What should we do about Ebola?

Saturday 18 October, 13.20 until 13.40, Conservatory, Barbican Special topical sessions

This Battle Bite session is part of a special series of informal conversations between Battle of Ideas speakers on topics in the news, programmed in the days leading up to the festival to ensure they are as topical as possible.

All Battle Bite sessions are free and open to non ticket holders.

On 22 March, Guinea confirmed that around 50 people had died, in its south-eastern forest region, from Ebola. Since then, the death toll has risen and the geographic spread of the disease has widened; first to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and later to Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, the death toll has risen above 4,000, from over 8,400 people infected. Cases have emerged in the US and Spain, too.

This is the worst Ebola outbreak since the discovery of the virus in the 1970s. Howeve, when placed in the context of the chronic problems associated with malaria, tuberculosis, influenza, and the widely publicised epidemics of SARS and swine flu in recent years, does coverage of Ebola begin to appear inconsistent and perhaps even hyperbolic?

Are we panicking because Ebola is not bound by the same geographic limitations as malaria, and therefore Europe and North America are in the firing line, or simply because this is something new? What role should developed nations play in supporting those already affected by Ebola? Are wealthy Western countries doing enough or is this simply distracting from far larger issues?


Bríd Hehir
writer, researcher and traveller; retired nurse and fundraiser

Rob Lyons
science and technology director, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Economy Forum

Ed Noel
teacher; former schools and alumni coordinator, Debating Matters Competition

Produced by
Jake Unsworth trainee solicitor, Bond Dickinson; convenor, Debating Matters Ambassadors

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