In August of 2014, a new and especially virulent epidemic of the virus Ebola was detected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The purpose of the present sample essay provided by Ultius is to reflect on the reaction of the United States to the epidemic. The essay will have three main parts.
- Firstly, it will provide an overview of how the virus first entered the United States earlier this year.
- Secondly, it will consider the ways in which the United States has reacted not only to the domestic situation but also the global situation regarding the epidemic, especially with respect to Africa.
- Thirdly, it will consider the media’s reaction to the Ebola epidemic and how it has informed public perceptions of the situation at hand.
This sample essay provided from the professionals at Ultius reflects on implications for the future of the United States’ engagement with the problem of the Ebola epidemic.
Short overview of ebola
The recent epidemic of Ebola was first officially introduced into the United States on September 30 of the year 2014, when the CDC confirmed the first laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States in a man who had traveled to Dallas, Texas from Liberia. (CDC 4). This patient died as a result of the illness. Two further patients were diagnosed with Ebola in October of 2014, both of whom had delivered healthcare to the first patient (who in the relevant literature has been termed the “index patient”), presumably before authorities were fully aware of the fact that the patient had Ebola and that precautions thus had to be taken to protect healthcare workers. One further case was also detected in October: this consisted of a patient who had returned home to New York City after having served a tenure in Africa with Doctors without Borders. A few other cases have also emerged as well since October; all of them have involved either direct contact with a person infected in Africa or a person actually becoming infected in Africa itself.
Conceptually, then, it is worth pointing out that the entry of Ebola into the United States was a result of the cultural, political, and economic phenomenon of globalization. According to Scheurman, globalization is always characterized by the increasing interconnectedness of different parts of the planet; and this process has especially accelerated over the course of the past few decades. If it were not for globalization, then the United States would not have needed to respond to Ebola at all, insofar as the epidemic has been primarily localized to certain nations within the continent of Africa. Globalization, though, has made Ebola an American issue for two reasons. For one thing, there is now a sense of global (and not merely national) responsibility, as documents such as the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” attests. In this context, the most powerful nation on the planet cannot afford to ignore an issue that is causing widespread death in a different part of the world.
Moreover, though, globalization has also been responsible for making the Ebola epidemic a problem that is specifically relevant to the United States as well. This would be because Americans returning home from Africa actually brought the disease across the ocean with them into the territory of the United States. Again, before the current wave of globalization, it would have been unfeasible at even the technological level for an illness to move from one place on the globe to another at such a rapid pace. Given the current state of communication and transportation technologies in the world, though, it is clear that an epidemic in any part of the world must be treated as a potential threat for any nation in any other part of the world as well. This means that at the strictly practical level, the United States has been forced to make at least some meaningful response to the issue under consideration.
Domestic and global response to the ebola epidemic
At the domestic level, the response of the United States to the Ebola epidemic has largely consisted of quickly identifying potential cases of Ebola and then quarantining the patients and/or suspected patients. This policy has affected not only the patients themselves but also persons who have had contact with the patient after the patient’s contraction of the illness but before his quarantine. Ethically speaking, this could potentially be called an infringement on the rights of the patients and their contacts to liberty, or freedom of movement. As O’Leary has pointed out, though, within the context of a public health crisis, it is quite common to take measures against individual liberty insofar as this is necessary for the preservation of public well-being. Quarantine is clearly one example of such a measure, and it could probably be credited with the success that the United States has experienced with keeping the Ebola epidemic essentially under control.
At the global level now, the United States has exhibited a commitment to help fight the Ebola epidemic not only domestically but also within Africa as well. As Sun and Eilperin of the Washington Post have written, President Obama has pledged that “the U.S. military will begin aiding what has been a chaotic and ineffective response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, arguing that it represents a serious national security concern” (1). The rationale behind this response is that if the Ebola epidemic is not stopped in a relatively prompt and effective fashion, then the Ebola virus may have the opportunity to mutate into a more virulent strain that could be transmitted from person to person in a readier way. Therefore, it would be in the best interests of the United States to work toward stopping the epidemic as soon as possible, even within Africa. Of course, this rationale is also buttressed by the moral justification that the epidemic is a humanitarian crisis, and that all nations should thus help to the extent that they are able.
Media reaction and public perceptions of ebola
In the United States, the Ebola epidemic has of course maintained a steady presence on the airwaves over the past few months, with news reporters more or less conveying the impression that the nation may be at risk for experiencing an epidemic comparable to the one in Africa at any given moment. For example, the USAID office recently put forth a press release, in which a “Grand Challenge” program has been put forth for preventing the spread of the Ebola epidemic within the nation. In general, the media’s reaction to the Ebola epidemic (which has been accompanied by efforts by various other concerned parties to confront the epidemic) has given the impression that the disease is almost as imminent a threat to the United States as it is within the context of the African continent. Judging by the news reports alone, one would be given to imagine that Ebola has claimed many lives within the United States, and that serious efforts must be taken to stop the crisis.
