Before it is contained, the World Health Organization says, the outbreak of the Ebola virus now attacking the African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will infect tens of thousands of people.
But there is a chance to contain it, with one official from the Centers for Disease Control saying, “there is window of opportunity to control the spread of this disease, but that window is closing.”
Credit President Obama for an appropriately urgent response. The president on Tuesday called for all the world’s powers to join the effort to control the spread of the disease. The United States is doing its part, to be sure: Some 3,000 American military personnel including doctors will go to Senegal and Liberia, and the Pentagon is going to build 17 treatment centers in Liberia, which has been most severely hit by the virus.
Britain and France, with ties to the affected countries going back to colonial times, also are providing people and millions of dollars.
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Absent quick action, the virus could of course spread, though it now poses no threat to the United States, health officials say. And politicians of both parties are taking all of this very seriously, agreeing across the board to support the president’s requests for appropriations to provide help.
“This,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, “is one of the most explosive, deadly epidemics in modern time if we do not do what we know how to do to control it.”
The Ebola virus also offers an opportunity for the world to unite not just in fighting this virus, but in setting up a permanent structure for responding to such world health crises.
Having such a structure in place would speed response, and would bring nations of different political and philosophical viewpoints together in a way in which they could not possibly unify otherwise.
Yes, the United Nations and the Red Cross do such work, but the Ebola virus has sounded the alarms in a much louder way in terms of demanding global action. President Obama could call for a summit to be held in this country, or perhaps in Africa, bringing world leaders together to answer the question: How do we unite in one permanent way that could benefit us all if an epidemic struck our countries?
The response to such an epidemic, after all, shouldn’t come from one world leader. When such a monumental crisis begins, a central force, an office, a network should spring into action without hesitation or hindrance. This central network could coordinate the deployment of money and personnel to countries or regions affected and monitor the spread or the containment of the disease.
The Ebola crisis, which seems to be at this point almost unprecedented, could then have at least one positive outcome, a lesson for the world to save lives in the future. And that’s one goal, despite all the geopolitical divisions in the world, that can bring all countries together.