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Why an Ebola Epidemic is Spinning Out of Control

Author: Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health
July 24, 2014


The Ebola epidemic now raging across three countries in West Africa is three-fold larger than any other outbreak ever recorded for this terrible disease; the only one to have occurred in urban areas and to cross national borders; and officially urgent and serious. At least 1,090 people have contractedthe awful disease this year, though the epidemic's true scope is unknown because of widespread opposition to health authorities in afflicted Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

This week, 39-year-old physician Sheik Umar Khan -- labeled the country's hero for his brave leadership of the epidemic fight -- was hospitalized with Ebola, adding yet another public fear: that even the doctors cannot escape the disease.

But as terrifying as Ebola is, the virus has been controlled in the past, and can be again. The current crisis, which threatens an 11-nation region of Africa that includes the continent's giant, Nigeria, is not a biological or medical one so much as it is political. The three nations in Ebola's thrall need technical support from outsiders but will not succeed in stopping the virus until each nation's leaders embrace effective governance.

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