Thoughts on Ebola

Yesterday, someone asked me what my thoughts on Ebola were. Honestly, I am very wary of talking off subject and of things which I don’t fully understand. Consequently, since I am not a Virologist, it is difficult for me to have much of an opinion on the disease itself.

My thoughts relate more to the circumstances of the disease and the parallels with other issues. My experience of Ebola is, like most others, very limited. I hadn’t actually realised it’s severity until, when I was in Morocco for the Marathon des Sables (MdS), someone suggested that I might have it!!! Seriously, I was bleeding heavily from my nose for the first couple of days and when I wiped the blood away it looked like I was bleeding from the corner of my eyes too. One of the Moroccan competitors told me to get my face cleaned up before anyone saw me because if an Official at a check point (CP) saw it they might think I had Ebola and pull me out of the race! I hadn’t got any water left at that time but he gave me a little of his to wash my face in so that I could smarten myself up before I reached the next CP. Obviously, he knew I hadn’t got it as I was running the toughest race on the planet and couldn’t be doing that with a deadly disease like this but, being west African himself, he knew the reputation this disease has and the fear the threat, or even slightest hint of it, causes. Anyone who has run MdS themselves will know that by giving me some precious water whilst out on course and actually stopping to point this out to me, he really was taking this seriously. Even then, I didn’t realise what the implications of the disease were, I just didn’t want to get pulled out of the MdS and couldn’t see why a few nose bleeds would be considered such a threat when it was only down to acclimatisation and severe exertion of the Dunes. That was just a few weeks after the first outbreak of Ebola happened and it hadn’t really made the news – now I understand completely!

As for the current situation, I have thought, and said, all along that enough is not being done to assist the people who are suffering and the reason for that is pretty much the same as the reason for most things – it is financially driven. Aid organisations such as Medicine Sans Frontières have been requesting more serious international input and assistance for months but have had little response. Even today, Kofi Anan has said he is woefully disappointed with the current response. It seems to me that the West is not particularly interested – or has not been up until now – as they think it cannot affect them and what does not affect them is not generally of interest to them. In other words, the suffering of others. I honestly believe this is why a lot of people will not understand and open their hearts and minds to the suffering of animals. Simply because they have no reason to as, until something impacts directly on that individual and their life, they simply do not want to deal with it or find it of particular importance.

My opinion is that, whether this is a threat to Western civilisation or not, more should be done to help those who are suffering. Just as I believe that the although the suffering of a pig in the farrowing crate, the monkey in the laboratory, the bear in the bile farm is not directly affecting my life today, it should not be happening. Whether I am affected or not, wrong is wrong. How would the people in the Western world feel if this did start to impact them? Would they be satisfied to be quarantined in appalling conditions and left to recover or die? No, they are only being reassured by various people in authority telling them that it is unlikely to come here and even if it does they will get ‘state of the art’ treatments and nursing. The fact that those in Africa aren’t getting that seems not to be a particular factor of interest, just so long as ‘we’re OK’ and can continue on with our comfortable lives, nothing much else matters.

For sure, there is a big race on now to find a cure or vaccine but that is, as all other things, only financially driven. There is no cure or vaccine because it has been considered a disease which will only affect those who cannot pay and therefore, to many , do not matter. The urgency now is driven only by the cash rewards and the possible fear that it might well spread to the Western world.

As for having much faith in what we are being told, I have to say I don’t have any. To me, the messages are very mixed and muddled. No-one can possibly predict how this disease could take hold when you factor in international travel and access. I believe the disease has only spread so ‘slowly’ because travel is not a particularly large factor in the countries of it’s origin. Another complete anomaly to me is the mixed message and contradiction over animal testing. By free admission, pharmaceutical companies say that what is successful on animals is not successful on humans as they have different nervous systems and reactions. Absolutely what we have been saying for years – so why do it? I have always believed, along with many others, it is wrong and there is absolutely no justification for it.

So there you are, my thoughts are a total jumbled up path which have led me back, sadly, to the same place as I started at. The world is corrupt, uncaring, lacking compassion and, quite possibly, doomed and how to convince those who reside in it to respect all life, when they cannot even respect that of their own race equally, I do not know. What I do know though is that if the world does not wake up to what is happening there will be no world as they know it and the things they value will mean nothing. A small minded, greedy, selfish approach is not appropriate and, I just cannot understand why people don’t recognise this. Why they cannot see that life is short and very, very tenuous and what really matters is the good you can do whilst you are alive – opening your heart, mind and soul to the suffering of others is ultimately the only way to make this world a better place for all who share it. We own nothing, we come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing, material things do not matter. Back to the main problem though, man’s infinite greed and his inability to grasp this fact!

I make no apology for being frightened and saddened by this latest crisis. My thoughts are not for myself but for the animals. During the Foot and Mouth crisis they slaughtered animals who they feared might be in danger of being susceptible to the disease and didn’t actually have it. Anyone who remembers Caroline Hoff desperately trying to save a few healthy sheep by blocking them in her home will know what I am talking about. Seeing the Army and Police move in, the barriers go up and the burning pyres – some with live animals on are horrific memories for me. Living in quarantine for the entire length of the outbreak which was around a year. Already there is talk that pigs might be able to carry it. So yes, I am worried, very worried because this is something we have no control over and, historically, one which the most vulnerable have paid the highest price for.

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