Ebola Could Be Back This Summer

Saturday, June 27, 2015
By Paul Martin

James Carafano
June 27, 2015

Summer is scary. Sharks attack. Hurricanes harry us. Draught and heat exhaustion claim casualties. And, last year there was Ebola. And, Ebola could be back.

In 2014, the unprecedented outbreak of the deadly virus that ravaged West Africa went from interesting news to outright panic when the first case reached American shores.

Controversy over the administration’s response proved as virulent as the danger of the disease spreading outside of Africa. As the number of cases slowly grew, so did the finger-pointing and name calling, including some terse exchanges between the president and the governor of New Jersey.

When the outbreak in Africa subsided, so did public fears. But in the aftermath of the hot mess, assessments of how well Washington responded both here and abroad revealed that there was more to the complaints than just people playing politics with disaster. Washington’s response was deeply flawed.

Studying the U.S. response is more than an academic exercise. There could well be a sequel to last summer. Fresh cases have been reported. Further, there are doubts that the fragile health care systems in West African nations are capable of stemming another outbreak.

What’s worrisome is whether the U.S. is any better prepared to pitch in than it was last time around. Just how well has the Oval Office learned its lessons?

One key question is: How much faith is Washington (or other governments for that matter) putting in the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO) to lead the international action? It makes sense for the WHO to coordinate multinational responses to pandemic threats, but the organization was very slow off the mark last time. Local WHO officials in Africa were reluctant to acknowledge the scope of the threat, and by the time the WHO headquarters stepped in and dispatched experienced staff to the region to make realistic assessments it was too late to stop the spread of the disease.

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