I have hesitated to wade in with this blog on the subject of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa for a number of reasons.
First, it is getting plenty of media attention elsewhere.
Second, concerns can become overdone and exagerated to the point that the public turns away. If the public turns off then there is a real possibility that politicians back away from providing much needed resources for countries significantly affected and lacking the resources to control outbreaks.
Third, there are plenty of other challenges that we face to our way of life here in Canada. A thoughtful perspective is needed to see that several slowly moving issues such as the demographic shift and homegrown terrorism have greater potential to create severe societal problems here than more acute and immediately horrific events happening elsewhere.
Fourth, when drastic measures such as travel bans to control the spread of Ebola to other countries are raised, the authors are accused of fear-mongering and exagerated response that is harmful to economies and to populations.
BUT, is there really terror in Canada over the Ebola crisis unfolding in West Africa?
I don`t think so.
Terror or panic is not helpful but I don't think that is what we've got. What there seems to be is concern for what might happen should Ebola go unbridled in West Africa or what happens when it is transported to North America. There is a fascination about this macabre disease and all things morbid.
There ought to be a deeper understanding of what happens to people and economies when we fail to act collectively to hit Ebola type outbreaks hard and fast at the source and when we fail to take necessary measures to stop its spread to other countries. There ought to be an understanding of what happens when public health organizations are starved for funding and seen as acute care`s quiet little cousin. It`s possible that North America`s contact with Ebola has done this.
What we`ve seen initially in the Ebola cases that did arrive in the US, was a degree of calm response bordering on complacency and supported by the concept that what happened in West Africa could not happen in North America. The Ebola infected missionaries returned for care and recovered. North America`s health care system would not allow bad things to happen. Unfortunately, things did go wrong with that approach. North Americans were infected despite best efforts. There have been lessons learned. Terror, no.
While reassurance has its place, it should not be a substitute for taking significant precautions to prevent the spread of serious disease with potential for human and economic damage. There is a time to overdo some measures and to over respond. Some people believe that is fear-mongering. I do not.
While the Ebola cases in the US appear to have been contained and the CDC is now ramping up guidelines for improved protection of health providers, we should not be complacent about risks of emerging disease. They exist. They may pop up when we least expect them and false reassurance and complacency should have no place in our medical armamentarium. Currently, we are not prepared.
Reality is that the slow moving demographic shift and instability grown in other countries and transplanted here pose a much greater risk to Canadian way of life than Ebola even though it is a horrific disease.
We are not "terrorized" by the thought of an economy that can't manage under the weight of expectations or global uncertainties. We don't seem to be "terrorized" by the thought of politicians encouraging euthanasia as a way to deal with rising numbers of frail elderly or people with diseases we can't fix. We don't seem to be "terrorized" by jihadists mowing down soldiers in parking lots. Perhaps we should be. Maybe then we would take our collective heads out of the sand and respond in a meaningful way to the real threats that are more insidious, less immediate, but even more harmful to society and to individuals.