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Friday, October 3, 2014

Ebola needs attention just like Islamic State

This morning, thousands of West Africans have flown out of their countries-including Ebola affected areas, and alongside many Europeans, Americans, Chinese and fellow southern Africans, they have shared public toilets or plane toilets each heading different direction. Every hour, every trip nowadays brings Ebola close to any part of the world.
With millions of people crisscrossing airports, people searching each other physically, attending conferences, falling in love or simply even going for peace keeping operations, the risk of transmitting the fluid contact virus are higher.
The Centre for Disease Control and the American National Institute of Health estimates that 5 people, at least every hour in Seirra Leone-one of the worst affected countries alongside Liberia are being infected.
Many of those affected do not want to come out for fear of being quarantined. Many have hidden their loved ones and relations for fear of losing them, others simply fearing they wont be able to bury them properly and the "curse" or "angry spirit" will haunt them or some claim will kill them.
Aid or funding to the Ebola hit countries has been on decline, that is obvious just like the absence of funding to many of the poorest countries, with funny conditions attached to many of todays funding. But the risk of an outright global risk does not spare the rich countries, in terms of global health challenges like Ebola, no one, with or without money is safe today.
Imagine a student working on internship in one of the affected countries, going into a club or disco for farewell party. Then flies into London or New Yorks club for a welcome party, sweaty, lots of body fluids exchanges, even kissings and whatever. We can have at least a thousand Ebola cases just in a case of one person coming into crowded areas.
The threat is real and the cost is devastating and without proper treatment, Ebola poses one the greatest challenges to the world, just like the emergence of the Islamic State. While the brutal Islamists behead people and wantonly kill Christians and those of other beliefs, Ebola sadly does not choose the colour or belief of a human being.
Anything to control it today, should be as urgent, well coordinated and well resourced than anything else as a matter of public concern. Not for African states, but the whole world as well.
The United States has just reported its first Ebola case. The large scale of people that the suspect came across with should send more worries to many people.
A media briefing organised by the Kaiser Family Health Programme indicated that at least 1.4 million people could be affected by January 2015, in other words in the next three months if the present response remains the only option for Ebola. The cry for USD$1 billion has largely been ignored and many countries are willing to invest billions a day in controlling the Islamic State than fighting the epidemic that could wipe out all the economic gains made since the 2008 financial meltdown.
The case in USA should raise alarm on the inadequacy and the danger that Ebola can be elusive for as far as 21 days, making it a greater risk than anything esle that can be tackled quickly because it is seen.
Unfortunately, all international reports on media houses like BBC and CNN end with a statement that the virus natural home is a west african bat, which is a delicacy to many in the region.
In a face of a global health threat, it is no longer a matter of reminding people about the bat, whether a delicacy or not, Ebola is now being trasmitted among human beings and it is human to human transmission that is now more deadly than the bat eating communities. Editors should seriously consider removing the bat link which has lived its use as demeans the seriousness of the matter that needs to be delt with.
Nigeria and Senegal have reported no case for 24 days, meaning they might have contained it or as Medicines San Frontiers argues many in affected areas might not be coming forwards. The fact that what started in a small village in Guinea, has affected over 3,000 square miles and now America should worry everyone that we need to do something now.
Listening to Medicines San Frontiers during the Kaiser Health briefing, it is pathetic is that what they lack are basic items to quarantine or force hygiene on many of the infected persons. In a world where football teams spend billions of dollars to pay and buy players, singers spend billions of dollars on anything and politicians trillions on wars, fighting Ebola should have come easy than anything else.
Is it because its in Africa? Our present day connectedness removes the geo political boundaries as people now travel faster and everywhere.
With scramble for Africa's natural resources by Chinese and Westerners alike, supporting Ebola fight should have been  a priority or thousands of workers from these countries remain at risk of exporting, not only Africas minerals, but a bonus of ebola virus. Time to act is now!

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