As far as global health is concerned, only two epidemics have marked the core of our generation’s struggle: Ebola and HIV/AIDS. While patients can live with HIV/AIDS for years, the situation is different with Ebola. In a matter of days or weeks, the infection spirals out of control and people die. Such is the trauma that is associated with Ebola, a disease that has so far claimed more than 10,000 lives.
A global concern
Once a problem that was confined to Western Africa, Ebola has sent shock waves down the spine of doctors and experts all over the world. This West African epidemic brought together doctors, epidemiologists and scientists working day and night to put an end to Ebola.
While the rest of the world was on high alert, for the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this was nothing new. This was the ninth wave of the epidemic to hit the country, an outbreak that had earlier spread as far as South Sudan, Uganda and Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organization and relevant stakeholders worldwide worked hand in hand to come up with what would be the closest positive response to Ebola yet. Ebola is so serious because patients bleed from within.
When it strikes, it first attacks the immune system. Inside the body, blood clots are formed, which causes a panic or storm. In this chaotic state, all the important organs in the body are under attack, hence the serious internal hemorrhaging. Images of patients who have succumbed to Ebola show bleeding through the eyes.
Preventing a global outbreak
It is so bad that some strains of the virus have proven fatal in around 90% of reported cases. It was not until American Ebola patients were quarantined in isolation chambers in the U.S. that the world finally took a keen interest in what had been widely reported in the media as an African problem. At this juncture, the risk was incredibly high. All concerned borders and authorities were on high alert. There was a very high risk of a global pandemic.
Considering the porous nature of border towns, a global Ebola outbreak is something that the world could not afford to have. By the time the WHO was declaring the Ebola outbreak over in 2016, more than 20,000 kids had been orphaned by Ebola in West Africa. More than 11,000 people had lost their lives, though it is expected the actual death toll could be much higher.
Effect on the economy
What about the economic impact? Countries like Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone had suffered devastating blows to their economies, losing more than $1.9 billion in terms of GDP in 2015. You can only imagine how much damage this had done to the economy prior.
The painful truth about Ebola is that experimental drugs and vaccines had already been in the works for decades. However, no one cared about it because remote African countries were affected. In the mid-2000s, scientists allied to the Canadian government had already developed a vaccine. In fact, the wealthy businessmen, companies and countries did not see sufficient incentive to invest in this until the threat of a global pandemic struck.