EDITORIAL: Fear, stigma around Ebola

The fear and stigma hearkens back to the early days of AIDS.

A B.C. company is playing a small role in the battle against the newest health scourge that is tearing through Africa and threatens to spread elsewhere.

Tekmira Pharmaceuticals has linked up with an international consortium that includes representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Medecins Sans Frontieres to advance its development of a vaccine for Ebola.

Other companies are also working on vaccines. Some, including Tekmira’s, have reportedly already been used to treat patients, foreshortening the often long and arduous trials and regulatory approvals process.

The need to stem the epidemic is that urgent.

If the epidemic isn’t stopped, it could soon become endemic, a disease that will be forever entrenched in a region, ready to spread in a moment’s inattention.

WHO estimates there could be 1.4 million cases of Ebola in West Africa by the end of January. Meanwhile, there have been only a trickle of volunteers among the medical community of the western world.

The fear and stigma hearkens back to the early days of AIDS.

“We talk about stigma and ignorance in Liberia, but let’s be frank, there’s plenty of stigma and ignorance in our own countries, and irrational fear of being on the ground.

We have an obligation to counter that fear,” Sheldon Yett, the UNICEF country representative in Liberia, told the The Globe and Mail.

Hopefully, more will have the courage to volunteer. When proper precautions are taken, there is very low risk among those working at Ebola treatment centres.

Ebola is an awful, frequently fatal disease.

But we must act quickly and decisively, and not let fear prevent us tackling what could soon become the AIDS of our era.

– Burnaby NewsLeader