Combating Ebola

With one confirmed death in the United States from the disease and reports of Ebola spreading to Europe, how should the United States and other countries try to prevent the illness from infecting their people?


Photo Courtesy of John Moore

A Liberian man, part of a local aid team, helps a fellow worker put on a protective suit. Clothing such as this must be worn at all times to prevent workers from exposure to the virus.

Jake Matise, Sports Editor

The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed thousands of lives, and although efforts have been made to prevent the spreading of the disease, the virus has found its way onto American soil, killing one and infecting two others in Dallas, Texas. Both of those currently infected are nurses who were tending to the first patient. The rapid outbreak of the virus seems like something out of a horror movie, but it is all too real. Ebola has been a great cause of concern, and most Americans, including government officials, are worried about the potential damage the virus could inflict on the country.

The reality is that without proper medical training, Ebola could be incredibly devastating to countries. We have seen an example of this in West Africa, where countries have lacked the supplies and training to deal with the rapid spread of the virus. However, officials in those countries have been working to properly equip doctors in the region with both the tools and knowledge to fight the disease. This is a crucial first step in controlling Ebola in West Africa, but it cannot stand alone. Production of medicine and other essential pieces in caring for the ill must be sped up in order to help those in need. In the United States, we can afford such things, but these necessities will be costly. If we as Americans can afford the supplies needed to help contain the virus, we should increase our efforts to do so and so should other countries. There are other ways to prevent the disease from reaching other countries, some of which are beginning to be put into effect now.

One way to prevent Ebola from entering the United States is to completely close off all travel to and from West Africa in relation to the United States. While I believe this should have been in place earlier for all non-medical officials, I do see problems in completely closing off travel to these areas. For instance, we would not be able to send aid workers to the infected countries to help care for the infected and deliver supplies. This would result in the further spread of the illness in Africa and would cause many more people to become ill with the virus. While this type of extreme quarantine could help stop more of the virus from entering the United States, it would also raise the death toll and hurt more people in Africa.

Another option to prevent the sick from giving Ebola to those in other countries is for questionnaires at all airports in West Africa to be implemented. This is already in place at most airports in the vicinity of the outbreak, however, one major flaw with asking questions is that the passenger could easily lie. Unfortunately, there is no way to test the credibility of the person in question. While I do believe these questionnaires do have a role in stopping the outbreak, I also feel that not all passengers at those airports would tell the truth. Due to better medical care in the United States, they may believe that their chances of survival are improved by coming to the country. While this could be true, they do not understand just how contagious the disease is. Even with measures in place to prevent Americans from contracting Ebola, anyone tending to an infected person is at high risk of becoming sick.

As for the Dallas nurse, Nina Pham, who has now contracted Ebola, it seems that more measures should have been taken to prevent the “breach in protocol” that the Center for Disease Control is claiming. How could such a serious breach occur? Perhaps the CDC should have properly instructed all nurses and doctors on how to properly remove all gloves and clothing after examining and caring for an infected patient before Ebola arrived in the United States.  The CDC must take more measures to be sure that all contaminated clothing is destroyed to prevent further spread of the virus. Proper disposal is a measure that should be taken immediately in all areas treating the disease.

According to CNN, Ebola has now spread to Europe, with the first recorded case in Spain. This new infection, similar to the two incidents in the United States, has brought attention to the issue of how well-equipped hospitals are to handle the deadly disease. Teresa Romero Ramos helped care for the ill in Africa, where she contracted Ebola from a patient she was caring for, who later died. Ramos is in serious condition, but stable, stated Antonio Andreu, director of the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid.

The good news is that Nina Pham’s condition is improving. Pham, who contracted the illness from Thomas Eric Duncan, the first man in the United States to have Ebola, recently spoke on Tuesday, Oct. 14, to thank supporters for their thoughts and prayers. “I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world,” stated Pham. All members of the staff that cared for Duncan are being monitored for symptoms of Ebola, but it seems that the illness has been contained in the United States, at least for now.  If stronger measures and directions for dealing with this disease are not implemented now, the ramifications could spread like wildfire, infecting people on a global scale and not just in an one area.