September 16, 2019
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 In GLIMUN2019: Ebola

Committee: World Health Organization

Topic: Ebola

Country: United States

 

Yu. G. is a man we know so little about that we refer to him by his initials. Mr. Yu. G. was a storekeeper in a cotton factory in the town of Nazra, Sudan; he crashed and bled out from every part of his body on July 6th, 1976. The violent death that Mr. Yu. G succumbed to spread to his two coworkers, their mistresses, and eventually a hospital in the neighboring town of Maridi where it wreaked havoc and killed patients left and right. The killer in this case is the Ebola Sudan virus, hemorrhagic fever with a 50% fatality rate. Luckily, as the staff of the hospital ran away from the hospital of death and stopped the cycle of infection, Ebola Sudan killed its hosts instead of moving to Khartoum, Cairo, London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and eventually consuming the world.

An unknown schoolteacher who worked at the Yambuku mission took a vacation to northern Zaire in September 1976. After crossing the Ebola river and somewhere near the Obangui River he bought some fresh antelope meat at a roadside market which he ate later that night. That school teacher became sick, and when he got injected with medicine at the Yambuku Mission Hospital, the needles weren’t cleaned and simultaneously the virus ravaged fifty-five villages surrounding the hospital. This virus melted the body from the inside into a slime of blood and virus particles. The skin becomes soft and rips, blood leaks from every crevice of the body, and the brain becomes sludged with dead blood cells. Sister M. E. from the Yambuku Mission Hospital contracted the virus and spread it to Nurse Mayinga at the Ngaliema Hospital in Kinshasa who wandered around the city of Kinshasa for two whole days before the government took notice. The virus that was sampled from Sister M. E. body is the Ebola Zaire virus, the even more lethal sister of Ebola Sudan which has a staggering 90% fatality rate, and the world is fortunate that Nurse Mayinga didn’t infect anyone during her stay in Kinshasa.

Lastly, the Hazelton Research Products’ Quarantine Unit in Reston, Virginia, United States had an incident of illness among lab monkeys imported from the Philippines. This virus traveled airborne from room to room and killed every monkey it touched, yet even though six workers who euthanized the monkeys ended up testing positive for the virus, the humans did not suffer from any symptoms. This virus, the Reston virus, could have been so much worse. Proximity to Washington D.C. and the ability to spread through the air is a serious threat. Imagine a disease with the infectivity of influenza but the lethality of Black Plague in the Middle Ages. If the Reston virus happened to mutate to transfer to humans, this could have been a species-ending pandemic.

I am not giving a history lesson for the sake of giving a history lesson. Ebolavirus is designated in the United States as a level 4 hot agent and a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), yet we don’t even know its origins. Any form of Ebolavirus has the capability of decimating the globe, and the United States is one of the most vulnerable countries to get infected cases as we are both a hub of travel and commerce. During the peak of the West African Ebola crisis in 2014, there were 4 lab-confirmed Ebola cases in the United States. Eric Duncan contracted Ebola in Liberia before traveling back to Texas, where he infected 2 nurses and subsequently passed. Additionally physician Craig Spencer was diagnosed with Ebola in New York City. Furthermore, 7 Americans were evacuated from West Africa to the United States with only 1 of them passing away.

On August 1st, 2018, yet another Ebola outbreak, the 10th in fact, was declared in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This outbreak poses unique threats to the world as the North Kivu province is a place of conflict, making medical intervention exceptionally difficult. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already reported 42 attacks on medical facilities and 85 confirmed deaths of medical personnel in the region. By November 2018, 200 had passed, and by May 2019, the death toll has surpassed 1000 in the DRC, rapidly making the Kivu outbreak the second-worst in history. As a result of a confirmed case in Goma, WHO made what the United States believes is the correct decision by designated the Kivu Ebola outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). To emphasize the gravity of this, only 4 PHEICs have been declared previously. We need to take this crisis seriously otherwise we may see an uncontrolled lethal virus run rampant.

Somehow the most recent Ebola outbreak in the Congo does not have the same hold on the media that the 2014 West African outbreak did despite having the same PHEIC designation. Media organizations must be held responsible for reporting accurate information without creating mass hysteria. The over-dramatization of the 2014 West African Outbreak was very evident in American news media, and Ebola was used as a tool to discriminate against all Africans, even if they are from a country thousands of miles away from West Africa. Regulations must be put in place to find a balance between the appropriate dissemination of dissemination without restricting any free speech rights whatsoever. After nurse Nina Pham was found free of Ebola, then-President Barack Obama hugged her to dispel any rumors or myths about Ebola lasting indefinitely. The public must know that Ebola is a disease, a dangerous disease, but a beatable one nonetheless.

As a direct result of the United States’ closeness to the West African Ebola outbreak, the United States has arguably the best containment and treatment procedures for a future Ebola epidemic not just for American cases, but those of foreign nations as well. Operation United Assistance saw 4000 American troops being sent to West Africa to build treatment centers to combat the epidemic. Every soldier had to undergo a mandatory 21 day quarantine upon arrival. The CDC implemented guidelines to hospitals on what equipment to use and how to train personnel. Although the United States acknowledges the guidelines were not as comprehensive as they could have been, we fully support enhancing these guidelines and applying them to all nations. Additionally, the CDC developed two sets of teams identified as CERT (CDC Ebola Response Team) and FAST (Facility Assessment and Support Teams). CERT teams can be sent to hospitals that have a patient infected with Ebola and FAST teams are sent to trains hospitals that express interest in treating Ebola patients. In 2014, JFK, Neward, O’Hare, Dulles, and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airports screened passengers for fever as they consist of 94% of travel from Africa into America and Homeland Security made it mandatory from passengers from West African countries to travel through those airports. Lastly, many states in the United States made a 21 day quarantine mandatory for all people who had direct contact with Ebola patients, even if asymptomatic. If the current outbreak in Kivu were to expand the United States would look favorably upon reinstating that policy on the federal level.

Regardless of how effective containment methods may be, we must prepare for cases that slip through the cracks. The United States has the capacity to isolate and manage 11 patients in 4 separate biocontainment units across the country. This number may not seem like much, because it isn’t. The United States only created as many containment wards as we needed in 2014, and we are wholeheartedly behind creating dozens more if the Kivu crisis worsens. What is arguably more important though is the development of treatments for Ebola. Two experimental treatments already exist: the antiviral drug brincidofovir, which was given to Duncan, Mukpo, and Spencer, and the transfusion of plasma from Ebola survivors as a form of passive immunotherapy. The World Health Organization has already expressed interest in the deployment of plasma transfusions into affected countries and the United States is willing to contribute resources to assist in doing so.

Based on all the aforementioned information, the United States recommends a holistic course of action to combat this dire public health threat. First, resources, both human and monetary, must be contributed to contain Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This includes the stopping of Ebola at points of entry in other nations. This first step is the most critical as once the virus escapes to more developed and urbanized areas, its spread will accelerate. Second, the public must be accurate educated on the scope of the Ebola outbreak overseas and their realistic risk of contracting Ebola. Misinformation and mass hysteria must be avoided to not impede the government action of any nation. Lastly, funding must be approved to further test existing treatments and develop new treatments. Rigorous guidelines must be put in place before any treatment is deployed to the affected areas so resources are not wasted on ineffective drugs.

 

The delegation of the United States is looking forward to cooperating with all delegates knowing that children are the future of our planet, and the insecurity of their nutrition is a crisis that affects all nations.

 

  • United States
  • Sohan Vittalam

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