Ebola must be contained now to prevent its global spread. Recent pictures of infected people escaping from clinics and hospitals in West Africa illustrate a possible nightmare scenario that this most virulent of diseases could arrive on the shores of the US and UK, if demonstrative action is not taken. In a speech to the United Nations on September 2, the president of MSF, Dr Joanne Liu, said: “A global military intervention is needed to curb the largest ever Ebola outbreak,” and that the international support has thus far been, “lethally inadequate.” At least 3,000 people have been infected with the virus and 1,500 have died, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that more than 20,000 people are likely to be infected. Dr Liu said: “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.” MSF said military and civilian teams capable of dealing with a biological disaster were needed immediately as the spread of Ebola “will not be prevented without a massive deployment.”
Yet the idea of US and UK troops, for instance, appearing in West Africa (as in the film Outbreak) and manning cordons and shooting infected people who try to escape is an image that neither government would want to even consider. But now might be the time for military action to contain the virus in West Africa–and it must be a genuine option to prevent the Armageddon scenario of Ebola appearing on the streets of New York or London. This outbreak is defying all known norms of the disease and, as MSF is now saying, extraordinary measures are required. With US, UK and other military forces poised to battle the Islamic State, it may well be that Ebola is–at the moment–an equal threat to global security. Military personnel are trained and equipped to operate in contaminated areas which include areas devastated from biological weapons attacks. Ebola is today a biological weapon which must be contained in order to be destroyed, and unpalatable as it is, this may now be a job for the military.