Rispondere all'epidemia di Ebola

NEW YORK – La terribile epidemia di Ebola in almeno quattro paesi dell'Africa occidentale (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone e Nigeria) richiede non soltanto un intervento d'urgenza per fermarne la propagazione, ma anche di rivedere alcuni presupposti essenziali della salute pubblica mondiale. Viviamo in un'epoca di malattie infettive emergenti e riemergenti, che possono diffondersi rapidamente attraverso le reti globali; abbiamo, quindi, bisogno di un sistema di controllo delle malattie commisurato a questa realtà. Per fortuna, un sistema del genere è raggiungibile attraverso investimenti sensati.

Quella di Ebola è l'ultima di una serie di epidemie recenti, che includono l'AIDS, la SARS, l'influenza H1N1, l'influenza H7N9 e altre patologie. L'AIDS è la più mortale tra queste malattie killer, con un bilancio di quasi 36 milioni di vittime dal 1981.

Naturalmente, epidemie ancora più vaste e improvvise sono possibili, basti pensare all'influenza scoppiata nel 1918 durante la prima guerra mondiale, che uccise tra i cinquanta e i cento milioni di persone (molte più di quante ne morirono per la guerra stessa). E sebbene avesse una propagazione limitata e il numero di vittime non superasse il migliaio, il focolaio di SARS sviluppatosi nel 2003 finì quasi per destabilizzare alcune economie dell'Asia orientale, tra cui quella cinese.

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