The world seems to have noticed that the sky might actually be falling.
President Obama announced today that the US would take the lead in supplying personnel and equipment to address the Ebola epidemic that continues to spread faster every day.
Promises of 3000 troops, mainly for logistics, and hundreds of beds’ worth of field hospitals will no doubt be welcome. Britain and France also responded, in a small way. France is sending 24 doctors.
Liberia alone is expecting 1,000 new cases next week, and they are out of beds. This matters not just for immediate humanitarian reasons, but to get the infected out of their communities and into isolation. At least half will die, if the trends continue, and the bodies must be disposed of as well.
In contrast, US military officials are talking about two weeks before the first troops arrive and begin constructing a few hundred beds.
On its present trajectory, the epidemic doubles every three to four weeks. There are very likely to be tens of thousands of infections in the coming months. And while there is no way to gauge the actual probability, the chance of a mutation that leads to airborne transmissibility, or unknown carriers leaving the continent, increases with each new infection.
Granted, it is probably impossible to ramp up a response much quicker. But that means bigger plans need to be put into action, if we are to have a chance to get ahead of it.
As quoted by the Times:
Beth Bell, the director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a Senate hearing that while Ebola did not currently pose a significant public health threat to the United States, “there is a window of opportunity to control the spread of this disease, but that window is closing.”
(See also It hasn’t gone away.)