We Americans love our medications. It seems every other Ebola news article spends a few paragraphs talking about ZMapp or a possible vaccine or even a homeopathic cure for Ebola. We crave the silver bullet that will take Ebola down and (more importantly to us) make us feel safe from it.
Wouldn’t it be comforting if we were infected with Ebola and an unconcerned doctor gave us some pills and said we would be virus free in a few days. Such a plan is safe, sterile, and reduces the uncertainty of our lives.
Life doesn’t have those certainties. Ebola has no existing silver bullet and even if it did, there is another virus on the horizon that also will resist a simple cure. We have been battling with HIV for decades and only recently have started winning.
The truly effective treatments for Ebola are not so spectacular or mysterious. The best treatment is prevention, which is why Ebola isolation wards are the first and best line of defense. But what of those people who do get Ebola anyway. What is the best treatment for them?
Yes, I know it is disappointing. Salty water is not a sexy cure for anything. But what those patients need the most is a steady drip of sterile saline flowing slowly into their veins. Ebola kills by depleting fluid volume and IVs are the cure for that, replenishing the fluid volume.
Now this miracle cure won’t save everyone. Ebola is a vicious little bug and will kill some anyway, but the most powerful and effective weapons in the fight against it don’t look powerful. They are gloves, gowns, masks, and goggles. While we spend 42 million dollars on ZMapp, what remains the most effective treatment is the most boring ones.
We as a people and a medical community need to let go of the super hero model of health care where powders and pills have mysterious powers that will save us from our enemies. Sure there are miracle cures that come from time to time, but most of them are built on the backs of basic, boring health care and prevention.
We should pray (another boring yet effective treatment) and fight for a cure for Ebola and all other disease, but let’s also recognize the limitations of these cures and move forward with tried and tested solutions to disease.
And by that, I mean boring solutions.