Mindboggling. Astounding. Incomprehensible.
All perfectly describe the string of mistakes and idiotic actions of government officials and health care professionals dealing with the Ebola virus on American soil.
But the most important descriptor cannot be omitted.
As explained in an Aug. 12 Freindly Fire column, "deliberately introducing a foreign species makes the sin mortal. And that’s no pun, given the decision by America’s leaders to allow the extremely deadly Ebola virus into this country, a move that could prove mortal to millions if the virus escapes or worse, mutates."
Since we are willfully letting Ebola in, how could we not expect unintended consequences and detrimental results? History teaches us it’s inevitable.
It’s bad enough that we allowed Ebola-stricken Americans to enter the U.S., but by granting unrestricted access to anyone who has traveled to West Africa within a 21-day time frame (Ebola’s incubation period), we asked for big trouble. And now that Thomas Duncan, a Liberian national who flew to America and became the first person diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, we got it. Lots of it.
But don’t worry, we’re told. The "experts" have everything under control. America is more-than-prepared to contain Ebola and wipe it out.
So nothing to fear, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.
Given that Ebola happens to be one of the deadliest viruses in human history, and knowing this year-long outbreak in Africa was unprecedented, we should have been prepared. But in modern America, being proactive is treated with contempt, and as a result, Ebola was given a free ride.
So in the interest of preserving human civilization, let’s look at why Ebola, despite being downplayed by the government, needs to be considered such a grave threat:
HIV/AIDS is the world’s most infectious killer, but contracting it is quite difficult, making the average person’s risk factor virtually nonexistent. The risk to those engaged in certain sexual practices (where intimate physical contact is required for transmission) can be substantially mitigated if simple, medically advised precautions are taken. Yet despite that, a staggering 36 million people worldwide have died since 1981. Thirty-six million!
Contrast that to Ebola, which has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent and where person-to-person contact is not necessary to contract the virus, and it should be immediately obvious what we are facing. Yet officials continue living in la-la land, not seeing, or at least not admitting, that Ebola presents a potentially unstoppable pandemic, especially if it mutates.
Too many view pandemics, such as the Black Death, as relics of the ancient past, arrogantly believing modern medicine is equipped to stop anything. But in doing so, they forget 20th-century history. The Spanish Flu of 1918 devastated the world, including America (and Philadelphia in particular), infecting more than 500 million. It killed with startling efficiency, and as many as 100 million people perished (5 percent of the global population), leading Spanish Flu to be called "the greatest medical holocaust in history."
Given that Ebola’s lethality is, at a minimum, 300 percent greater than the Spanish Flu, with its 10 to 20 percent mortality rate, it’s anything but alarmist to think we should be pulling out all the stops to halt Ebola. But we’re not. Consider:
1.) Continuously admitting Americans infected with Ebola into the U.S. is playing Russian Roulette with five bullets in a six-round gun. We should spare no expense in setting up a Level-4 bio-hazard lab on a remote island to treat all Americans. No exceptions. But instead, the borders, especially at airports, remain wide open, warmly welcoming Mr. Ebola. That’s not compassionate. That’s suicide.
2.) After exhibiting symptoms of Ebola at a Dallas hospital, Thomas Duncan was sent home, even after telling health care workers he had just been to Liberia, Ebola’s Ground Zero. First, the hospital blamed a nurse for failing to pass along that hugely critical information, then claimed Duncan’s medical report wasn’t visible to doctors due to an electronic records glitch. Also false. Turns out everyone on the case had access to the information, but simply missed it. Incomprehensible, yes, but also expected.
3.) It gets worse. The highly contagious Duncan was free to roam for days, possibly infecting God knows how many — and, truly, only God knows, because the "experts" have no idea. Their guess at Duncan’s "close contacts" keeps rising (it was eight, now it’s over 100). Even after Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola, his family and friends moved freely, including sending possibly exposed children to school.
The family was eventually quarantined in Duncan’s apartment, but why there? Incredibly, no officials deemed it important to remove the family and immediately decontaminate the apartment. Instead, the family was forced to live in a petri dish alongside Duncan’s potentially virus-ridden sheets and clothes. The first cleanup crew, as well as police entering the apartment, had no virus protection. And topping it off, the emergency services’ reverse-911 call to warn residents failed in embarrassing fashion.
The real culprit in all the snafus is Ebola’s biggest benefactor: Human error. And that is why, despite claims to the contrary, Ebola cannot be contained. We knew it was coming, yet inexcusably bad decisions were made, and things went horribly wrong. What happens when it appears in a different form on a mass scale?
All of which makes the statements of Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention — that "we are stopping it in its tracks in this country … There is no doubt in my mind we will stop it here" — ring hollow, huh?
The CDC keeps changing its story, out of both ignorance and deceit. Its leaders believe that by downplaying the extreme seriousness of Ebola and reassuring Americans that all is under control, the problem will go away. They couldn’t be more wrong.
In Friday’s column I’ll examine the right methods to fight Ebola, which, no surprise, are completely contrary to the government’s approach.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].