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A drill in the biocontainment unit in Omaha, Neb., Oct. 28, 2006 (AP photo by Nati Harnik).

After Ebola: Preparing Western Health Care Systems for the Next Epidemic

Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

Delta Airlines Flight 217 leaves Leopold Senghor International Airport in Dakar each Wednesday at 11:15 AM, bound for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. During the 8-hour, 25-minute flight, the plane’s passengers can enjoy a variety of movies, have a meal and take advantage of the plane’s WiFi connection in relative comfort. And any one of them could be carrying the Ebola virus to New York, extending the epidemic’s reach to North America.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has prompted a wider discussion about the ability of the United States and other industrialized democracies to respond to an infectious disease outbreak. Public health systems require strength in order to respond to epidemics, and they need resilience so that they can be ready for a wide variety of health threats. The likelihood of Ebola overwhelming the American health system is low, but that does not mean that we can be sanguine about the health care system’s ability to tackle any threats that come its way. ...

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