With the possible exception of ISIS, the development of the Ebola epidemic has definitively dominated the media recently, and with this coverage has come a plethora of opinions. Some have reacted with what can only be deemed borderline-hysteria, while others have chastised the extensive media coverage as sensationalistic and fear-mongering.
Some point to the graphic and painful way that the virus manifests as the cause of the widespread worry. According to junior nursing major Kelsey Wages, many people in the healthcare community worry not only because of the gravity of the symptoms (explaining that those infected “bleed out of every orifice”), but also “because it starts like the flu and can be asymptomatic for 7-21 days.”
Moreover, fellow junior nursing major Dalton Lane says that there exists a heightened stress among healthcare workers because many believe “there is no way to prepare for [an outbreak]. No one has had to handle it before.”
The above reasoning has led many in the United States to call for strict and decisive action aimed at containing the potential spread of the virus domestically after two cases developed in Texas recently.
Perhaps more than anything else, Dr. Angela Haynes, Dean of the Shorter School of Nursing, says that this apprehensiveness stems from the fact that, “unfortunately the message to the public has been inconsistent and health care providers, namely nurses, have been very outspoken about their lack of uniform information and direction and the absence of consistent care protocols.”
A common suggestion is that President Obama cut off all air travel between the United States and the areas of West Africa which are currently suffering most from the outbreak. This proposed solution, however, is far from flawless, both tactically and ethically.
Not only would such an effort have to be extensively coordinated, but according to Kaveh Waddell of the National Journal, “there are few U.S. carriers currently operating direct flights to and from West Africa: Most likely, passengers would arrive stateside after a stopover someplace else.”
Waddell also questions whether such a ban is legally permissible, as its consequential alienation could violate the due process of citizens traveling abroad, and notes that a flight ban would likely have lasting and detrimental effects on trading relations between the West and Africa in general. More importantly, however, Waddell raises the question of the debilitating effects that such a ban could have on those trying to aid the outbreak.
With this in mind, it should be noted that many are responding to the recent outbreak of Ebola by calling for empathetic, globally-focused and humanitarian solutions. According to Dr. Haynes, who has worked with healthcare initiatives in developing nations, says that such an approach to “fighting the spread and containing Ebola in impacted areas of Africa is not only essential, but it is the ethical response. Human suffering on that level deserves the best resources our world has to offer.”
Moreover, Haynes maintains that hysteria in the context of the virus’s spread is unneeded, saying “I do know that a response in fear is not the appropriate means to handle any disease outbreak.”