Can Ebola destroy us?
The Ebola virus is one of the most lethal viruses in history.
It is lethal because it is incurable and for the most part untreatable. The reality is that though we have advanced over the past one hundred years scientifically and though we are no longer as vulnerable to killer viruses like the last flu pandemic in 1919, there is today a different kind of threat
Travel anywhere contact anyone.
Because we are able to travel almost anywhere, and because we are able to contact any part of humanity today, unlike one hundred years ago, we are now able to find and spread the most destructive of diseases with great efficiency. In 1980 it was the AIDS virus, which also came out of Africa purportedly, transferred from green monkeys. A few years later it was SARS and the Bird Flu from Asia. The reason is because we are now able to make contact with anyone, anywhere and we are so active in our pursuit for prosperity that we are at times willing to relate or exploit nature in ways that were not possible before the advancement of civilization. Thus we are now exposed to extremely dangerous viruses that may never have been dangerous one hundred years ago.
The Ebola virus has been known for decades. But thus far it has been kept a relatively local phenomenon, though it has killed many people over the past twenty years. Moreover the virus seems to be evolving. This new ability for viruses to evolve quickly too is a danger that we may well be facing because we are a modern civilization.
Our new freedom and our new ability to transfer viruses far more readily and much further than before gives these living organisms opportunities to evolve in ways that were once unavailable. Thus the more people viruses are able to infect, the more varied the people infected, as when a man travels from one village to another located very far away with a different fundamental DNA ancestry, we give these deadly viruses chances to evolve that they never had before. The virus of today evolves into more dangerous outbreaks far quicker than was ever possible before.
Viruses will adapt to our new civilization accordingly
The idea has always been that our modern science will allow us to conquer these new infections, but what is not calculated is that these organisms are evolving also. These too are adjusting to our new game rules. They are given more access to our medicines, more access to our people, and the people these living things encounter are sufficiently different to allow these things to evolve and modify their own abilities to adapt and survive. Just as bacterium are now becoming resistant to our antibiotics so will viruses adapt to our defenses and become more virile and more evasive. These are organic entities which will adjust to our defenses accordingly as time goes on. For all the effort, AIDS is still around.
For now Ebola is not a great threat to the US
Yet Ebola at this time is not as dangerous as people think. At least not yet. The world was caught by surprise at first and perhaps was outmaneuvered by the quickness of the spreading illness, but this should now be accounted for by the various organizations responsible for monitoring and controlling this disease. The motivation for keeping this virus in check is tremendous and there is little doubt that whatever can be done, will be done. But considerations to the economy will always play some part, as they must. But otherwise there is little doubt that all steps will be taken as the case warrants. Both the UN and the US CDC will do what is needed to manage this disease for as long as it remains basically the same and its development is understood and visible.
However, the danger is that it will change.
The truth is that Nature has the power to create a disease that not even our modern science will be able to defeat. The Ebola virus sheds billions more individual organisms than did AIDS a few decades before when it first made its appearance. The Ebola virus can also survive much longer than can AIDS and is transmissible far more easily than was AIDS. Worse yet, it is a disease that seems to evolve faster than AIDS. For this reason it may well be around for a long time no matter what we do. However, the point is that nature can on any given day create a disease that cannot be managed no matter what we do. If Ebola turns out to be that perfect storm of a disease then nothing we do will work.
There is also the possibility of a carrier appearing. Someone who is infected, contagious and has no symptoms. Although this is rare in nature, it could well happen in this fast evolving disease as well. In that case too we will be defeated. And eventually if that is the only avenue left for an evolving virus, it may well find the address.
There is also the extremely dangerous possibility of this disease taking a longer time to incubate and show symptoms. This too can have dangerous consequences. Imagine it becomes infectious long before there are symptoms! This is exactly why AIDS became so destructive.
The most dangerous possible outcome however is that of terrorists or political activists or even criminal psychopaths using this disease as a weapon. It is apparently not a difficult virus to cultivate and use as a weapon. Should any such group obtain this disease, or else should decide to become infected themselves as martyrs and the like, then manage to enter any large third world city, it would become almost impossible to contain this disease no matter what steps were taken; it would become a full fledged pandemic.
There is also the possibility that misinformation may play a role here. If any nation or group of people decide that they do not want to inform the rest of the world of new cases then there is a possibility of it getting out of hand since the right resources and steps will not be taken to combat it. For all the motive to keep this disease in full view at all times, there is now a growing motive to hide it as well. Certainly no nation is going to want to broadcast having this disease in its population. There will be motive to keep it as discreet as possible. This of course can be catastrophic.
Also there is the possibility that some people who might have had contact with an infected person may not be quite so intent on admitting it. No one will want to be singled out and quarantined until they are absolutely certain that they are indeed afflicted and need medical care. For this reason, there is always the possibility that either the stigma or possible isolation will give people the motive to keep silent of their exposure. In a large city this can be fatal.
For example if there were a rising number of cases in Lagos, Nigeria for example, and for whatever reason quick action was not taken, the disease would then become unstoppable.
Should this disease ever enter the mainstream and become anything like a pandemic there is almost no possibility of preventing the deaths of hundreds of millions and even billions of people. The disease would also immediately cripple our civilization as few would want to risk infection even if the work they do is crucial. On the first signs of the disease becoming common civilization will begin to shut down and the costs of treating this disease on an individual level will make it just about impossible to even try.
The best that can be done is to monitor the disease as far as is possible and to make certain that any occurrences are reported quickly. Absolute quarantine is necessary if the disease is to be slowed or stopped. As for vaccines and the like, the truth is scientists have been looking for a cure for more than two decades without success. It is not likely that any such success would be found quickly enough to stop it now.
There should be contingency plans however, just in case Ebola does enter the mainstream. In that case the more efficient the nation is, the greater the chances it will survive. The nation will have to be prepared to function on the most basic most conservative level. Isolation, both individual, national, and international will be required.
There are some, like Governor Rick Perry of Texas who has proposed a travel ban from infected nations. There is no question that this would add some real security to the possible direct transmission of the disease to the United States. Yet the political strategies of others do not afford such a stance and its unlikely to be enacted. However, should the situation begin to get worse, then there will be no other choice. There are those who wonder why better monitoring was not in place to begin with. Perhaps the appearance of Ebola in the United States is the best argument in quite awhile for some more conservative practices to begin.
The reality is that the disease once out is not probably going to die down all that quickly and for as long as it is active there is the possibility that it might become a pandemic. We can only hope that with diligence and immediate action it can be kept under control. Should we fail to keep this virus in check, the death toll will be staggering, and the survival of our nation doubtful.