|September 05, 2014|
Ebola threatens global security
|The Ebola outbreak in West Africa serves as a dramatic example of why it is essential that the United States take the lead in promoting a robust global health security agenda. Doing so will save lives --- in foreign countries and here in the USA --- and it will protect economies by arresting dangerous diseases before they spread across the globe.|
Implementing an effective global health security network is not without cost, but these costs are only a fraction of what ultimately would be spent by taking a more passive approach.
To date, more than 1,950 people in West Africa have perished from Ebola, and individual families have suffered unspeakable loss.
On top of that, the social fabric of entire communities has been put at risk, and much-needed resources have been diverted from the struggle against other diseases that afflict the region.
The spread of Ebola carries not only human costs, but great economic costs as well. These include disruptions to general commerce in nations most impacted by the outbreak as well as to the global economy.
When all is said and done, total costs have the potential to top more than $1 billion, according to some estimates.
This Ebola outbreak, unlike previous ones, has spread to multiple countries. These include Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Nigeria --- Africa's most populous nation and largest economy.
Throughout this struggle, there have been incredible displays of heroism. Health workers have selflessly given their lives to save others. However, the overall response has failed to contain the outbreak.
The control of Ebola requires the same strategy that was used to eradicate smallpox --- namely surveillance and containment --- but without a vaccine. It also requires solving all of the problems of providing care, food and even salaries for cases and contacts placed in isolation.
Yet, the most impacted countries do not have health care delivery systems capable of attaining those goals. There are simply not enough clinics, hospitals or health care workers --- much less insurance coverage. Thus, these nations are unable to mount necessary responses to the outbreak, especially after years of instability and war in some countries.
Limitations such as these speak to the need for a rapid, full-scale international response. But they also serve as a warning, alerting Americans to the need for a comprehensive approach to protect people in all countries by stopping deadly diseases before they spread.
Globalization has changed the likelihood of disease and the speed at which it can travel from one country to another.
While Ebola is deadly, it is not as transmissible as other diseases, such as pandemic flu.
Lack of preparedness
The potential consequences of not being prepared for pandemic flu could cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars. On top of these challenges, we currently lack a globally linked system to prevent epidemic threats, detect outbreaks and then coordinate responses.
Working with the international community, the United States must take the lead in advancing a comprehensive platform for global health security to keep the world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.
This year, the U.S. government joined with other governments, the World Health Organization and non-government organizations to launch a new global health security agenda. The idea of this effort is to put into place mechanisms throughout the world that will help to better prevent, detect and respond to emerging health threats.
While some might question whether we should be concerned about health issues in other parts of the world, the citizens of our country need to know that this work is as essential as protecting our nation from terror-related threats.
Of course, the United States cannot act alone. Other nations, international organizations and the private sector must do their part.
To protect us all, we must come together to make global health security a priority before it is too late.