If America’s top health officials knew as much about the current outbreak of Ebola as they claim to know, there wouldn’t be an epidemic ravaging West Africa. Every day, it seems a new study finds weaknesses in the CDC’s approach to the disease, and it becomes increasingly obvious that this has become a politicized event.
The latest thumb in the eye to the Obama administration comes from Dr. Charles Haas. Having completed a study published in the scientific journal PLOS: Current Outbreaks, Haas found that a 31-day quarantine may be necessary to prevent further infections. The 21-day quarantine advocated (weakly) by the CDC could result in people being released with a 12% risk of having Ebola.
The flaw, Haas says, is in the data the CDC and WHO is using to come up with their recommendations. The 21-day quarantine appears to be based on older outbreaks that didn’t account for the longer potential incubation period of the current version of the virus. Haas says that an extra 10 days could mean the difference between a widespread public outbreak and a safe American populace.
Even if Haas is wrong and the World Health Organization is right, it seems obvious that we should be erring on the side of the more cautious science. Unfortunately, given the current political climate, it seems unlikely that the Obama administration will advocate a longer quarantine. In fact, the White House is doing everything possible to eliminate mandatory quarantines altogether, effectively placing higher importance on West Africa than America.
Australia Shuts Borders
Meanwhile, Australia’s government has decided it’s not taking any chances. It shut its borders on Tuesday, banning visas from citizens of the countries hardest-hit by the Ebola virus. While Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea have argued that Australia’s measures are punishing the healthy and making it more difficult to fight the disease, many in America want to see Obama take a similar stand.
Instead, the administration seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Why would we expect anything else? An internal document from the State Department shows them making plans to bring Ebola-infected workers to the U.S. for medical treatment. The argument, of course, is that by providing this service, more international relief workers will be encouraged to go to West Africa.
This is a debate that isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon. There’s no question that taming the virus in West Africa is vitally important to preventing a worldwide pandemic of unprecedented proportions. However, we must be careful that our efforts across the sea don’t cause an American outbreak. With conflicting studies, stories of government conspiracy, and political infighting, no one is sure what to make of the situation.
We could still be months away from readily-available Ebola vaccines. In the meantime, our government officials need to place the highest priority on keeping Ebola-infected individuals from landing on U.S. soil. If that hampers our work in West Africa, then that needs to be addressed as a separate problem with separate solutions. I have faith that a focused federal government can come up with these solutions. I don’t, however, have much faith that they will.