The scare word of the moment appears to be “ebola.”
Of course, it has competitors giving it a run for its money. There’s ISIS, global warming and other assorted threats.
But while ebola is a dangerous and deadly disease, its impact on America is decidedly limited. So far, only one person has been diagnosed with the disease within U.S. borders — and that was after contracting it in Africa.
A handful of other ebola patients have received — or are receiving — treatments in this country. But again, they contracted the disease in Africa.
Although ebola is dangerous, it’s also somewhat difficult to contract. It’s not spread through the air or via casual contact. Plus, there are means of quarantining those suspected of being exposed.
One drawback in dealing with ebola, however, is its potentially long incubation period. Those suspected of being exposed have to be watched for up to 21 days. Someone with the disease theoretically can come in contact with many people without knowing the risks.
Then there is the problem of human error. Reports indicate the sole U.S. diagnosis was delayed when medical personnel in Texas sent a man complaining of illness home. This was despite the fact he apparently told them he had been in Africa.
Getting ahead of a dangerous communicable disease requires diligence and sometimes quick action. We would hope that sufficient attention now is being paid to ebola to prevent a repeat of what happened in Texas.
Yet there is no way to absolutely prevent cases of this disease in America. Expanded efforts to monitor travelers may help, but delayed symptoms still pose difficulties. In other words, there may be other ebola patients discovered in America despite precautions.
Effectively controlling ebola remains a task to be addressed in Africa. Unfortunately, cultural norms and a suspicion of Western medical efforts are hampering steps to isolate the disease.
One positive sign is that this latest flare-up of ebola is driving efforts to identify and employ new treatments. It’s an unfortunate reality that the presence of this disease in Western countries is leading the push toward a cure.
In the meantime, the toll in western Africa continues to mount, with more than 3,400 hundred people already dead from an ebola outbreak that has yet to be contained. Reports from the United States may be scary, but the real horror is in Africa.
International efforts there remain the key for turning back the wave of ebola cases. In this process, America needs to be aware of the risks, but there is no crisis here where ebola is concerned.