Improving our ability to cope with emergencies

The biggest infectious disease threat we face isn’t Ebola – it’s our short attention span

Kent Brantly at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, August 21 2014. Tami Chappell/Reuter

A year ago, I received a phone call: an American citizen had been infected with Ebola virus disease while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia. Would Emory University Hospital accept this patient for treatment?

Of course, we said yes. Kent Brantly was admitted to our Serious Communicable Diseases Unit on August 2 2014 – the first person to be treated for Ebola in the United States. Three more patients would also come to Emory, putting us at the center of public scrutiny and debate.

Most of the tsunami of hate mail I received in those early days was based on concern that we would be unable to contain the virus, endangering the American public. Caught up in panic about “bringing Ebola to the United States,” most people missed the real question exposed by the outbreak – how do we prevent infectious diseases from spreading out of control in the first place? Read more.