“Highly contagious.” “Reported death and confirmed cases in the United States.” “President Obama takes preventative actions.” With its news making headlines all around us, Ebola is definitely one of today’s hottest, most talked about topics.
Ebola is a highly contagious viral disease that has been in Africa since 1976. Yes, that is right, Ebola has been a problem in the world for almost forty years now.
So after all this time, why is it only garnering this kind of attention now?
For one thing, this is the largest and most widespread outbreak of the virus thus far.
In fact, now that it has made its way West to the United States and Europe after haunting Sudan and Liberia for decades, it has become our problem as well.
The first case of Ebola occurred in Sudan in 1976.
Out of the 284 Sudanese people infected, 151 died.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Democratic Republic of Congo assisted in containing the infection.
The second outbreak was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, infecting 315 people and killing 224 in 1995.
From 1995 to 2013, the disease had popped up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Again, the World Health Organization and the respective governments of these infected countries took action to prevent and contain the disease.
Within the past year, the first reported case was in December, 2013 in Guinea.
In March 2014, the WHO reported the outbreak. Doctors Without Borders got to work, placing nearly 300 international employees and 2900 local employees in West Africa.
Despite the efforts, Ebola quickly spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, infecting thousands. Concerning, but not yet reaching our news outlets, so why care, right?
Ebola has now dawned upon us.
On Sept. 30, 2014, the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States was confirmed. Eight days later, Thomas Eric Duncan was dead and Twitter was blowing up.
The New York Times, NBC, CNN, CBS and countless newspapers and networks made Ebola their top story. Obama announced that 3000 troops would be sent to West Africa to build hospitals and clinics, as well as medical supplies and healthcare workers.
Later that same week, Ebola made its debut in Spain.
Suddenly, the disease has become a first world problem.
Although Ebola has been around for almost four decades, infecting and killing over thousands in Africa during that time, it was not until it hit America and Europe that we really started to care.
Up until this point, Ebola had been Africa’s problem. The victims of this disease were detached from our everyday lives, an issue literally an ocean away.
Only now that Ebola is a threat to our wellbeing, and our society, is it worth investing millions of dollars into, worth creating a vaccine for, and worth deploying military troops and healthcare workers for.
Sadly, all this just goes to show that in our society, the life of one American outweighs the lives of 3865 West Africans.
Regardless of the reason, major world powers have finally decided to join the fight against Ebola. Yet what started as a way to stop Ebola quickly escalated into a competition to see which country is the most humanitarian.
Shortly after Obama’s announcement, the president of France jumped on the bandwagon and declared that he would also send troops to West Africa, mainly to southern Guinea. Britain, not one to miss out, is now also ordering its troops to be sent to Sierra Leone.
The Chinese Center of Disease Control is going to Sierra Leone as well to help with the testing.
Even Cuba sent 100 doctors to help. Obama did say that this epidemic would require a global effort to fight, but it appears as though what other countries heard was a challenge, not an invitation to change.
Obama’s announcement put America front and center in the fight against Ebola.
Being overshadowed made the other countries quickly step up their game in order not to lose in the humanitarian race.
Joining efforts to against a common enemy is easier said than done when each country wants to outshine the other and doubts the other at the same time.
While all these world powers are stroking their egos at just how charitable and great they are to help these little nations in Africa, they fail to see that there is not only one way to help.
From only serving ourselves, to extending help to others, to competitively trying to outdo each other in altruism, we have to wonder if it is even possible to do a good deed with pure motives anymore.
In seeing every move made by different countries as “challenge accepted,” valuable time and effort is being wasted on futile rivalry instead of going towards actual, positive change. What started off as a pure, genuine desire to help people around the world has become tainted by politics and competition.