At last, we finally care about Ebola…

On August 4, 2014, in infectious diseases, by Karen Grepin

I once read a quote in a book that stuck with me, I think it was in Hooper’s The River, that read something along the lines of: HIV did not become a global epidemic until the first white person died of this disease. I could not track down my copy of the book to confirm the source of the quote – perhaps that tome was ditched on one of my umpteen moves over the years due to size and weight – but you get the idea.

Last week, the Onion’s coverage of the Ebola hysteria perfectly summed it up: “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away“. I laughed hysterically.

What everyone knows is that Ebola is now in vivo on US soil, perhaps for the first time in human history. Ebola news is everywhere – TV, newspapers, and radio shows are devoted tons of airspace to the newest global epidemic. But what everyone does not necessarily know is that this epidemic has been simmering for months – at least since March of this year (that is the little blimp ‘B’ on the figure below). At least a thousand people have contracted the disease and at least 700 hundred have died. But last week two Americans working in Liberia fell ill from Ebola and well, you can figure out where that is on the figure. Hooray! The (Western) world cares about Ebola, at least more than it has in at least 10 years. What was true for HIV, appears to have some truth with Ebola as well.

What is also notable is that fact that as soon as two Americans fall ill with the disease there is an experimental serum ready for testing in human subjects. Perhaps the silver lining of this round of the Ebola hysteria is that it might have pushed us towards making a giant leap forward towards developing an effective treatment, and perhaps one day a vaccine, for the disease. But the Onion may still be right about the need for a least 50 cases for that, though….

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