Ebola in America

There are few people in America today who are unaware of the Ebola epidemic currently raging in West Africa. We are now in the midst of the most serious outbreak of this incredibly deadly disease since it was originally discovered in the late 1970s. In Liberia alone, over 2,000 people have died up to this point, and over 7,500 people have been infected throughout the region. This week, the first American case of Ebola has been diagnosed in Dallas. The infected person is a Liberian man who came to the United States to visit family members who live in the Dallas area.

According to the World Health Organization, this Ebola epidemic is “the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times.” The spread of the disease in the impoverished neighborhoods of West Africa brings tales of the Black Death in Europe to mind. It has been spreading at an enormous rate, with seemingly nothing able to stop it. Now, we have allowed Ebola to make its first incursion into our country, and we need to ask questions about why this was allowed to happen.

The infected man, Thomas Eric Duncan, did not know he was infected with Ebola when he left Liberia. However, he had been in close physical contact with an Ebola patient in Liberia, and so he knew that the risk of him being a carrier of the infection was high. When he left Liberia, he declared that he had no contact with any Ebola patients, so he was allowed to board an airplane traveling to Belgium, and went on from there to travel to America.

When he started feeling ill, Duncan went to a hospital in Dallas, told the staff that he had recently traveled to America from Liberia, and described his symptoms. Rather than isolating him and testing him for Ebola, he was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics and a diagnosis of a low-grade viral infection. As he was staying with his family, when he went home Duncan had further opportunities to infect family members who were then free to travel throughout the city. Duncan was only diagnosed two days later, after he had become so ill that he needed to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance, possibly exposing the paramedics to this horrifying disease.

Why is the CDC allowing travelers from West African countries to come to America, without checking them for Ebola symptoms? Why are hospitals in our major cities apparently unequipped to properly diagnose and evaluate Ebola victims, despite the high level of worry Americans are experiencing and the risk of an outbreak spreading unchecked? Why are we relying on the honesty of travelers to protect the safety of Americans, when the honor system is clearly not sufficient in matters of life and death?

Our government needs to form a comprehensive strategy to deal with this crisis. First of all, if we cannot force the governments of other countries to perform more effective screening procedures, we need to implement them on our side. All infected travelers need to do to board a plane to the US is lie on a form and take an ibuprofen to reduce their fever, so we need to confirm that they are healthy when they arrive here. Travelers from affected areas should be quarantined upon their arrival in the US until we can be sure they are not infected. Furthermore, we need to make sure that our medical facilities, nationwide, are prepared for Ebola cases.

President Obama and the Center for Disease Control have let America down by being unprepared for this Ebola outbreak. We need to make sure that our leaders are able to think on their feet and protect America during an international crisis. We need a new kind of leader. If you agree with me, please cast a write-in vote for Art Drew for President in 2016.