Over 2,000 Dead as Ebola Rages Across the Congo


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Ebola virus 3d rendering

Nicholas L Shimanek

A familiar danger is brewing for those who are planning to fly within or outside of the country this holiday season. An international Ebola epidemic is spreading to densely populated areas centered around the North Kivu province of the Congo. No sign of large-scale cure or containment is on the horizon, and therefore an American outbreak could be possible.

Doctors Without Borders, an international organization which has been closely examining the situation from the beginning, has stated, “The latest Ebola epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst ever documented here and the second-largest Ebola outbreak recorded anywhere.” Ebola deaths now account for 19-32% of all fatalities in the region.

Out of the 47 ‘Health Zones’ that divide up North Kivu and Ituri provinces, 28 are seeing new cases with regularity. Locals in the entire country are refusing to go to the centers specifically built to treat Ebola and are instead going to the general hospitals where they can possibly contaminate many more people.

This most recent epidemic, a worrying reflection of a similar event in 2014, has claimed the lives of over 2,000 people in Africa. Multiple (often concurrent) wars have caused mass disruption among the centers set up by relief groups, and the state hospitals are regularly attacked. Over 100 such groups are active in North Kivu, and neither these hostile groups nor the local population ever keep national borders in high regard. They choose instead to live lives traveling between multiple countries.

Whereas the prior flare-up was given extensive news coverage and a global response, international media has paid very little attention to this year’s new cases. Possibly as a result, very few resources from outside of Africa have been used to prevent the disease from spreading.

Chinese and American businesses have set up numerous airports all over Africa, and the Congo is home to two of these which offer international flights. Phoenix is home to the 44th busiest international airport in the world, and a single sick person on any flight could cause a handful of passengers or crew to be exposed. If closer attention isn’t paid to diseases that seem far-off, it is entirely likely that outbreaks are simply waiting to happen.

Africa is quickly developing and is now filled with Chinese investment. The result of this investment includes providing necessities like well-maintained roads, railways, airports and hospitals. The Congo has seen many companies (such as the Chinese Railway Engineering Company) take an interest in improving the region. Although trade relations between China and the United States have been openly hostile during the Trump administration, the two nations are inexorably linked due to our nations’ financial ties. The huge amount of travel that Chinese businesspeople do leaves both nations vulnerable in terms of disease control.

The media in the United States once made Ebola the number one issue facing all Americans for several months. Today, the media organizations have taken little interest in what has been occurring. Both reactions have not been effective at tackling a potentially global disease. An overreaction will cause unnecessary panic and will eventually lead to apathy resulting from the same line of logic that causes adults to stop listening to the boy who cried wolf. No coverage whatsoever leads to no pressures being made on our government to fix the issue, and the proverbial can is kicked down the road.

The modern world has practically eliminated geographical boundaries. Africa may be an entire ocean away, but thousands of planes are flying thousands of people to and from the continent every day, and the potential for people to be exposed to a sick person on an airplane is incredibly high. These diseases must be monitored, and the wealthiest nation in the world should do something to both keep itself safe and relieve those who are suffering.