The WHO has just announced that the recent Ebola outbreak in rural Uganda is now under control. Ebola outbreaks are infrequent and usually end quickly, but with a mortality rate as high as 90 percent, they’re a steep challenge for doctors and health officials.
Containing this outbreak was even more challenging, though, because the victims did not display the typical hemorrhagic symptoms. As a result, health officials were slow to react, and the virus to spread to neighboring villages. It’s a grim reminder that viruses mutate and can always catch us by surprise.
It’s also a reminder that African public health is an international concern. Monitoring disease outbreaks can gain us precious time in understanding and countering new pathogens. How many lives could have been saved if we had more warning of HIV? Even people who are skeptical of foreign aid should put public health in a different category, because what emerges in the sweltering jungles of central Africa may someday threaten the rest of the world.