American fears regarding a widespread Ebola outbreak have calmed since the days of Thomas Duncan, but a new report out of Sierra Leone proves that this is still a clear and present danger to mankind. The report – filed by the Africa Governance Initiative – showed that the virus is spreading nine times faster than it was in September in the badly-afflicted country. The report comes at the same time that the World Health Organization advises that the rate of new cases is leveling off. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard conflicting stories about Ebola.
Nick Thompson, AGI’s chief executive, gave BBC news a reason for the disparity. “What we’re seeing is a varied picture across the country. There are areas where it’s still going up quite dramatically.” Thompson said that the rural areas of Sierra Leone are being hit much harder than the urban ones.
As of the end of October, 4,951 people have died from Ebola in the latest outbreak. Only one American has thus far been among them.
Selfishness From the Selfless
Much of the American focus over the past week has been on nurse Kati Hickox, who made herself a national pariah by refusing the accept a New Jersey quarantine upon returning from West Africa. After getting back to her home in Maine, local officials attempted to have a judge force her to stay indoors for the 21-day incubation period. Though the judge eventually ruled in her favor, Hickox didn’t wait for permission before heading out on at least one bike ride.
Explaining her actions on Monday, Hickox insisted that she “had no choice but to fight back” when she realized “these policies are being made by politicians, really not the experts in the field.” However, Hickox continues to rightfully draw America’s scorn, as many are unconvinced that the nation’s leadership – exemplified by Obama and the CDC – is erring on the side of caution.
It Ain’t Over Yet
While things still look bleak in West Africa, Americans are starting to let the worst of the panic fade. That’s a good thing, but it’s important to remember that we’re not out of the woods yet. When Thomas Duncan infected two of his attending nurses, it looked like things could quickly spiral out of control. With that settled, there is hope that we may one day look back at the big American Ebola scare as a minor bit of 2014 trivia.
But we can’t afford to forget that the disease continues to kill thousands across the Atlantic. And with travel to and from West Africa still relatively unrestricted, it could only be a matter of time before we see another Thomas Duncan. This is especially true if American officials let their guard down. And an Ebola outbreak in December or January could prove every bit as dangerous as one in October.
Drug manufacturers are working diligently to produce medicines and vaccines against the current strain, but those efforts may not come to fruition in time to block an epidemic. Even as we slowly allow Ebola to slip off the front page, we need to be wary. Even a single undetected infection could have dire ramifications.