Ebola and Dallas

Ebola has struck in the heart of Texas and her citizens are panicking. While the media scolds the good citizens of Dallas for overreacting, the same outlets are pouring journalists and resources into covering the story. Potential doomsday scenario crossed with reality TV sounds like a great combination to entice viewers.

This little contradiction, driven by the economics of the news cycle, is actually beside the point. While a focus on Dallas is newsworthy, the attention is a bit off center. That a nurse following isolation protocols contracted the virus is tragic but the emphasis should be more than one woman’s heroism turned possible death warrant. The tightest focus should be on the fact that this woman, following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols and supervision, who acted with conscientious and exacting procedures, still contracted Ebola.

Liberia and Sierra Leona do not have CDC protocols and supervision nor do these countries have the ability to implement best practice procedures. Hospitals are a collection of huts with fences around and through the property .They do not even have enough isolation suits or gloves to go around. Hospitals are inconsequential because people are lying in the streets bleeding and spewing out contaminated body fluids. Clothing, sheets, and rags are all contaminated. Burying victims of Ebola is a dangerous business too, another terrible vector of infection.

This outbreak of Ebola is more devastating because previous outbreaks have been in rural, somewhat isolated areas of Western Africa. This time the virus is hurtling through urban populations. In the previous outbreaks, health care workers had to wait for the wave of infection to dissipate on its own, to burn itself out. With large burgeoning populations of crowded poor neighborhoods, the wave may not crest in the near future. Quite the opposite, the rate of infection is doubling each month according to estimates.

If the CDC cannot control accidental infection in the United States, what hope does Western Africa have? I fear that this pandemic is only beginning. The resources being brought to bear are not the best quality and quantities of supplies are not available. Families, neighborhoods and villages are being ravaged. The countries are poor and economically teetering; the entire national cabinet of Liberia fled the country and had to be dissolved. This is the worst of circumstances for containing this plague.

Let us pray.