One infected passenger on one international flight; that’s how far the world is from the biggest health scare ever.
This is how bad science fiction movies start: An ebola outbreak has now spread to Uganda’s capital, Kampala.
The outbreak, which began in the Kibaale District of Uganda three weeks ago, has claimed at least 14 lives, making it one of the deadliest this decade. Although it hasn’t reached the level of the 2000 outbreak in Uganda, which killed more than 200 and infected hundreds more, the outbreak still doesn’t seem to be under control. For a disease with neither cure nor vaccine and a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, this is nothing to trifle with.
The Ugandan government is currently mobilizing an emergency force to deal with the situation and is issuing warnings for those in affected regions to avoid close contact like shaking hands or kissing, and to avoid touching the bodies of the infected.
Paradoxically, the very virulence of the ebola virus may be our best protection against a Stephen King-style global horror show. The incubation period is so short, and the symptoms so severe, that infected people don’t usually feel like getting on a flight to an international hub.
But viruses mutate and nothing can be taken for granted. Identifying dangerous diseases in remote places is a vital part of protecting our own population from deadly pandemics. We can’t do that without helping countries in Africa and elsewhere build up a basic health care infrastructure, but global public health is everyone’s problem.
In the meantime, if you are in Uganda and aren’t feeling well, please go see a doctor and stay off that plane!