It appears that all people are talking about on the news lately is Ebola. I shouldn’t have to explain what the disease is or does to you at this point but as a reminder, it has about a 60 percent mortality rate. I recently began to wonder what the Middle East is doing to keep the deadly disease out. If it has made its way all the way to the United States then how has it managed to stay out of the Middle East where its geographical location is way closer to Africa than we are? I read some interesting articles that discuss how Ebola could be a huge problem if it were to make its way to the M.E. along with some articles that explain what preventative measures that are being taken. Islam Hussein of the news reporting website, Nature Middle East, brought up an interesting point that could lead to a very quick spread of the disease. Hussein explains the process of a Muslim burial ceremony, which requires the bathing of the deceased person by its family members. This posses a huge risk to the family members because Ebola is passed by the transfer of bodily fluids and some speculate that sin contact is also enough to contract the virus. The issue is that the disease continues to live within the deceased body for some time after death. If a Muslim were to die from the disease, the people dealing with the body would have to wear protective gear from head to toe during the entire bathing and cremation process.
Luckily there haven’t been any serious cases of infected patients in any Middle Eastern countries up until this point and that may be thanks to regulations on airline flights to and from Africa. Countries such as Egypt have implemented mandatory health screenings of people coming from West Africa and have banned most flights that would head there as well. This is good for the Middle East because a lot of trade and travel goes through Egypt (Ahram Online, 2014). Speaking of trade and travel, Albawaba.com suggests that the Middle East is taking and will continue to take an economic hit based off of the loss of trade, travel and tourism with certain African countries. The World Bank estimates that Africa will lose approximately $32.6 Billion by 2015 due to the epidemic.
The Guardian recently wrote an article about another preventive measure that was taken to protect participants in the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Arabian health official Adel Fakieh hired thousands of health workers to help screen the 2 million Muslim participants in the annual pilgrimage to protect against the spreading of Ebola and MERS. Thermal cameras monitored body temperatures of the pilgrims and 15 isolations rooms were set up; travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were also banned from participating. After the entire event, the Egyptian health administration announced that the Hajj was free of all epidemic diseases.
So far the Middle East has done a great job at keeping Ebola out of the region and is continuing, along with the rest of the world, to learn how to further protect itself. I just can’t imagine the Middle East dealing with Ebola on top of the many complicated issues that already exist. What effect do you think Ebola being in the Middle East would have on politics? Do you think some countries would work together that otherwise wouldn’t to fight it or do you think it would lead to more controversy? Let me know what you think!