This week’s Courier Herald column:
Dr. Kent Brantly, a Doctor working with a Christian aid organization known as Samaritan’s Purse, has been working to treat those afflicted with the deadly Ebola virus in Western Africa. Now, Dr. Brantly himself is a patient infected with the disease.
Dr. Brantly was transported from Africa to Dobbins Air Reserve Base via air ambulance last Saturday. From there, he made his way to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital to be quarantined and treated in isolation. Emory’s involvement in this treatment is neither random nor an accident. Adjacent to Emory is the Centers For Disease Control. The two combine facilities and personnel as the front lines on identifying, containing, and treating rare and/or contagious diseases.
For Dr. Brantly, and Medical Missionary Nancy Writebol who is expected to arrive Tuesday, Emory and the CDC aren’t just part of the front lines, but they are also a last resort. At this time, there is no known cure for the virus.
It was Christian mission work that sent Brantly and Writebol to Africa. It was American exceptionalism that brought them back. We are still a country that takes care of our own. We are capable of matching our scientific ability with human compassion. Emory and the CDC will attempt to match the two. And hopefully, in the process, will not only save two Americans, but hopefully learn enough to heal many, many more worldwide.
Not everyone is pleased that we have brought our patients home. Social media from across the political spectrum held a collective freak out over the perceived threat of the virus, which requires direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person to be transmitted.
Perhaps none was a harsh and misguided as Donald Trump, who took to twitter to assert that the American relief workers should be left behind. He posted “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great – but must suffer the consequences!” A follow up response said “They knew the risk when they went to Africa. They chose it freely”.
Luckily, there are still people more selfless in the world than Donald Trump. CNN reports that 50 additional disease control experts are being sent to Africa to help control the disease. According to CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, “It will take many months, and it won’t be easy, but Ebola can be stopped. We know what needs to be done.”
We should be thankful that we not only have the technical knowledge gained by researchers who can deploy to an area where sickness is overtaking a population, but also that we have knowledgeable people who have the brave resolve to do so. Thankless blowhards such as Trump have little understanding that epidemics get out of hand if they are not stopped at the source. We cannot be simultaneously happy to have people go do this dangerous task, then tell them they’re on their own if they too succumb to the disease they have been sent to fight.
Much of the problem back home, from a fear versus public relations standpoint, is that we understand more about epidemics from science fiction – emphasis on fiction – than we do from actual science. Georgia is lucky to have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the core of its science based institutions. Its partnership with Emory University should not be overlooked when considering its importance.
Emory University combined with Emory Healthcare is Georgia’s second largest employer. The institutions contribute much more than knowledge to our community. The impact is economic. Not only does Emory and the CDC employ tens of thousands of Georgians, but they employ them in the high paying, rapidly growing medical field. These are among the best jobs in our state.
Among those who are happy we have such institutions are Dr. Brantly’s wife, Amber. She’s not only had to live with her husband being overseas doing dangerous work, but now has seen the reaction from too many of us willing to leave him behind out of baseless fears for our own safety.
Hopefully Mrs. Brantly will see true and gracious Southern hospitality during her husband’s stay at Emory. Prayers to him and his family, to those of Nancy Writebol, to those in Africa and traveling there to contain the disease, and to those here in Georgia working to treat the patients and find a treatment and/or cure. And prayers of forgiveness and understanding for those whose personal fears have trumped the base of available knowledge on this deadly but containable disease.