The past two years have been painful for the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The first case of Ebola was diagnosed in Guinea in 2013 and the world watched in horror as this flamboyant virus jumped from countryside to city, and then hopped via airplane to surrounding nations and even to the United States. It left shattered families, orphans, and villages torn apart. It also put a strain on how we all communicate in the moments of a crisis.
The world was slow to respond in the early days of the Ebola outbreak and the World Health Organization and the United Nations were criticized for not throwing more science and manpower at the problem. But as long as the virus stayed in West Africa, the rest of the world paid intermittent attention. That changed when Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia was infected in his home country, lied on his exit papers, and travelled to Dallas where he eventually died.
We should remind ourselves that Mr. Duncan is the only person to have died of Ebola in the United States. The fear and hysteria that surrounded him, and journalists and aid workers who had ventured to West Africa, were out of proportion to the carnage witnessed on the ground. Before it was all over, 11,000 were dead and more than 28,000 people had been sickened across ten countries.
Today, there is renewed interest in anti-viral medications and vaccines. But it should also be time to reflect about how we respond to crises half a world away and remember that public health is global health and we are all in this together.