An outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has given rise to fears of a pandemic. But despite the panic, there might be opportunities as well. The outbreak could be a wake-up call for the region and accelerate the expansion of private health care infrastructure there.
This week, Wikistrat launches a new crowdsourced simulation to study the challenge posed by the Ebola virus outbreak to health policy globally. The simulation allows analysts to propose both positive and negative outcomes within comprehensive, competing scenario pathways of the disease’s spread and termination.
Since a major outbreak of the Ebola virus disease was first reported in Guinea in March 2014, an epidemic has spread across West Africa. This already marks the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history. The disease is no longer contained to the region: A Saudi Arabian man traveling home from Sierra Leone is believed to have died of Ebola in early August. Two American aid workers were infected in Liberia.
While the spread of the epidemic raises the prospect of countries shutting their borders and fending off immigrants, there are arguments against Ebola becoming a true pandemic. The virus is not airborne and cannot survive outside the body for long. Symptoms show relatively quickly and patients typically die before infecting more than one or two others.
Fears of a pandemic nevertheless abound. Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing visas to Muslim pilgrims from West Africa. British Airways this month suspended all flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone — while most Western governments have advised their citizens to avoid the region. Civil unrest, the absence of adequate medical services and low trust in both authority and foreign aid workers might yet pose the biggest risk.
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