Hoe antwoorden we op Ebola?

NEW YORK – De gruwelijke Ebola-epidemie in minstens vier West-Afrikaanse landen (Guinee-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone en Nigeria) vraagt niet alleen om noodmaatregelen om de uitbraak te stoppen; hij schreeuwt ook om het heroverwegen van sommige basisaannames over de mondiale volksgezondheid. We leven in een tijdperk van opduikende en opnieuw de kop opstekende besmettelijke ziekten die zich snel kunnen verspreiden door mondiale netwerken. Daarom hebben we een mondiaal ziektebeheersingssysteem nodig dat in overeenstemming is met die realiteit. Gelukkig ligt zo een systeem binnen handbereik als we er op de juiste manier in investeren.

Ebola is meest recente van vele epidemieën in de afgelopen jaren, waaronder ook AIDS, SARS, H1N1, H7N9 en anderen vallen. AIDS is de dodelijkste van deze moordenaars en heeft sinds 1981 bijna 36 miljoen levens gekost.

Natuurlijk zijn er nog grotere en meer plotselinge epidemieën mogelijk, zoals de influenza-epidemie van 1918 tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog, die 50-100 miljoen levens eiste (veel meer dan de oorlog zelf). En alhoewel de SARS-uitbraak in 2003 bedwongen kon worden, met minder dan 1000 doden, stond de ziekte op het punt om verschillende Oost-Aziatische economieën diep te verstoren, inclusief die van China.

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