Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Epidemic draws world attention to Africa's needs

By Zhang Tiankan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-22 10:20

Even in terms of culture, which is essential for disease prevention, Africa is isolated. Research shows that a popular burial ceremony in Africa, in which people kiss and touch the deceased before bidding them a final goodbye, accelerates the spread of the disease.

If that cultural tradition is allowed to continue, the international community could at least take measures to stop another tradition, that of hunting and eating wild animals, because the animals they eat, such as cane rats, bats, monkeys, chimpanzees and even lions, could carry unknown viruses, of which Ebola is only one. The international community needs to provide more help to African communities so that they can get their food from other sources and don't have to depend on wild animals for sustenance.

Fortunately, increasingly more nations are realizing that we live on the same planet as Africa and diseases do not respect borders. The international community has invested huge amounts of money, technologies and personnel to strengthen the healthcare system in Africa, and also provided the continent with medicines and vaccines.

The US has completed the first round of human trials of the anti-Ebola vaccine with satisfying results. With second- and third-round trials to be carried out in West Africa in February and March, the spread of Ebola can hopefully be controlled.

Of course, the process of bringing the Ebola virus under control will be long. And the long process of helping Africa build its healthcare system could help the continent to emerge out of isolation.

The author is deputy editor-in-chief at Encyclopedic Knowledge and a former research scholar at Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

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