President Barack Obama met on Wednesday with the leaders of three Ebola-stricken West African nations, vowing US help in wiping out the last vestiges of the often deadly disease. “We begin by noting the incredible losses that took place in all three countries,” Obama said during his meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Guinean President Alpha Conde, and Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma. Obama hailed the “great courage and resolve” of the three nations where the current Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 10,000 lives, and promised continued US support to help prevent future outbreaks, even as the numbers of infected people subsides. Obama said in addition to the lives lost, Ebola has exacted a tremendous toll on the economies of the three West African countries.
Ecological diseases just don’t go away. They cannot be easily eliminated.
If this were the case, yellow fever would have been eradicated, or perhaps even Asiatic cholera and a host of other well studied vectored diseases.
Also working against this possibility is our lack of knowledge of the full history of ebola. We only started documenting several decades ago, but my review of the historical epidemiology literature and translation of the documents, including an 1827 map which notes an ebola like disease, suggests this epidemic was first documented during late 17th, early 18th century colonial exploration periods, a hypothesis that is strengthened by two other events I uncovered for the 19th century colonization period, dealing specifically with the Ebola zones in Africa.
This implies that we do not know the full extent of ebola history or capability of its diffusion processes.
Finally, all spatially (globally) spreading diseases progress as they continue to infect new parts of the globe. Cholera’s spread increased in size and regional type (and biodiversity) as a result of this diffusion process. So too will the ebolavirus species. Once this epidemic is over, the next one could demonstrate an even greater impact–infecting new countries . . . or worse.
Like cholera and yellow fever, the pests behind malaria, typhus, the plague, and others that seemed travel internationally in the past, I expect the ebolavirus to progress naturally, and reach its natural peak, establish some new ecological domain(s), and then reduce its number of chief events, stabilizing within these new domains. Like Vibrio cholera variants accomplished for various deltaic settings over the past two centuries.