Lessons from the Ebola Outbreak
By: Jeff Tso
We’ve experienced a year with significant upheavals, across the Middle East and Ukraine in particular. News of extremism, political upheavals and conflict have dominated the news worldwide. Constantly flying under the radar, however, has been the steadily expanding outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Buoyed by the spread of globalization in the past decade, the threat of a greater epidemic has led to the cancellation of flights, the drastic dip in exports, the abandonment of internal food distribution
networks and the collapse of the tourism sector in the region
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is absolutely lethal virus spread through the transmission of bodily fluids, with a 50%-90% fatality rate in its various outbreaks. For those familiar with 1990s’ movies, “Outbreak” with Morgan Freeman was based on a theoretical explosion of this disease in a rural American town. Highly contagious and without a reliable cure, more than 1300 people have died in this largest ever documented emergency, which is further exacerbated by poor sanitary conditions. How are these facts relevant to the aspiring business student? One cannot simply hope that the particular professional you speak with in a network session happens to have a unhealthy interest in deadly viruses. Fortunately, the very nature of this outbreak and its causes provide us several unique lessons which we can be reminded of as we re-enter our first semester.
Establishing trust and reliability: Among the most significant obstacles to the government quarantine of Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia is the simple fact that residents do not trust the authorities. Particularly in group projects where members are relative strangers, establishing that impression of dependability can be crucial to cooperation and ultimately success.
Facilitate communication: Recently, hundreds of looters raided a Ebola treatment clinic, taking away infected patients, blankets and equipment, ignorant of the implications this could have for spreading the virus. Failure to communicate is the root of most problems I’ve faced in both work and university projects. Addressing concerns about habits, division of responsibilities and
leadership is the first priority throughout any project.
Accept outside help if necessary: The World Health Organization has declared a world public health emergency, the United States has raised $14 million in aid and Canada has provided an untested vaccine to the crisis. Students have a wide variety of resources available; online library, Business Career Centre, COOL and the Undergraduate Society are always available.