There’s no escaping he fact. Ebola poses the greatest threat to the way of life and wellbeing of the Developed World since the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. And we’re not taking it seriously.
That Great Flu killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide. As the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia puts it:
Almost 40 per cent of Sydney’s total population had influenza. In some areas of Sydney, the deaths from influenza accounted for 50 per cent of all deaths.
Six thousand in New South Wales alone died of that flu. According to the 1920 Australian Year Book, national flu deaths hit 12,000 in 1919, and the US Department of Health and Human Services put the total US pandemic toll at 675,000. Within a decade, survivors found themselves in the grip of the Great Depression. But that was so long ago, right?
So in 2009, a new threat called “Swine Flu” swept the globe, killing 1600 Australians.
What’s amazing is that it took three more years for experts to arrive at a guess of global Swine Flu fatalities. In 2012 the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the prestigious medical journal, Lancet:
The influenza A subtype H1N1 ”swine flu” 2009 pandemic probably claimed more than a quarter of a million lives – 15 times more than the 18,500 reported, according to a paper in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
And then observed:
The elevated toll underlined the need for better planning and vaccine distribution, said a team of epidemiologists and physicians who made a statistical model based on population and infection estimates to present what they believe is a more accurate picture of the pandemic’s reach.
In other words, according to Lancet—just two years ago—the United Nations, US-led, World Health Organization-run globe didn’t even know how many people died as a result of H1N1.
Alarm bells for today should have rung right there and then. Said the same Sydney Morning Herald article:
The estimate shows the difficulty in tracking the effect of a pandemic as it is unfolding. … The researchers said 51 per cent of swine flu deaths were estimated to have occurred in south-east Asia and Africa, which account for 38 per cent of the world’s population.
And there’s the rub. Now Ebola is in town. From where is it spreading? Africa. How many has it killed globally as of writing? Said the Australian newspaper this morning:
And we have absolutely no idea what we’re up against: once again. That’s why we should be worried. No, that’s too mild a word for this crisis. “Scared beyond belief”—yes, that’s the much better mindset we should adopt.
Well, what is Ebola? After all it’s just a poor African disease right?
In a nutshell, Ebola is virus spread by contact with bodily fluids—human or animal. Particularly blood. That’s quite appropriate because as some describe it, Ebola is the “bleeding disease”.
Basically, Ebola enters the blood stream where it quickly replicates, thickening the blood and causing clots that burst through the skin and squeeze one’s internal organs into pain-searing goo. Eventually the liver, kidneys, intestines and brain liquefy: blood streams from the eyes, ears, nose and pores. Agony becomes a struggle for death. Fever boils the cerebrum, while kidney failure or hemorrhaging eventually bring peace to the troubled soul.
And there is no known cure.
Taken as an existential risk to humanity—especially the West, Ebola poses a greater threat than any conventional Al Qaeda plot, Hamas rocket, or ISIS beheading. Only an Iranian nuke could do more harm.
But all we need is a maniac deliberately infecting himself in Central Africa then twenty-one days later spraying his blood in Times Square, and society as we know it would expire.
Forgetting the Third World, hospitals of the Developed World are far from ready for the victim spread we merely have today. Do you think your local hospital could handle a single infection, followed by another: then even more by an exponential magnitude? Could you trust your doctor’s surgery for a visit? What are the protocols for disposing of tissues on airplanes and public places? Where is our health education?
Western governments are simply not synched for the care of their citizenry and they’ve waited too long to prevent infection born internationally. What exactly will a temperature screen achieve at an airport when a passenger has travelled days prior through ports of entry without scans? Can a scan detect incubation? My guess—not more than “Duck and Cover” might prevent nuclear fallout.
Rather, the United Nations unbelievably dallied without establishing an emergency quarantine of Africa; corrupt African politicians remained in power withholding medical aid for kickbacks; and the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas today, reported a “breach of protocol” resulting in the infection of a nurse on US soil.
First mention of the world “Ebola” should have sent the world’s health infrastructure into frenzy. But it didn’t because “Ebola” means “Africa”—and Africa is over there.
But you’d better believe had it been a suspected case of Mad Cow, say in Wyoming or an Australian cattle station, people would have acted fast.
So now a biological time bomb ticks in emergency waiting rooms not merely in Sierra Leone. It’s one that will kill. And without immediate government direction the risk of unintentional spread will grow.
As I write, the Australian government still doesn’t have its strategy on the right footing. Want to travel to Sierra Leone? No problem, it says.
The government thinks you might want to “reconsider” though.
© 2014 Adam Parker. You’ve just read a Parkerpinion.
Main photo credit © 2014 World Health Organization.