Here is my real nightmare scenario for Ebola. It has nothing to do with one or two people getting the early symptoms as they get on an airplane, and then debarking to spread it into new population centers. It is much worse than that.  There is the possibility that this could turn into the modern equivalent of the Black Death.

The real nightmare, as I see it, can happen in October. That is when devout Muslims perform the Hajj, and make the mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. Even if infected countries were to restrict travel, and Saudi Arabia were to implement screening, the chances of an infected person making the trip from West Africa remain high. Then they will be in a temporary population center of upwards of three million people, from all over the world, who will then go home.

Barring very strict travel controls from affected countries, extraordinary good luck, or divine intervention, this will spread ebola, and to new areas too. Think of pilgrims returning to Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Central Asia, Russia, and yes Europe, Canada and the United States. The shrines of Islam will become a giant petrie dish for the virus, and by November the entire world, Muslim and non-Muslim, will have Ebola in its midst.

Collectively, these countries have populations that don't measure in the millions so much as the billions, especially if Chinese Muslims, both Han and minority, are considered.  Further, none has experience with such a contagion as ebola.  Canada and Mexico especially addressed SARS, but Ebola will present a whole new range of challenges.

Viruses do not ask your religion or ethnicity. They only look for a host, and are equal opportunity killers.

So I am really interested in seeing what the Guardian of the Two Shrines does, and how many Muslims put off the Hajj for a year.

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