Ebola virus made its way to the headlines for the very first time in the late 1970s as the population of Congo and Sudan suffer from a deadly hemorrhagic fever. While it was thought that such outbreaks were controlled in Africa and the rest of the world, the virus startled the United States once again in the year 1989—ten years after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak in Africa (Peters and LeDuc, 1999).
Today, Ebola virus continues to haunt the people all over the world as the World Health Organization disclosed another outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria earlier this year. With the outbreak underway, the situation for the people in of West Africa seems bleak as two out of ten cases of Ebola viral disease were reported dead in Nigeria. The statistics of mortality continues to grow as 4,400 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have died. The spread of Ebola viral infection extended in the United States and one person was reported dead (Diamond, 2014). Reports from various media outfits on several outbreaks and the lack of treatments to arrest the viral infection further exacerbated the situation. Some of these faulty reports resulted to a hullabaloo that made other countries joining the bandwagon of imposing a travel ban and trade ban in West Africa. In fact, Kenya is one of the many countries that declared a travel ban for people coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria (Tran, 2014; Umeora et al., 2014). In this regard, I would like to contend that instead of imposing international trade and travel ban over countries that are gravely affected with Ebola outbreak, it is important to get the facts straight from scientific studies on the nature of Ebola virus to prevent panic and social stigma and help the affected countries to control the outbreak.
Allow me to begin our discussion with the crux of the matter—the nature of Ebola virus.
While it is common knowledge that some species of Ebola virus proves very lethal to humans, we should also consider the fact that the transmission of the virus from one person to another is through a direct contact with body fluids of infected individuals. Besides exchange of body fluids, a direct contact with cadavers or corpses that are infected with Ebola through the skin can lead to infection. Several studies illustrated that the virus is not transmitted via aerosols (Umeora et al., 2014).
Bausch and Schwarz (2014) emphasized that the outbreak of Ebola is also a result of a global climate change and pollution. Therefore, it is only fitting then that the global community especially those who contribute a high degree of greenhouse gas emissions should also participate in alleviating the conditions of the people who are directly impacted by the outbreak.
The West African region is poverty stricken and the social stigma of Ebola virus does not help in creating a better society. Studies have shown that the stigma that the West African society received due to faulty reports and exaggerations of media outfits resulted to a great panic among citizen. Politicians have taken matters in their own regarding allocations of funds to control the disease when they should have consulted empirical data in their decision-making process. Industries such as amusement parks, malls, public transportation and tourism are gravely affected because of the Ebola outbreak news (Umeora et al., 2014).
If the economic activity of these impacted countries were already suffering, why do we have to rub more salt to the wound by imposing a trade ban or a travel ban despite the reports from the World Health Organization that trade bans and travel bans are unnecessary.
Instead of pointing a finger to those countries that were gravely affected by Ebola outbreak, it is better to think of a solution that would benefit the global community in addressing these challenges. Extensive researches on potential drugs against Ebola virus infection are underway and information is fast-accumulating. Translating these scientific reports into a simpler jargon that would provide the public a better understanding of the control and management of the outbreak as well as the transmission of the virus is another key in solving the problem. Lastly, there should be a collaborative effort among stakeholders in increasing public awareness on the negative effects of isolating and ostracizing a region because of an outbreak.
Bausch, G. D. and Schwarz, L. (2014). Outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea: Where Ecology Meets Economy. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 8(7): e3056.
Corrigan, P. W. (2013). The Stigma of Disease and Disability: Understanding Causes and Overcoming Injustices. Washington, DC : American Psychological Association.
Diamond, J. (19 Oct 2014). An Ebola Travel Ban would be Completely Unprecedented –Here's Why. CNN. Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/17/politics/ebola-travel-ban-unprecedented/.
Peters, C. J. and LeDuc, J. W. (1999). An Introduction to Ebola: The Virus and the Disease. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 179. (Suppl 1): ix–xvi.
Tran, M. (17 Aug 2014). WHO Urges Calm as Kenya Bans Contact with Ebola-affected Countries. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/17/ebola-kenya-bans-travel-west-africa-virus-fears.
Umeora, O. U. J., Emma-Echiegu, N. B., Umeora, ., M. C. and Ajayi, N. (2014). Ebola Viral Disease in Nigeria: The Panic and Cultural Threat.” African Journal of Medical and Health Sciences, 13(1): 1-5.