Ebola … it has been more than a week since I talked about it

It is said that one can learn the Talmud 1000 times, but still learn something new on the 1001th review. The reason I continue to return to the topic of Ebola, is that it continues to teach us new things. It is a simple fact that Ebola will be responsible for a huge injection of cash into the whole area of the study of viruses [called virology], and probably into the CDC and NIH and other major medical organizations. Even though there are those that blame these organizations for failing to prepare for this scenario, it is easy enough to challenge this assertion and say in return that more resources are needed in order to prevent similar cases in the future.

I was recently interviewed for a local television news show, and I was asked what the standing of Israel was, in terms of Ebola, relative to the rest of the world. I noted that every hospital in Israel is prepared for the possibility of biological and chemical warfare, and even a nuclear attack, 24/7. That is the unfortunate and even horrifying reality that we live in here. But believe it or not, there is an upside.

Israel’s discovery of the spread of Polio out of Africa and into the Middle East, literally saved the Western world from having to deal with this vicious disease. In the time it would’ve taken for North America and Europe to respond to the spread of Polio, thousands if not many more people would have died or been left paralyzed by this horrible disease. In my opinion, were we any other country, Israel would have received universal recognition and thanks for ending this plague before it spread too far.

So I apply the same observation  to dealing with the risk of Ebola in Israel. I honestly do not think that there is a safer country in the world, in terms of such threats. In addition to the standards that the health ministry clearly holds to, as well as the universal level of preparation that all medical services are at, I believe that the risk of Ebola to Israel is minimal to zero. I’m saying this even though Israel’s proximity to West Africa is such that we were already threatened by Polio. For the United States and even Europe, it may be possible to try and shut down travel and to isolate anyone coming from West Africa. But for Israel, hermetically closing the borders is effectively impossible [which is also why we live with the constant threat of terrorism].

I just mentioned the issue of isolating anyone coming from West Africa. This has become a hotly debated issue in the United States, so much so that it might even effect the outcomes of some of the midterm elections that are to take place in a week. Of course, it is beyond ridiculous for the Ebola issue [which to date has caused fewer deaths than electrical items falling into a bathtub] to be given so much weight. To be fair, the issue isn’t Ebola per se, but more so the whole idea of a viral attack against America. Nevertheless, and without intending to make any political statement, it seems that homegrown terrorism is keeping America, and even Canada, busy enough.

Is it appropriate to force a person coming from West Africa to be in isolation for up to three weeks, before entering into another country? Strictly speaking, a country can enforce any rules that it wishes. If a country is not democratic, there really is nothing for the general populace to do. Having said this, is it a practical step to detain thousands of people over the concern that one of them has contracted the disease, and thus could spread it to others.

The simplest answer I could give, is that as long as I am not the one who has to sit in isolation, it sounds perfectly legitimate. This very selfish attitude is in effect the attitude of the world. The number of cases of Ebola continues to rise dramatically every day in Africa. Suddenly the estimations of eventual total affected individuals, as initially reported by groups like the CDC,  no longer seem to be extreme exaggerations. Arguing about  isolation, is in my opinion, akin to arguing about how to treat a small metastasis when a huge tumor is being ignored.

The only real way to stop Ebola from spreading, is to invest a fortune in finally dealing with health issues in Africa. Once again,  I am not putting forth a political agenda. It is simply true that there are diseases in Africa that put the rest of the world at risk. Improving healthcare across Africa, may very well be the only practical and even cheapest solution for dealing with Ebola as well as a whole range of potential future epidemics.

Is the world ready to spend this money? If a vaccine or even cure is found, will it first be used across the westernized world before it reaches Africa? Will the disease continue to rage in Western Africa, if the westernized world no longer has to worry about it?

Modern medical technology will eliminate this threat. I hope that the lessons of this outbreak will have been internalized by the world. I hope that new and inexpensive medical technology will be used to treat disease in countries that lack any effective medical care for huge portions of their population. At least I can hope.

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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