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World Health Organization Warns That Ebola Outbreak Could Lead To Failed States, CDC ‘Rethinking’ Strategy

With the Ebola virus spreading out of control in West Africa the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a stark warning that the outbreak could so disrupt communities over such wide areas that countries could become failed states. While over 4,000 people have already died, the infection rate is expected to dramatically rise with the WHO predicting that there could be up to 10,000 new cases of Ebola per week in 2 months.

That infection rate combined with the debilitating and lethal nature of the illness could lead to health services being overwhelmed and subsequently collapsing. The disease itself is much to contend with but there also is the panic factor where to avoid being infected people abandon areas which exacerbates efforts to combat the disease as well as straining public services and order.

The CDC recently announced it is “rethinking” its Ebola strategy after numerous health workers in Texas were exposed including a nurse who has been confirmed as infected. The CDC director warned there could be more people infected “We’re concerned, and unfortunately would not be surprised if we did see additional [Ebola] cases in healthcare workers who also provided care to the index patient,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said.

But even if more infections come to the developed world, the consequences will be nothing compared to places in the developing world that have poor to non-existent healthcare infrastructure.

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World Health Organization Warns That Ebola Outbreak Could Lead To Failed States, CDC ‘Rethinking’ Strategy

With the Ebola virus spreading out of control in West Africa the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a stark warning that the outbreak could so disrupt communities over such wide areas that countries could become failed states. While over 4,000 people have already died, the infection rate is expected to dramatically rise with the WHO predicting that there could be up to 10,000 new cases of Ebola per week in 2 months.

That infection rate combined with the debilitating and lethal nature of the illness could lead to health services being overwhelmed and subsequently collapsing. The disease itself is much to contend with but there also is the panic factor where to avoid being infected people abandon areas which exacerbates efforts to combat the disease as well as straining public services and order.

The CDC recently announced it is “rethinking” its Ebola strategy after numerous health workers in Texas were exposed including a nurse who has been confirmed as infected. The CDC director warned there could be more people infected “We’re concerned, and unfortunately would not be surprised if we did see additional [Ebola] cases in healthcare workers who also provided care to the index patient,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said.

But even if more infections come to the developed world, the consequences will be nothing compared to places in the developing world that have poor to non-existent healthcare infrastructure.

The outbreak, which has killed some 4,000 people in West Africa, has led to a “crisis for international peace and security”, WHO head Margaret Chan said. She also warned of the cost of panic “spreading faster than the virus”

In a speech delivered on her behalf at a conference in the Philippines, Ms Chan said Ebola was a historic risk. “I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries,” she said. “I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure.“She warned of the economic impact of “rumours and panic spreading faster than the virus”, citing a World Bank estimate that 90% of the cost of the outbreak would arise from “irrational attempts of the public to avoid infection”.

The hot spots for the Ebola outbreak are countries that already have considerably weak institutions and have faced political upheavals in recent years such as Liberia and Sierra Leone where civil wars and corrupt government took a toll. Throw in panic and ignorance over a genuinely deadly disease and it is not hard to see how things could spiral out of control if health systems fail to effectively respond to the Ebola outbreak.

Ebola is proving to not just be limited to West Africa as cases in Europe and the United States have people on edge. Though it is worth noting the healthcare systems in the US and Europe are exponentially better equipped to deal with an Ebola outbreak. Nonetheless public concern about Ebola is considerable as evidenced by a recent poll that shows US citizens overwhelmingly want tougher measures to combat Ebola including shutting down flights from West Africa to the US.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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