Michael Osterholm, a top infectious disease researcher from the University of Minnesota, printed an op-ed last week in the New York Times in which he argues that the Ebola outbreak poses two primary threats.
First, since small villages in Africa have become considerably denser since previous outbreaks, there is a greater chance of it spreading to a larger city. The second threat he mentions is the possibility that the current strain of the virus, Ebola Zaire, mutates and becomes airborne.
Due to the virus’s difficult-to-predict evolution and history of spreading between animals through the air, Osterholm claims more needs to be done to prevent these scenarios from occurring.
Critics are quick to point out that it is highly unlikely that Ebola will become airborne. In addition, the countries that have fallen victim to the outbreak have lacked sufficient health care resources to keep the outbreak under control — resources that are easier to find in more developed countries if the virus spreads there.
However unlikely it may be, we feel that it’s foolish to treat a possible epidemic as unlikely to happen. Waiting for a miracle vaccination won’t help, either. Osterholm argues that a centralized, coordinated effort from the United Nations is needed to fight the outbreak.
This is why we applaud President Barack Obama’s recent decision to commit 3,000 troops to help fight the disease and provide medical training in Africa.
Hopefully, this will act as a stimulus and other countries will begin to take this situation seriously.