Accusations are flying everywhere. It doesn’t matter what newspapers you read or which news shows you watch, everyone has an opinion about Ebola. No matter that only one person has died of the disease and that person contracted it in Africa. No matter that the medical community is reasonably united in the opinion that that disease is not transmittable except after symptoms arise. No matter that even the family members who had close contact with the Ebola patient who died did not contract the disease and are now free from quarantine.
Is anyone to blame for this “crisis?”
The confusion surrounding the likelihood of contracting the disease has made it ripe for political sound bites. On October 16th in an interview on a New Hampshire radio show, Sen. Rand Paul said Ebola was “incredibly contagious” and “something that appears to be easy to catch.” Senator Paul said he was merely repeating the guidelines of the CDC which stated you could get the disease simply by coming within three feet of someone who has Ebola. In reviewing all the current CDC guidelines, this writer found nothing about coming within three feet of an infected person.
The question of course is “who is someone who has Ebola?” The definition of “having Ebola” would seem to refer to a person who is hospitalized or has symptoms and has tested positive for the virus. According to the best medical evidence, Ebola is only spread after direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person or equipment which has been in contact with an infected person. Again, a non-symptomatic person is not considered an “infected” person.
Democrats are no less guilty of fueling the Ebola “crisis.” Many Democrats currently running for re-election are calling for travel bans despite that fact that the majority of the medical community believes that travel bans would be a very bad idea. But feeling and perhaps fueling the fear, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Kay Hagen, Sen. Mark Udall and Sen. Mark Pryor, all Democrats, have all endorsed travel restrictions.
Even the medical community has given some inconsistent advice
Watching a segment on Morning Joe last week, one doctor actually opined that the Ebola virus could now be airborne. A more credible source, Dr. Judith Stone who has practiced in the areas of infectious disease and infection control, wrote this month in Scientific American that most doctors not working in the field were ill equipped to make actual decisions about controlling diseases that could become epidemic.
But Dr. Stone also placed the blame far more correctly with government cuts to agencies charged with protecting the public health. Dr. Stone noted that it was time to remove politics from health care, particularly in the area of funding programs that promote research and protect the public health.
Dr. Stone noted the following budget cuts and other Congressional actions which are now impacting our ability to have and implement a consistent policy with respect to Ebola and many other potential health threats.
- National Institute of Health budget was cut by $446 million from 2012-2014
- The CDC’s funding for public health and preparedness which includes response to health crisis and containment was 1 billion dollars less than it was in 2002
- The CDC’s discretionary funds were cut by $585 million
- The United States is currently without a Surgeon General. President Obama’s nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy had the temerity to be in favor of Obamacare and gun control. This position infuriated the NRA and with the NRA against you, getting a political appointment is unlikely.
Dr. Stone went on in her article to mock Gov. Rick Perry who announced that Texas was superbly prepared to handle the Ebola patient. Not true according to Dr. Stone and the fact that the two nurses from the Texas Hospital who did contract the disease were transferred to other facilities, not in Texas, would seem to bear out her conclusions.
It would seem that partisan politics has again reared its ugly and useless head and now could actually put the health of the American public at risk. If we continue to populate Congress with nothing but career politicians we are unlikely to see any real solutions to real problems. Worse, we may see many more very sick Americans.