Via The Express Tribune, a thoughtful opinion piece by public health physician Samia Altaf: Should Pakistan care about Ebola? Excerpt:
Although it has devastated a wide swathe of West Africa and made headlines around the globe — not to mention it has been declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organisation — Ebola has not yet made much of an impact on Pakistan.
The disease is not endemic here, has no history in the country, has historically been confined to tropical villages in far-off Africa. Let’s not forget, also, that we have other problems to deal with.
“Why should we care about Ebola in Africa?” I was asked by a group of vaccinators in a health centre outside Islamabad. “We are giving polio vaccines.” Isn’t that enough for any one country to be worrying about?
The federal government recently issued an advisory to the provinces, informing them about risk factors and advising precautionary measures, information that they already have. No other direction, in case of infection entering the country, for preparing plans or other operational details , for financial or manpower requirements.
But the horror Ebola is wreaking across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea should make us take note.
Almost all the factors facilitating its spread in western Africa — porous borders, population density, weak health systems, a lack of public information and understanding (even, in some cases, among doctors, as a 2002 study showed) — are present in Pakistan as well.
Given the ways of the modern world, and the vicious ease with which Ebola spreads among people, there is a very real risk that it will enter this country: All it takes is, essentially, one person on a plane. If this happens, the Pakistani health system is in no position to cope.