Ebola — Failures of Imagination

Jody Lanard and Peter M. Sandman: ‘The alleged U.S. over-reaction to the first three domestic Ebola cases in the United States – what Maryn McKenna calls Ebolanoia – is matched only by the world’s true under-reaction to the risks posed by Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. We are not referring to the current humanitarian catastrophe there, although the world has long been under-reacting to that.

We will speculate about reasons for this under-reaction in a minute. At first we thought it was mostly a risk communication problem we call “fear of fear,” but now we think it is much more complicated.

Some of the world’s top Ebola experts say they are worrying night and day about the possibility of endemic Ebola, a situation in which Ebola will continue to spread, and then presumably wax and wane repeatedly, in West Africa.They – and we – find it difficult to understand why Ebola has not yet extended into Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau. After we drafted this on October 23, a case was confirmed in Mali.

Fewer experts refer publicly to what we think must frighten them even more and certainly frightens us even more: the prospect of Ebola sparks landing and catching unnoticed in slums like Dharavi in Mumbai or Orangi Town in Karachi – or perhaps Makoko in Lagos. Imagine how different recent history might have been if the late Ebola-infected Minnesota resident Patrick Sawyer had started vomiting in Makoko instead of at Lagos International Airport on July 20.’


One thought on “Ebola — Failures of Imagination

  1. Hi Eliot. I remember your warmth and wit fondly from our overlapping residencies at Cambridge Hospital. I am honored and delighted that you posted “Ebola: Failures of Imagination.”
    Warm regards from Jody Lanard M.D.
    The Peter Sandman Risk Communication Website


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