Ebola has evoked our worst nightmares as it continues to outrun containment efforts. The staggering death toll of the disease, projected to rise exponentially, means the modern world faces a global crisis on par with the plagues of history. Unlike seven centuries ago, there are viable options to fight the disease on a global scale. The longer the world takes to exercise those options, however, the less effective and more costly they will become.
Most people expect that some biotech company will eventually create a vaccine or antiviral, and the high-tech cure will swiftly arrive where it is most needed. Countless Hollywood blockbusters have implanted such fictions in our psyches. Unfortunately the pace of science is much slower, even in the face of mass loss of life. It’s true that we have sophisticated manufacturing facilities, but only because of U.S. government spending over the last decade by such agencies as BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) and NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) to address the threat of deadly pathogens. These facilities will become critical to our “mopping up” efforts later on. First, however, we must accept that Ebola is a threat to the entire world.