Right wing hysteria about Ebola has reached a new high. It is not just the usual, uninformed talk show blowhards who are whipping up the hysteria, but respected senators, and senior leaders of the republican party heartily take part in it.
Dr. Rand Paul – a physician, proclaimed in the Glenn Beck show that, “…“I do think you have to be concerned. It’s an incredibly transmissible disease that everyone is downplaying, saying it’s hard to catch. Well, we have physicians and health workers who are catching it who are completely gloved down and taking every precaution and they’re still getting it.”
Really, Dr. Paul? Physicians and health workers who are completely gloved down and taking every precaution are still getting it? It is this monstrous disease that we know nothing about, and we are underplaying it? The respected NEJM, published a paper on Oct 16th from the WHO team after analyzing 4000+ cases from the current epidemic, and the authors unequivocally state:
“Although the current epidemic of EVD in West Africa is unprecedented in scale, the clinical course of infection and the transmissibility of the virus are similar to those in previous EVD outbreaks. The incubation period, duration of illness, case fatality rate, and reproduction ratio R are all within the ranges reported for previous EVD epidemics.”
|Time between the exposure and onset of symptoms based on data from all three west African countries. The gray bars indicate the frequency of candidates, and the thick red line is the model fit. Symptoms start at 5 +/- 4 days after exposure. (Courtesy; NEJM)|
Thanks to the heroic work of physicians and scientists, we know a lot about the current Ebola epidemic,and this epidemic is biologically no different to other Ebola epidemics of the past. What we need is effective control measures to bring the reproduction rate of Ebola to below 1. That requires personal protection equipment (PPE), and other logistical support for the health-care workers in West Africa – in short aid. Well, what is Senator Paul’s position on foreign aid? He wants to eliminate it – gradually. Yes, the senator who wants to eliminate foreign aid, is the one who is keen on whipping up panic based on unproven hypotheses.
Other prominent right wing panic mongers include republican senate hopefuls such as Scott Brown demanding a blanket travel ban , Louisiana Senate candidate Bill Cassidy accusing CDC of downplaying ebola risk, and Mike Rounds of South Dakota insisted on a travel ban. The Republican party establishment from Boehner, Mitch McConnel, Chris Christie, etc. have all hyper-ventilated about how to respond to ebola: they have insisted on a blanket travel ban or on quarantine.
The prestigious NEJM strongly argued against calls by republican (and some democratic) calls for quarantine. In plain language, NEJM stated the following about calls for quarantine, “… is not scientifically based, is unfair and unwise, and will impede essential efforts to stop these awful outbreaks of Ebola disease at their source, which is the only satisfactory goal”.
Obama deserves credit for keeping a cool head amidst all this hyperventilation.
The facts are: (a) Ebola is difficult to spread. It spreads via droplet transmission and is not airborne; (b) If the patient is not symptomatic, the subject cannot transmit the disease (Mr. Duncan’s family was not infected during the early stages of the development of the disease, whereas the nurses who took care of him when he had the full-blown symptoms did); (c) US has tremendous knowledge about Ebola and (d) US has the necessary healthcare infra-structure to handle it.
Both nurses who were infected at the Dallas hospital have now been cured of Ebola. A couple of dozen people who came into contact with Mr. Duncan, who were monitored, are now beyond the window for developing the disease, and have been cleared.
Does this mean that we will not have any more Ebola outbreaks in the US? No. It is just that we know how to deal with it.
Let us follow the scientists, and not give in to irrational fear whipped up for crass, short-term political advantage.