FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ebola: Fight the Disease, Not the Victims

The spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa is a global health emergency. Countries around the world must join together to mobilize the resources, build the isolation units, supply the needed medicine, doctors, nurses and support personnel needed to isolate and treat those afflicted, track down and monitor those who might have been in contact, and stop the epidemic.

The toll of the victims of the epidemic — centered in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone — is rising. The World Health Organization now reports over 7,400 confirmed or likely cases, and 3,431 deaths. On Sept. 23, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that without a more robust response, as many as 1.4 million cases could erupt in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 20.

The virus is deadly, but not particularly infectious. It spreads only from direct contact from the bodily fluids — sweat, blood, vomit — of someone infected after the fever and other symptoms have occurred. Sadly, the incubation period — the time after someone is infected but before symptoms appear — lasts a week and sometimes as long as three weeks. People can travel long distances unaware that they are carrying the disease. This poses a challenge for health officials who must make the public aware so that they are cautious, without spreading panic. It also means that the entire world has a stake in countering this lethal epidemic.

The disease can be stopped. An American victim, undiagnosed, carried the disease into crowded Lagos, Nigeria. More people live in Lagos than in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone combined. A vigorous response — investigating all in contact with the patient, monitoring them, and isolating those who showed symptoms — cleared the virus with only eight deaths. Nigeria had the public health and governmental capacity to respond. But in West Africa, civil wars and chronic poverty have disrupted already meager local health systems. Doctors are scarce; health workers had no experience with the disease.

As Nigeria shows, we need mobilization, not panic, particularly with the chilling news that a Liberian, Thomas E. Duncan, tested positive for the disease in Dallas, the first case diagnosed in this country.

Duncan, now in critical condition, traveled to the U.S. without being aware that he was infected. However, he did come into direct contact with a woman while in Liberia, and he failed to report the truth on an airport health questionnaire. When he contracted a fever, he went to the hospital but was sent him home without proper testing. When his symptoms grew worse, he was taken back to the hospital and isolated. Public health authorities have mobilized, identifying and monitoring all those who might have had contact with him. CDC officials fanned out in the hospital and in his neighborhood to investigate. Happily, as pediatrician Matt Karwowski reported to the Washington Post, “there was no resistance from anyone whatsoever … At every single door, people welcomed us in … They were also fearful, but not of us.” The CDC teams have been working 18 hours a day.

This epidemic is a human disaster. It will devastate not only its victims, but also millions more as economies freeze up, schools close, tourism dries up, and fear spreads. In this country, some will use the epidemic to fan racial divides or to posture on immigration. President Obama is already criticized for providing military assistance to build hospital units and transport necessary equipment and medicine in Liberia. Some treat Duncan more as a criminal than a patient, due to his failing to report the truth. His family reports that even those who have been cleared are now shunned in their community.

In Jesus’ time, lepers were treated as unclean, sowing fear and hatred. On one of his last nights, Jesus stayed at the home of Simon the Leper. He showed that we should be fighting the disease, not the person. That is a lesson we should remember in the days ahead of us.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail