The Ebola virus, found mostly in Western Africa, has killed over 2,000 citizens. The virus is primarily centered in four countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Currently, there is no known cure for the virus and doctors from all over the world, including members of the Center for Disease Control, are in Western Africa caring for infected patients.
On Thursday, Sept. 11, a panel discussion concerning the Ebola virus was held in ONU Law’s College in the Moot Courtroom. The panel consisted of two College of Pharmacy professors, Dr. Natalie DiPietro Mager and Dr. Andy Roecker; two College of Law professors, Professor Kevin Hill and Dr. Jean-Marie Kamatali; and Kanio Gbala, a Liberian lawyer who joined ONU’s law college program.
The topic of discussion was the potential existence of human rights violations due to the aggressive treatment of the Ebola virus. The two pharmacy professors started the discussion explaining how the virus is transmitted and how it is currently being treated.
“It [the virus] needs to first go from the animal host to the human,” DiPietro stated. “Direct contact with an effected substance, such as blood or bodily fluids, through broken skin or the mucous membrane can be spread from one human to another.”
Because of this, medical professionals believe that infected citizens should be isolated in order to prevent the disease from spreading. It seems that a “lack of willingness to be isolated or confined to treatment centers” is a leading cause of the epidemic.
Kanio Gbala was able to share his own experience of what life was like in Liberia just a month ago. “The social contract between the citizens and the government are strained,” Gbala stated. “It’s hard for citizens to trust the government, which makes situations like this difficult.”
Along with the lack of freedom infected patients face from a quarantine, Gbala also talked about the psychological damage that results from the virus. He spoke from his own experiences of sending his family away, as well as having to be constantly aware of potentially catching the virus.
From a medical standpoint, the quarantine for infected patients is an absolute necessity. The infection can be contained to certain rooms or buildings rather than out in the streets. However, as Gbala shared with the audience, being separated from families and the outside world can do an unfortunate amount of psychological damage.
The panel helped the audience, students and faculty members alike to see both sides of the situation. The Ebola virus fuels the flame of the consistent argument: should public health infringe on the rights of the individual?