Those are the words of the World Health Organization (WHO) director as he talks about the Ebola pandemic in West Africa. A bit hyperbolic, perhaps, but the statistic are shocking: over 6,000 infected and almost 3,000 deaths, across 5 countries. That may not seem like a lot, but in comparison, all the previous Ebola outbreaks combined do not add up to these totals. And the scariest thing is this outbreak shows all signs of just getting started. The WHO predicts over 30,000 confirmed cases by the end of October. There is also lots of evidence that the number of cases may be underreported by a factor of 2.5 times because of the stigma associated with the disease, among other reasons. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that if this pandemic continues at its current exponential growth, we could be looking at 1.4 million infected by January.
Those are some scary statistics and it’s easy to get worked up in fear over such numbers, but we here in the U.S. are pretty much assured of the outbreak never reaching our shores. With a modern health care infrastructure, Ebola is fairly easily contained even if a handful of cases do reach us. That’s been the biggest problem in West Africa this outbreak. Most Ebola outbreaks were contained in isolated villages, but this one made it into population centers and a combination of slow initial response, poor infrastructure, distrust of Western medicine, and burial rituals which help spread the disease all came together to make this the disaster that it is today.
There is something you can do to help. I’d recommend donating to Doctors Without Borders. They do great work in areas that are severely underserved and are doing some top-notch work in this pandemic.