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Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Ebola "Czar"

In the wake of Craig Spencer’s decision to go bowling in Brooklyn, governors of three major states—Illinois, New Jersey, and New York—have imposed new Ebola quarantine rules that are inconsistent with national public health policy, are not likely to protect Americans from Ebola, and may compromise the response to Ebola in Africa, as health care providers may find it too burdensome to volunteer where they are needed overseas. Don’t we have an Ebola czar who is supposed to ensure that our country has a coherent and coordinated response to the threat from Ebola?

Of course, the term “czar” was poorly chosen precisely because Ron Klain does not have the powers of a czar. He will oversee the federal response to Ebola, but he cannot control the Ebola policies of each state. Unfortunately, on an issue that demands a clear national policy that reflects medical understanding, public anxieties will give us something much less desirable.

[cross posted at Bill of Health and Health Law Profs]

Posted by David Orentlicher on October 25, 2014 at 05:33 PM in Current Affairs, Law and Politics, Science, Travel | Permalink


Quite to the contrary. The quarantine of anyone who had been in contact with ebola patients enabled Senegal and Nigeria to stop the outbreaks in there better than anything we have done in the USA.

A quarantine for anyone who was in direct contact with sick ebola patients will be the only way to prevent outbreaks in the US. This applies equally to medical personnel as we have seen the safety protocols are not working. An infected person has no idea when symptoms will appear. Without a quarantine of those who were in contact with ebola, the exposure of many others is inevitable. For example, suppose the NYC doctor starting running a fever while traveling from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Those around him on the subway car are now potential cases, even if the risk of transmission was small. Nonetheless, the longer an epidemic continues, epidemiologists inform us that the chances increase for the transmission vectors to evolve.

A public health policy that does not recognize this reality is recklessly negligent.

Quarantine, however, does not need to be ridiculous like the Newark example. Heroic medical personnel should be lauded not starved and herded to make-shift outdoor tents. There is no reason why medical personnel cannot be quarantined in comfortable circumstances. Our national policy should be to create a safe and comfortable quarantine facilities. Perhaps, Paul Allen could use some of his $100M donation to provide this care for returning medical personnel.

Our real problem is that we have had a complete failure of political and medical leadership on ebola. Unless we rapidly provide medical care and infrastructure to West Africa to contain the disease, we will not be able to stop major outbreaks here and around the world.

Posted by: Anonymous | Oct 26, 2014 1:57:53 PM

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