Ever since February 2th, I've had Ebola on my mind. When I left the beautiful Bell House after Dr Chandran's lecture on Ebola, I felt more optimistic than I did when I entered. There were scientists cracking the code, so to speak, that the Ebola virus uses to enter a cell and reproduce, and there were medical professionals administering treatments.
Today, I didn't feel so optimistic... listening to the BBC World Service today before heading off to work, I heard a sobering news item about the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (coverage starts around the 8:20 mark). While the treatments are more effective than previous ones, and survival rates are improving, the conflict in the DRC is thwarting efforts by Medecins Sans Frontieres, which had to shut down two treatment centers.
MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu encapsulated the infuriating dualism of the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC:
"We have a striking contradiction. On the one hand, we have a rapid and large outbreak response with new medical tools such as vaccines and treatments that show promising outcomes when people come early. On the other hand, people with Ebola are dying in their communities, and do not trust the Ebola response enough to come forward."
Conflict drives people into the wilderness, where they come into contact with Ebola vectors, and it creates a climate of mistrust which causes people to avoid treatment. I had asked Dr Chandran about the relationship of Ebola to conflict, and his answer was much like Dr Liu's. The virologists and epidemiologists, supported by the medical personnel working in the field, are doing heroic work, but they are hampered by those individuals who would rather fight their fellow humans, rather than the virus.