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A little logic, please?

October 11, 2014

It is reported that  airport security personnel at JFK and four other American airports are supposedly being trained and equipped to screen passengers for possible exposure to the Ebola virus.

Another report quotes CDC officials in Sierra Leone as admitting that the country’s resources are not sufficient to contain the disease.

The family of the first Ebola victim in the U.S. is still under quarantine, and several other states have isolated people who may exhibit some symptoms of the virus.

The CDC’s  Dr. Freiden states that isolation of suspected cases and tracking of the potential contacts is the CDC’s first line of defense against not just this but any possible deadly epidemic in the U.S.

But stopping all commercial flights out of West Africa is going to contribute to the spread of the disease? Apparently so, also according to Dr. Frieden.

Let’s take a look at some of the known facts.

Taking the reports that CDC and DHS estimates that 150 people per day or about 4500 per month arrive in the U.S. from the three West African nations hardest hit by Ebola, and assuming that the late Mr. Duncan’s “contact” group of 100 is typical, that means that these 4500 people have the potential to interact with  approximately 450,000 U.S. residents.  Even if the “close contact group” such as family members and emergency workers is 10% of that number, or 45,000, that’s a lot of people whose lives would be at risk. And there are, at last count, still 12 months in a year.

Those projections are scary, and quite frankly, a lot of people are scared.  Should they be?

It is likely that at least in the beginning of this, the  Ebola scare in the U.S. is being over-hyped. Obviously not all of the people who come into the U.S. are going to be infected.

As far as we know, out of the theoretical 150 people who entered the U.S. on the same day as the unfortunate victim, he was the only one who got sick. The CDC subsequently identified 10 people as highly exposed out of the 100 or so who may have had primary, secondary or tertiary exposure.

The scary part of that history is that he was not visibly symptomatic when he arrived, and he did not report that he had been in contact with someone with Ebola when he left West Africa. That makes the effectiveness of these screening techniques highly suspect.

What scares people almost more than the disease itself is that our government refuses to take the same steps to exclude the disease from the U.S. that they tout as being the best form of control once it enters our country.

The argument that stopping all commercial flights would exacerbate the spread in West Africa seems just plain silly on the face of it.

We are going to put 4000 American servicemen on the ground, and a lot of equipment, and they aren’t going to fly United, or American Airlines, or any other commercial carrier.

If medical personnel and aid workers need to get into and out of the Ebola-stricken areas, it seems fairly logical that they could hitch rides with the military. Some NGO agencies already use charter flights, and it would seem that practice could be expanded.

All that seems to make the argument that suspending commercial flights would increase the spread of the disease somewhat illogical.

Keeping the pool of infection contained, if it works in the U.S., should work in Africa.

The PC police notwithstanding, the strategy  isn’t some sort of right-wing racial discrimination plot. A total travel ban would affect all the people in the area, black, white or whatever their ethnic origins.

Assuming you believe that quarantine as well as treatment is the preferred form of containing any disease, stopping commercial air traffic in and out of the area seems logical.

From → op-ed

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