Despite the success of vaccines, mumps wasn't eradicated. Small pockets of infection continued to appear. These small outbreaks were difficult to control but eventually burned out such that they disappeared. For the most part, these isolated events were considered part of the ongoing reality of an ever-present virus.
The virus now threatens many areas of the United States. As the virus spreads, researchers across the globe are working tirelessly to learn more about the virus and to discover therapeutics and possibly a vaccine. Unfortunately, the pace of laboratory work is intrinsically slow and results may take years to develop.
I became a father in 2013, four months after leaving Pakistan where I was working with UNICEF to support the polio eradication program. As the two remaining polio-endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the final pieces of the eradication puzzle.
So far, no case of Zika has been contracted in Canada. But some people wonder if that might change. At first blush, this question seemed silly, especially when asked in the middle of a cold Canadian winter. But winter is receding and some people in Hamilton who know what they are talking about are asking that very question. Could Zika come to Canada?
Normally, when an outbreak or epidemic is found, the first order of business is to confirm a situation is actually happening. Once that is confirmed, the next step is to identify the cause. In the case of Zika virus, both these steps happened without much concern. Unfortunately, the rest of the epidemiological investigation has been anything but a matter of routine. The reason stems from our rather rudimentary understanding of the Zika virus. While we have known about its existence for decades, only a few studies on its effect on humans have ever been conducted. This means we're learning new things every day as new studies are ordered. What this does NOT mean, however, is that we are all victims of a vast conspiracy. So let's keep that in mind as we look at what we do know so far.
Canada panicked. But unlike other countries, we overreacted. Our mantra -- better be safe than sorry -- actually made us less safe and continues to make us sorry. To explain, lawyers like myself have argued from the beginning that Canada's visa restrictions were illegal.
One year ago, Ebola began its rampage across West Africa, killing thousands in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia. After a year of horror, the disease is finally under control. Restrictions are slowly being lifted. Life should be returning to normal. But will life in West Africa ever be "normal" again?
Generally speaking, steroid users are not impressionable youth--they are young adults fully capable of making informed decisions about their own health. Steroid users are not devious cheaters--they are not involved with organized sport and are not bound by the rules of any sporting body. Steroid users are not less intelligent--they are professionals with more than average education. And steroid users bear little resemblance to addicts--they are seeking to improve their health, not feeding an addiction.
The declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern over Ebola is one of the world's most important actions although people may choose to see it differently; the situation requiring its call may lead to fear and panic. But, the only reaction should be resilience.
When it comes to the introduction of foreign deadly diseases, Canada need not worry. Due to the experience of one unexpected surprise, the SARS outbreak of 2003, and the resultant Commission that followed, Canada went from being unprepared to ready for anything.