I was asked to speak about international public health law to a class a few days ago. I chose the current flare-up of the Ebola Virus as my illustration.
This was a an international group with little public health law background so it was a great opportunjity to talk about the history of public health surveillance, reporting, and containment measures in the United States and elsewhere. It also gave me the opportunity to discuss the not entirely glorious history of the use of quarantine and involuntary treatment. Finally, we learned about the WHO and its relatively recently revised international health regulations. Chastened by experience, the WHO has moved from an emphasis on containment and control at the border to a broadened emphasis on the adequacy of public health measures within a country or a group of countries as well as well as control at the border.
As I prepared my remarks, I came across J.V. Chamary's Ebola Outbreaks Visualized in Five Charts. Of course, we can only speculate as to why the 2014 Ebola Virus flare-up has killed so many with a virus that appears to be, relative to other flare-ups, less virulent.
What are the socioeconomic pressures that push people to increased contact with disease-carrying animals and increased consumption of bushmeat? Jacques Pepin's The Origins of AIDS tells a compelling story about the HIV virus and colonialism, poverty and urbanization. Who will write The Origins of Ebola? Will it be written and read before the Ebola Virus makes the jump from an episodic isolated disease flare-up to an endemic disease?