Pandemics are nothing new. Outbreaks of deadly diseases have occurred throughout recorded history, and certainly before that as well. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 killed somewhere between 40 and 100 million people worldwide. Worse still, the Black Plague reached Europe in 1347 and killed between 100 and 200 million people—somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of the continent’s population. The exact numbers of dead will never be known, but what we do know is that it took 150 years for the population to recover. These pandemics (and others) came in waves that lasted for months or years, and killed indiscriminately. Will Ebola become the next plague? I think not, and here’s why.
First, the people who lived in the time of the Black Plague had no idea of the pathogen they were facing or how to deal with it. Their spells and prayers did them little good. Today we understand viral diseases, and effective ways to treat them or manage them. And even when we (as a society) fail in our containment of these diseases, our technology and medicines step in to patch up our mistakes. The other thing that panic-inducing television news programs fail to mention is that ebola is nothing new. It has been a disease that has been known and studied by western doctors since the 1960s. Sure, it might be 10 times more contagious than AIDS, but unlike AIDS, recovery is possible. Could outbreaks happen in the US? Sure. Will they wipe us all out? No. However, there are prices to pay for our globetrotting lifestyles on physical, emotional, and economic levels.
The Physical Cost
The biggest and most obvious physical toll of ebola is the loss of life. In Africa, thousands have died from the disease in recent weeks, breaking apart families, turning children into orphans, and punishing some of the poorest of the poor.
The Emotional Cost
As more and more cases of ebola spring up around the U.S., and the media’s coverage becomes more fevered and hysterical, there is the potential for panic to run rampant as Americans begin to doubt the potency of our national safeguards.
The Economic Cost
The current global economy has been experiencing tough times for several years. Imagine how the markets would slide if outbreaks began popping up more frequently in America. The flu has been estimated to cost the United States 10 billion dollars annually. What would an Ebola outbreak cost?
What’s your take on Ebola, the media’s coverage of it, and America’s response so far? Let us know in the comments.