Why Are We Getting Mixed Messages On Ebola?
No one seems to know what the heck they are doing in dealing with Ebola. Before Ebola hit our shores it was a disease that was affecting people far away in West Africa. We would hear occasional reports on the news about the danger and the amount of people infected and dying, but as a whole, the American people went on with their daily lives. Yes, we all knew that the disease was deadly, rapidly spreading in West Africa and the mortality rate was between 50 and 70%, but that was mainly due, we were told, to medical facilities that were not at the level of ours here in the U.S. There were cultural obstacles to overcome as well when it came time to bury the dead. And, there was no vaccine and no cure, so the death count continued to rise.
All in all the American people put Ebola on the back burner, but that all changed when two doctors working with Ebola patients in Liberia and in the process of fighting the disease themselves, were transported to the United States. At that point we were bombarded with non-stop news coverage of their journey to Emory Hospital in Atlanta. We were kept up to date with news conferences, images of people in haz-mat suits and constant updates on the doctors’ condition.
From the very beginning we were hearing mixed messages from the President, other government officials, the medical community and members of the CDC. We were told that this disease was very difficult to get and the only way you could get it was by coming in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. We were assured by the President that it was “highly unlikely” that Ebola would ever get to the United States. People coming from the infected countries were being monitored at the airport for symptoms and we were told that things would be handled. Basically, don’t worry, we have it all under control, we know what we are doing and everyone is prepared. Those were the talking points and they were going to stick to them.
Then, Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in Dallas, TX. He passed through whatever checkpoint they had with no problem, but then, a few days later, he came down with a full blown case of Ebola. The Dallas hospital emergency room that he went to was not prepared. There were no protocols in place except for minimal instructions on how to deal with infectious diseases. He was treated, released, went home and then, as we all know, went back, was placed in isolation and then died.
At this point, the CDC, the government and everyone supposedly in charge were all running around in a frenzy trying to retrace his steps, find out where he had been, who he had contacted and either quarantine them or track their movements. We were hearing one minute not to worry, that it was very difficult to get the disease, while watching people in head to toe haz-mat gear enter his apartment. One minute we were told by Dr. Thomas Frieden that the disease was not airborne, but that it might be possible to get it if you were within three feet of someone infected. He said that someone infected could spread the disease if they were on a bus, but you couldn’t get it if you were on the bus! Huh? If an infected person touched a hard surface, the germs could live for many hours, but if you touched that surface, it would be difficult to get the disease. Does this even make sense?? Meanwhile, airplanes, emergency ambulances, etc were being decontaminated.
Finally, when two nurses who had been in close contact with Duncan came down with Ebola, the fear began to ramp up dramatically. They had (supposedly) both followed all protocols and been protected, according to CDC guidelines while working with him, but they still got the disease. When asked the question, “how could this happen?” no one had a definitive answer. Why? Because they don’t know.
The debate began over stopping flights from coming into the U.S. from infected countries, but Obama adamantly refused saying that everything was in place to stop someone from entering the U.S. if they had the disease.
Enter Dr. Craig Spencer. Dr. Spencer entered the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in Guinea. He flew home, passed right through the health checkpoints, showed no symptoms and went on his merry way. Feeling a bit tired and run down, he still continued to live his life in New York City, riding subways, eating out, jogging and bowling, even taking Uber cars. The next morning, he had a high fever and emergency services picked him up and took him to Bellevue. He is diagnosed with Ebola.
So why are we getting mixed messages on Ebola? We have no leadership!! No one is in control and handling this mess. No one prepared for this before it got to the U.S. and no one is prepared for it now! Governors are taking matters into their own hands and starting mandatory quarantine of individuals whether they are showing symptoms or not who have worked with ill patients in affected countries. Yet hundreds of individuals are entering this country every day from these affected countries that are not showing symptoms….yet. They aren’t being quarantined.
This can quickly spiral out of control with everyone jumping in and making up their own rules. Someone needs to get a handle on this situation, because right now, no one knows what they are doing and rash decisions can turn out badly as we have seen throughout history.