Why Closing US Borders is Not the Answer to Ebola

October 27th 2014

Lindsay Haskell

John Green's recent video on the Ebola outbreak convincingly articulates what we have to fear most about the Ebola outbreak and, just as importantly, what we don't.

As Green declares, it is not the Ebola outbreak in the U.S. which is terrifying, since infection controls can stop the disease from becoming widespread and the survival rate is much better.

Instead, the increasing amount of cases of Ebola abroad is what should spur us into action. "If we're going to enjoy the many benefits of globalization - inexpensive Argentinean beef in our Big Macs, West African chocolate in our Hershey's Kisses, roses from Kenya, clothes from Bangladesh - we're going to have all that stuff, we're also going to live in a global health community. We like to imagine that deadly, infectious diseases like cholera or malaria happen to other people, to like poor people who live far away from us. But Ebola reminds us just how false that us-them dichotomy is," Green notes.

Our ability to take from all of these countries when it suits us, and then refuse to give to these countries when it is imperative to do so is indeed particularly disturbing. As Green points out, the Ebola outbreak does not exist in a vacuum - these West African countries' economies and health care systems in general are suffering due to this outbreak and we, in turn, will suffer if we allow them to struggle alone.

Instead of closing down our borders to all countries that have infected citizens - a move which the CDC notes will only hamper our abilities to systematically track people traveling from one country to another - the United States must offer our support to help West Africa's struggling health care system. The World Health Organization has estimated that there could be 10,000 new Ebola cases per week reported in West Africa by early December. That is 10,000 people every week who have roughly a 30% chance of surviving the disease

All too often, media outlets focus on the "us vs. them" dichotomy instead of highlighting the solutions necessary to contain an intractable global disease and upgrade West Africa's health care infrastructure. In the meantime, while it may seem easier to ignore the plight of people far away from us, our inaction will unquestionably hurt us in the long run.

To lean more about Ebola, click here