The Tyee has published my article Ebola Outbreak: This Is Just the Prequel, based on a couple of my recent posts here. Excerpt:
The other day, Victoria doctor Azaria Marthyman came home from a stint at a hospital in Liberia and put himself in voluntary quarantine. He'd been working with a medical missionary group, Samaritan's Purse, as the West African Ebola outbreak worsened. Two of his American colleagues had come down with Ebola. While Dr. Marthyman had no symptoms, he wasn't taking any chances of passing Ebola on to others.
It was a sensible precaution in an age of global travel. Ebola is not, in itself, a serious threat outside West Africa. But it's a harbinger of future outbreaks and a test of how well Canada will do against worse infections.
We've already had a couple of imported-disease scares this year. Last winter, a Red Deer nurse came home to Canada from a visit to China and died here of H5N1 avian flu. And in the early stages of the current Ebola outbreak, a Canadian mining engineer came home from Liberia with a suspicious fever, giving Saskatoon an anxious day or two.
Ebola is a minor disease. On a typical day, malaria kills more people than Ebola has killed (around 2,000) since it was first identified back in 1976. But Ebola is in the news because it's a classic "McGuffin," the plot gimmick for an exciting story.
Malaria may sicken and kill far more people around the world, but we've developed psychological immunity to it. Ebola gets past our defences: it may make you bleed from all your orifices, it's most contagious when people care for the victim or the corpse, and it can kill anywhere up to 90 per cent of the people it infects.
The present outbreak, beginning early this year, gave us an opening hook: the small beginning. In an obscure corner of an obscure country, a disease had shown up where it had no business being. But it was so lethal that if it spread countless people would be at risk.
So Ebola raised the stakes, and in any worthy story high stakes are important.