Topic: Epidemic
August 14, 2014 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, DPS, LMSW

I was struck by the NY Times article that described tracing the path of the recent Ebola outbreak back to a two year old boy living in Guinea, Africa (NY Times) on the border of Sierra Leone. Not only does it forever impress me how epidemiologists and health officials are able to map the transmission of a rapidly spreading disease back to a likely origin, but the mystery surrounding how it all began is not, nor likely to ever be, known. Was it a bat? A piece of contaminated fruit? It is staggering to think that perhaps natural childhood curiosity set the stage for this kind of significant international health crisis.

Compounding the tragedy of the numbers of lives lost is the fear. While the World Health Organization (WHO) have made recommendations to attempt to limit further spread through education and travel restriction (WHO) the world is watching and waiting to see what happens, hoping enough help and support can be mobilized to halt the spread of this epidemic (West Africa Health Emergency). Though this health emergency is playing out in West Africa, it is a stark reminder to all just how vulnerable humans are to existing disease. There is no vaccine and no clear treatment protocol, though US health workers did receive experimental treatment with good effect (see blog by John Kaplan). In Africa, however, it is a matter of containment.

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.