The truth as reflected in the epidemiological data, however, conveys a rather different picture of the current state of affairs. There have only been 10 cases of Ebola within the United States since the onset of the epidemic; and only 2 of these cases have resulted in casualties. This can be meaningfully contrasted with the fact that in Africa, there have been about 16,000 cases of Ebola, 7,000 of which have resulted in the death of the patient according to The Guardian. In other words, the scale of the problem in Africa itself is incomparably more severe that it is within the United States. In fact, relative to the scale of the problem within Africa, it could be stated that the problem is virtually nonexistent within the United States. Properly speaking, there is no epidemic; there is only the possibility of one.
In this context, it could be suggested that it is somewhat strange that the Ebola epidemic has captured the imagination of the American population to the extent that it has. More specifically: in strictly empirical terms, the present Ebola epidemic has been significant not because there has been a genuine epidemic within the United States but rather merely because Ebola even managed to enter the United States at all. Given that this is the case, the media response to the epidemic would seem to be somewhat disproportional, and public fears about the epidemic somewhat unfounded. For the purposes of comparison, it would perhaps be worth inquiring about the extent to which the American media reports on various other crises affecting the African nations. As far as Africa itself is concerned, Ebola could be conceptualized as merely one killer among many; and as far as the United States is concerned, Ebola has only managed to kill 2 persons thus far.
Of course, it is also worth pointing out that perhaps the American media’s reaction to Ebola itself played an instrumental role in encouraging institutions within the United States to respond to the potential epidemic as effectively as possible. On the one hand, there has been no genuine epidemic as of yet, which makes the media response seem somewhat out of proportion. However, it is nevertheless true that there does in fact exist a significant risk of epidemic. This is because without the effective practice of quarantine, the epidemic could spread in an exponential fashion: the first patient would infect his immediate contacts; then, each of those contacts would in turn infect their immediate contacts; and so on. In this context, even the presence of a single case of Ebola within the United States is in fact legitimate cause for serious concern over public health within the nation. At the present time, though, it must also be noted that authorities have done an exemplary job of containing the spread of the illness, and that nothing that could be called an actual epidemic has occurred thus far within the United States.
Looking toward the future, one implication of the United States’ response to the Ebola epidemic is that greater American involvement within Africa in order to combat the epidemic can be expected. Again, this is being done in the name of national security, insofar as the evolution of the Ebola epidemic within Africa could pose a significant threat to other nations in the future; it would thus be a good idea to address the problem at an earlier stage of development. Such involvement could be potentially controversial, insofar as it represents yet another foreign engagement for the United States, during a time in which many Americans have become quite tired of foreign engagements. However, it is worth noting that the Ebola epidemic is in fact a humanitarian issue, and that the involvement of the United States can thus be justified at not only a practical but also a moral level. Finally, it can be suggested that the American public may do well to keep the Ebola epidemic in perspective: although there is potential for Ebola to become an epidemic in this nation, there have only been 10 cases and 2 deaths thus far. Obviously, then, there is no cause as of yet for panic, and both public and media attention may be better spent on more serious problems currently affecting the nation.
In summary, this sample essay from Ultius has reflected on the response of the United States to the Ebola epidemic. The essay began with a short historical overview, proceeded to consider the domestic and global response of the United States, continued to a discussion of media reactions and public perceptions regarding the epidemic, and finally considering implications for the future. In general, it can be concluded that the United States has responded to the threat of epidemic within the nation in an extremely adequate way, and that it is appropriate for future efforts to be focused on ensuring that the epidemic does not grow worse within the African continent.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Cases of Ebola Diagnosed in the United States.” Ebola. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
Johnston, Chris. “Number of Ebola Infection in West Africa passes 16.000.” The Guardian 29 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.
O’Leary, N. P. “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo: Pandemic Avian Influenza and the Legal Preparations and Consequences of an H5N1 Outbreak.” Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine 16.2 (2006): 511-551.
Scheurman, William. “Globalization.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
Sun, Lena H., and Juliet Eilperin. “Obama: U.S. Military to Provide Equipment, Resources to Battle Epidemic in Africa.” The Washington Post. 7 Sep. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
United Nations. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” 1948. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
USAID. “United States Announces Results of Grand Challenge to Fight Ebola.” Press Releases. 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
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