Public Health: The man whose one job is to safeguard America's health has failed, saying that we must change our responses to Ebola after a Dallas health care worker becomes infected despite the rules he championed.
Yes, we do. Pham's infection, just as Thomas E. Duncan's death in Dallas after a multistop trip from Liberia, wasn't supposed to happen with CDC's protocols. Frieden's repeated assurances that everything possible was being done have been demonstrably false.
Blaming Pham, who contracted the disease while caring for Duncan despite taking recommended protections and wearing the proper gear, Frieden said that "at some point there was a breach in protocol, and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection."
He later walked back his remarks. But if the protocols were adequate, why do we need to rethink them?
Pham isn't alone. Maria Teresa Romero Ramos, a Spanish nurse's aide, contracted the disease while caring for an Ebola patient in a Madrid hospital.
She got infected when her gloved hand inadvertently touched her face while removing her protective gear.
In August, two American aid workers who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia returned to the U.S. for treatment. That those trying to treat Ebola patients and fight the disease's spread — people aware of the dangers and practicing the prescribed protocols — still catch the disease doesn't bode well. Bringing back infected Americans under controlled conditions is one thing. Unrestricted air travel from West Africa is quite another.
The fact is that Duncan should never have been let into the U.S. It's irrelevant that he lied on his exit form in Liberia. Ebola has an incubation period of some 21 days, which, in the absence of a travel ban, lets untold numbers of infected people come to the U.S. Taking their temperatures as they de-plane doesn't work.
The CDC and President Obama assure us you can't get Ebola from sitting next to someone on a bus even though crowded public transit is a prime method of transmission in West Africa. If someone next to you with Ebola sneezes or coughs, does that count? Ebola can survive on surfaces for days, which is why the cleanup of Duncan's apartment was so thorough.
Health expert Betsy McCaughey writes that University of Illinois epidemiologists say Ebola "has the potential to be transmitted through aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients" even though the CDC tells us Ebola isn't an airborne disease.
As we've seen, there's no margin for error with Ebola, a virus that may mutate into other more deadly and communicable forms. CDC assurances alone won't stop it. Peter Piot, who discovered the virus in 1976, says even the best prepared hospitals and caregivers can get infected. "The smallest mistake can be fatal," he says.
There's only one way to prevent the spread of an epidemic, and that's quarantine. Frieden takes the Obama administration position that we shouldn't ban travel because it would cause panic and unrest in West Africa.
How about protecting Americans first, Dr. Frieden?
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