By Joe Rector

EBOLA—the mere mention of it brings on waves of panic, fear, and anger. The onslaught of the disease also vividly highlights the failures of governments throughout the world to combat the disease. What we’re left with is a scary, uncertain situation.

Most of us in this country hadn’t heard, nor had we much cared, about the disease until the last few months. Only when Americans fell ill with the outbreak did our ears perk up even a bit. Two individuals returned home and were cured; that’s what all expected, and so, unaffected, we returned to the more important things in life like  paying the mortgage, planning football parties for the weekend, and looking forward to our next “toy” purchases.

This Ebola thing proves to be a stubborn disease that seems to enjoy tormenting us humans.  To recap, it is defined by the World Health Organization as “is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is  transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) 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 average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.”

The world sat unconcerned as the disease raced across borders with no concern for the age of its victims. Guess what: there is as of yet no widespread cure available for EVD. This present outbreak is the largest one to occur since the discovery of the virus in, surprise, 1976! How can that be? The disease is projected as more deadly to its victims than those stricken with cancer or heart disease. It claims an average of 1 out of every 2 persons infected. So, if this virus were to spread throughout the world as an epidemic or pandemic and wipes out 50 percent of the population, 3.5 billion people would die. That’s effective population control. The Black Death of the 1300’s killed 25 million, about 3 percent of what this disease could kill.

Readers might be sufficiently scared now. Keep in mind, however, that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact. It is not an airborne disease like the flu. Still, let’s hope that a few things begin now. First, we can keep our fingers crossed that the leadership of this country proves itself more effective in dealing with a possible epidemic than it has been in dealing with a sick economy or dragging war. This is the time for political ideology to take a back seat to the health of the country and the world. Arguments over healthcare might become moot if politicians don’t make decisions that can protect the population of our country and planet.

Second, we should all say prayers that our best minds can come up with a cure and immunization to combat this disease. Maybe pharmaceutical companies will forego the opportunity to cash in on the current crisis and, instead, provide medicines at break-even costs so that people can be safe. They can look at doing so this way: saving folks now will keep them around to buy billions of overpriced drugs in the future.

Last, let us hope that the “civilized” world finally decides that it is its brother’s keeper. Much of the cause of deadly diseases is the result of living conditions that are abysmal. We who have much must make sure that every person is this world has access to clean drinking water, adequate disposal of garbage and sewage, and basic healthcare. Our failure to provide such fundamental things for all people will eventually lead to an illness that might wipe humanity from the face of the earth.

I worry about Ebola, but I worry more about the people who live in conditions that promote disease, starvation, and death. The US cannot be policeman of the world, but those countries that have much must accept the moral imperative to make sure the minimum essentials are available to all people. If that much can’t be accomplished, perhaps we deserve the catastrophic effects of a killer disease. Let’s just hope we’re not too late.