the rampant epidemic even leads to the consequence that the society’s defenses against Ebola are rapidly overwhelmed. If effective measures have not been taken, the whole districts will fail to be represented on the world map. As a result, governments of the disease-rampant areas should blaze every trail to explore the cure of the virus which is the amulet for them to achieve the final triumph.