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October 1, 2014

Why Should High-Income Countries Help Combat Ebola?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA. 2014;312(13):1297-1298. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.12869

The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is devastating to the affected countries. With no specific treatments or preventive measures available, Ebola has, to date, caused almost 2300 deaths,1 overwhelmed fragile health care systems and thereby led to inadequate care for other serious diseases, and slowed economic activity.

Yet Ebola most likely will not become a global health threat.2 Ebola only spreads through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, and containment is readily achievable in high-income countries. This undermines the standard rationale for these countries to address infectious disease outbreaks in other regions—namely, to protect their own populations. For example, fear of global spread has been a key motivation for addressing influenza outbreaks in southeast Asia.