Spread of Ebola, Like AIDS, Can Be Brought Under Control

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Healthcare, Opinion, Politics

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Published on October 21, 2014 with No Comments


By Ralph E. Stone

October 21, 2014

My 19-year old son died of AIDS back in the early days of the AIDS pandemic. The hysteria surrounding the Ebola crisis reminds me somewhat of the hysteria in the early days of the AIDS crisis. There was a plethora of misinformation, risky rumors, blaming of the victim, and lots of finger pointing. At one time an AIDS diagnosis was a virtual death sentence. But as AIDS hit the United States and Europe, money poured into research. Now AIDS is largely treatable as a chronic illness although medications are costly.

Unfortunately, past Ebola virus disease outbreaks occurred mostly in African countries. Thus, there was little economic incentive for the private sector to develop an Ebola vaccine.

Now there is a fun political game going on in Washington D.C. called pin-the-tail on Barack Obama over the Ebola crisis. It is no coincidence that many are trying to turn the Ebola crisis into a political issue with the midterm elections just around the corner. By the way, didn’t Congress cut funds from the National Institute of Health possibly preventing an Ebola vaccine by now?

The World Health Organization (WHO) took the blame for failing to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but the United Nations agency has been starved of resources to effectively respond in the first place. But WHO probably should have sounded the alarm earlier; it dropped the ball for months when it assured health officials the outbreak was under control. WHO is now finally ramping up efforts to prevent Ebola from spreading beyond the countries most affected by the deadly virus. However, WHO shares blame with richer countries like the U.S, which should have moved faster.

There will be more Ebola cases in the U.S. and Europe and if they are properly quarantined and cared for they will pose less and less risk to others. What we need to do is stamp out Ebola in West Africa by a bigger, coordinated effort to get the epidemic under control. And, ultimately, we need a lobby pressing for more government funding for Ebola research to find an Ebola vaccine.

What was needed during the AIDS crisis – and is needed now – is accurate and timely information to help people take precautions and take a more rational approach towards the disease. I am somewhat encouraged that the U.S. and the world health community is finally addressing Ebola as a health issue, not a political blame-game.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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