America’s Chance to Lead


I have been watching the spread of, and response to, Ebola since the first outbreak was reported in Lofa County Liberia in March 2014.  The hysteria about Ebola has spread much faster that the disease.

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. The first outbreak was in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, a village near the Ebola River. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.

Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus.

The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). It is often fatal if untreated.

There is as yet no proven cure for Ebola. Supportive care, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. A range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated. No licensed vaccines are available. Two potential vaccines are undergoing human safety testing.[1]

Facts about the current Ebola outbreak:

Ebola cases have been confirmed in six Countries.[2]

Country Suspected Cases Laboratory Confirmed Cases Deaths Mortality Rate
Sierra Leone 4,862 4,149 1,130 27%
Liberia 6,919 2,514 2,766 110%
Guinea 1,760 1,479 1,054 71%
Nigeria 20 19 8 42%
United States 4 4 1 25%
Spain 1 1 0 0%

Why is Ebola so deadly in Liberia and Guinea? The most severely affected countries have very weak health systems. It is fair to say that the average ambulance in the U.S. is better equipped to handle Ebola than the best hospital in Liberia or Guinea.

Ebola provides America with a unique opportunity to lead.  We know very little about this disease.  We do, however, know that it can be successfully treated. It is a serious disease. The lack of health care in West Africa makes a deadly disease there. We need to be able to study it to find a cure.

America’s response to Ebola is an opportunity show true leadership.  We should fly every Ebola patient to a designated medical facility in the U.S.  The Air Force has a fleet of hospital planes and multiple bases that would be perfect for this mission.  There are multiple closed and abandoned hospitals near the CDC in Metro Atlanta.  Any one of those could be easily converted to an Ebola isolation center.  If more beds are necessary, Army mobile field hospitals could be set up.  This strategy would put the best medical minds and the best medical research facility in the world to work on finding a cure for Ebola.  It should not take long before they come up with a cure.  I am confident they could also develop a vaccine.  This strategy would save lives and effectively eradicate Ebola.

The world needs bold American leadership.  We need to stop listening to the counsel of our fears.  Courage, and bold action, will save African and American lives.  We have a chance to save the world.  All we need is faith in ourselves.

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/case-counts.html

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