It is not often I find myself agreeing with apocalyptic warnings, but the west African ebola epidemic deserves hyperbole right now. Anthony Banbury, head of the UN ebola emergency response mission, says: “Time is our enemy. The virus is far ahead of us.” Dr David Nabarro, special envoy of the UN secretary-general, says of ebola: “I have never encountered a public health crisis like this in my life.”
However, this is a case where the hype could serve a purpose if it motivates action and thereby proves itself wrong.
Two things could happen over the next few months. The more probable is that the brave aid workers, soldiers and medical teams heading for the region, and brave local health workers and burial teams, will gradually get on top of the epidemic in the three affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the infection rate will peak and start to drop, and the crisis will pass.