The ‘Politics’ of Ebola

Thursday, October 23, 2014 Written by 
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Midterm Elections are fanning the flames of fear, panic and pandemonium over the Ebola epidemic.  So here are the medical facts, politics aside.

 

Ebola has claimed the lives of some 4,500 victims, mostly in Western African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  In the U.S., politicians are calling for flight bans and blaming President Barack Obama for the spread of the disease

 

According to CNN, as of Oct. 17, 2014, “eight confirmed cases of Ebola have been or are being treated in the United States, and one U.S. citizen died abroad, having never returned to the States.”

Patrick Sawyer, a government official in the Liberian Ministry of Finance and a naturalized U.S. citizen from Minnesota, died July 25 in Nigeria after caring for his Ebola-stricken sister in Liberia.

 

The more famous case is that of Thomas Eric Duncan, an American who visited Liberia and returned with the virus last month.  He was sent home with antibiotics by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, but finally admitted days later when his symptoms worsened.  He was being treated at the hospital when he died on Oct. 8. 

 

More than 100 individuals identified to have come in contact with Duncan have been quarantined.   At least 45 were cleared on Oct. 20 after 21 days of observation, according to MSNBC.

 

By the way, according to the World Health Organization, Ebola is “acquired by contact with blood or other body fluids of an infected human or other animal. This may also occur by direct contact with a recently contaminated item. Spread through the air has not been documented in the natural environment.”  Ebolavirus may be eliminated by heat, avoiding direct contact with infected people and regular hand washing with soap and water

 

Considering that the numbers of people who have tested negative for Ebola in the US far outweigh those who tested positive, evidence suggests the disease is not as easy to contract as believed.  This is not to say that missteps by both the medical community and the government have not raised the risks. 

 

Duncan should not have been sent home when he first came to the hospital with a fever and explained he had been in Liberia. Not enough precautions were taken to keep health care workers protected.  One of the infected nurses who called CDC for clearance to board an airplane to Ohio was given the green light.  That should have never happened. 

 

With Midterm Elections less than 2 weeks away, Republicans are blaming President Obama for not doing enough to slow down the spread of Ebola in the U.S.  Democrats are blaming Republicans for cuts to funding necessary to deal with health emergencies like Ebola. 

The president’s appointment of Ron Klain as Ebola Czar became effective Oct. 22.

 

Politicians running for re-election must appear that they are doing something to stop Ebola (even if they don’t have a clue).  So they are calling for travel bans from West Africa into the U.S.  Democrats who have distanced themselves from the president because of his low approval ratings are now using Ebola to legitimize the distance.

 

President Obama has said banning travel to the U.S. from Liberia would only make the situation worse.  But even if he were to order a ban on travel from West Africa, how would that order actually be carried out? There are no direct flights from West Africa to the U.S.  Currently, passengers have to go through airports in Western Europe (Paris is the number one destination) and then transfer to America.

 

“We can't just cut ourselves off from West Africa," Obama said, explaining it would make it harder to move health workers and supplies into the region, and would motivate people trying to get out the region to evade screening, making it harder to track cases.

 

The Department of Homeland Security announced that all travelers from Ebola outbreak countries in West Africa will be funneled through one of five U.S. airports with enhanced screening, including JFK International in New York, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, New Jersey's Newark and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airports.

 

 

 

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