Running Towards the Plague

Before I heard the doctors tell the dangers of a kiss,
I had considered kissing you the nearest thing to bliss.
But now I know biology and sit and sigh and moan;
Six million mad bacteria, and I thot we were alone.

Well, as we’re learning with Ebola, we are not alone on this planet; there are a lot of germs, some of them very deadly.  But mankind is also discovering something else –  Christians are different when it comes to treating fatal diseases.  Let me explain.  Historically, there have been two philosophies concerning plagues.  The first is to run from them as fast as you can (this is the world’s pattern as seen in outbreaks since the days of Rome).  The second is to run to them as fast as you can (this is the church’s pattern as also seen since the days of Rome).  But never has this been made more clear than in a recently published news report.  The World Health Organization held a briefing for doctors heading to West Africa to do battle with Ebola.  The New York Times sent one of its reporters to find out what kinds of  physicians would risk their lives to do such a thing.  The correspondent was shocked to discover that everyone of the forty was a born-again believer with not one secular healer among them.  This is also why when you hear of a North American doctor or nurse returning home from Africa for Ebola treatment, they are all missionaries.

The bottom line?  The physician’s motto is to “do no harm.”  Thankfully, these godly medical  professionals have not joined with their colleagues in “do no help.”

In the summer of 1976, a doctor traveled to a small town in sub-tropical Africa where the little local health clinic was dealing with a new disease that was killing every person within two weeks of contracting it.  The physician named the deadly virus, Ebola, after the river located nearby.  The medic instructed the natives on how to avoid contagious diseases, and, after 318 deaths, the outbreak ended.  Over the next number of years, Ebola would make its re-appearance nine more times, but always locally, eventually going away when proper safeguards were put in place.  (As of 2013, 1,531 people had succumbed to it there).  But then in 2014, all of a sudden the virus jumped from the villages of Central Africa to the cities of West Africa, a distance of some 2,500 miles.  There, the initial case was that of a two-year-old boy whose death was followed by those of his family.  Soon, not hundreds, but thousands were being infected and killed.  Epidemiologists (scientists who study where diseases come from) were brought in to try and find the root cause.  They soon discovered that the family did bush-meat hunting, especially enjoying fruit bat soup (a real delicacy in that part of the world).  Now every epidemiologist knows that bats are notorious for being disease carriers and sure enough, autopsies on captured-and-killed fruit bats confirmed the presence of Ebola.  Added to this was the reality that these fruit bats were losing their old native habitat through the de-forestation and strip mining of sub-tropical Africa, and were moving northwest seeking a new area to live.  Thus, there was now a lot more contact between the people and the bats (with fruit bats becoming much more noticeable as a meat to buy at outdoor food stands).  And even though cooking the bat kills the disease, it is the unsanitary handling of them when fresh meat, that causes zoonotic (transfer of disease from animal to human) and then from person to another and death.