A health worker checks the temperature of a woman entering Mali from Guinea at the border in Kouremale, October 2, 2014.
Joe Penney / Courtesy Reuters

The two deadliest outbreaks of this century can be traced to one thing: poverty. Cholera exploded in the Haitian countryside in October 2010, infecting more than 600,000 people and killing 8,600. Ebola surfaced this March in Guinea and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of mid-October, more than 8,000 have been infected and 4,000 have died, almost exclusively in West Africa.

At first glance, the two outbreaks couldn’t be less similar. Cholera moves quickly but it is a nineteenth-century disease, easily thwarted by modern water treatment systems and health care. It ravaged Haiti, but it has not spread beyond the developing world. Ebola, on the other hand, moves slowly and is not as easily treated. Further, it has reached the United States, earning it near-obsessive attention in U.S. news. As Greg Gonsalves, co-director of the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership wrote this month in Quartz, “Exotic infections for Americans, often

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  • FRAN QUIGLEY is Clinical Professor and Director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and is the author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti.
  • More By Fran Quigley