• Is Ebola a Global Security Threat?

News & Views

Is Ebola a Global Security Threat?

Oct 10 2014

President Obama warned in a speech in September that the Ebola outbreak posed a threat to global security. The warning came as he announced the more extreme measures the United States would be taking to fight the virus in West Africa. These would include sending 3,000 US troops to the area, building 17 additional healthcare facilities and training up to 500 medical professionals a week.

However, Obama also stressed the need for a global response to the outbreak which has already claimed the lives of more than 3,400 people. With the tragic levels of death continuing to rise, we’ve have recently compared the Ebola death rates with other deadly infectious diseases in this infographic. Despite the shocking headlines about Ebola, you may be surprised by the results.

Should We Be Concerned?

Outbreaks of dangerous diseases happen all the time, so what is it about Ebola that’s so alarming?

Professor Melissa Leach, when talking to the WHO, explains, In the case of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, we are dealing with a very fierce, rapidly lethal filoviral disease that causes death in 50–90% of clinically diagnosed cases. So far there is no antiviral or vaccine available against Ebola haemorrhagic fever – it is a disease with no cure.” Although, a panel of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the use of experimental drugs and vaccines ethical in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Ebola is only moderately contagious, but it is highly infectious. It is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids, such as blood and saliva, of an infected individual. This puts close family members and health care providers at the highest risk of infection.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the worst – and largest – in history. The outbreak, which began in March, has steadily snowballed since then. It has reached highly populated urban areas in Africa making control and isolation very difficult. And in the past few weeks, there have been confirmed reports of Ebola diagnoses in America and Spain.

On September 30th, Thomas Duncan was the first patient to be diagnosed with the disease in the US. He had travelled from Liberia to visit family in Texas. When he boarded the plane he displayed none of the symptoms of Ebola. This is another major issue with the disease – it has a lengthy incubation period. It can take up to 21 days for symptoms to show.

In Spain an auxiliary nurse named Teresa Romero was the first person known to contract the disease outside Africa. She was part of a team caring for two Spanish missionaries who had been evacuated to Madrid. The woman’s husband and three other people have been quarantined, while 50 more individuals are under observation. The diagnosis of Romero caused panic among staff at the hospital where she worked and protests in the city.

The spread of the disease to America and Europe proves unequivocally that President Obama was right - Ebola is a threat to global security. It is therefore imperative that efforts to control and stop the virus are increased. As stated by Obama, this requires a global response.

Economic Implications

The economic impact of this violent epidemic is significant. In affected regions, tourism and local businesses are suffering. This is because there have been restrictions placed on the movement of goods and people. Markets have been shut down and farmers have fled their fields - many people have lost their only source of income. Local economies in the region are failing.

On a global scale, the sheer amount of money needed to fight the virus could be catastrophic, says The World Bank. Between August and September alone, the funds needed to fight the outbreak increased ten-fold from $100 million to $1bn.

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