Let’s Tackle Ebola. Now.

Sheri Fink in The New York Times:

The Ebola epidemic has exposed gaping holes in the [World Health Organization (WHO)’s] ability to tackle outbreaks in an increasingly interconnected world, where diseases can quickly spread from remote villages to cities housing millions of people.

Neither the WHO nor the local African countries had the public health infrastructure to cope with the sudden flare of the epidemic. As a result, Ebola may get out of control. In an epidemic, the number of infected persons grows exponentially for a while. A small number of dying people suddenly becomes a very large number of dying people. Timing is everything.

Michael Gerson in The Washington Post:

This is what should be happening: The White House should be instructing officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health to come up with an ambitious plan on a blank chalkboard. The Office of Management and Budget should be approaching House Republican leaders with a proposal to fund that plan, and the White House should be cultivating congressional champions for the measure. A continuing resolution to fund the government will be put together this month. If the Obama administration does not act quickly, it will lose its best chance at securing resources until December.

We can do this. We have a recent example of successful American leadership by President George W. Bush to fight the HIV epidemic in Africa. From the Institute of Medicine:

Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States has provided an unprecedented level of health and development assistance and health diplomacy around the world. PEPFAR has saved and improved the lives of millions of people; supported HIV prevention, care, and treatment; strengthened systems; and engaged with partner countries to facilitate HIV policy and planning for sustainable responses to their epidemic.

Please reread the clause I emphasized: President Bush led a fight against AIDS in Africa that saved millions of lives.

One thing I hate (and I mean full-blown, Aaron E. Carroll, fire shooting out of the eyes hate) about politics is that we celebrate our leaders for making war but we fail to celebrate them when they save lives by preventing disease. It is sad that President Bush gets so little credit on the left for this (but see TIE on PEPFAR here). It is even more surprising that his triumph is not, so far as I can tell, widely celebrated on the right.

Bush’s leadership of PEPFAR is one of the great accomplishments of any American president. We should urge President Obama to step forward on Ebola now.


For previous TIE writing and videos on Ebola, see here and here.

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