The response to Ebola

The Ebola outbreak in Africa brings to the forefront the dilemmas that surround the global fight against contagious diseases, with its scope and limitations.

Ebola was discovered in the 1970s. Between then and now, it is estimated to have caused almost 1,500 deaths—900 of them this year in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The treatment in those countries had been limited, until an American doctor and a volunteer contracted the disease and were treated with a new medication—which had not been tested on humans—apparently with good results.

This gives hope, while demonstrating the huge gap between treatments received by Americans and the limited options available to their African colleagues and assistants.

There seems to be an effort between the drug company that produces the ZMapp serum and the U.S. government to speed up production. The issue is that the drug has not undergone the respective tests to approve it for use. On top of this, international organizations are afraid that multinational drug companies will once again use Africans as guinea pigs, like it happened before.

These same fears have also prevented the use of a blood transfusion treatment that has yielded good results against Ebola.

Given the Ebola outbreak, some scientists have called for the countries being impacted to be the ones who decide whether to accept or reject ZMapp. That way, ethical dilemmas are resolved where the drug is urgently needed.

In this case, the Obama administration is the one that should allow the massive production of the drug, and along with other wealthier nations, help fund the project. It is doubtful that this will be possible, when not even the necessary amount of protective equipment and life-saving instruments have been provided.

It is not easy to contract Ebola, and there is no reason to be concerned about this in the United States. However, the importance of our country and other industrialized nations in the pharmaceutical sector calls for a commitment to alleviate suffering in other regions and prevent the dangerous spread of this disease