Ebola and A Missed Lesson on Disease Control

Quietly on Monday, the lives of two individuals went from outcasts to regular citizens without notice. Doctor Craig Spencer and nurse Kaci Hickox completed their 21 days and were declared Ebola free. With that, both were free to move around as any other normal citizen. So what is so unusual about that?

The answer is both “nothing” and “everything”. Both individuals had worked as healthcare workers in Ebola treatment centers in Africa. Both had been exposed to patients with Ebola. Both had returned to the US symptom free. Dr Spencer developed symptoms after a few days in the US and reported voluntarily for medical treatment in New York City. Kaci never developed symptoms but did check her medical condition daily.
Both were viewed with fear and unrest by the general public.   Many political figures labeled them as extreme risks to society and subject to complete isolation. Scant recognition or appreciation was accorded either for the personal risk and sacrifice they had made in treating Ebola at its roots.

Ironically, their efforts were the first line of defense for the US yet one would never know it from our politicians rhetoric.

Both Dr Spencer and Ms Hickox conducted themselves professionally during their “re-entry” periods. Both continually reminded anyone who would listen how Ebola was spread and how it was not. And alas, as of today, the sky has not fallen.

This incident is important in several ways. First, it has exposed the unpleasant reality that US medical facilities were not uniformly prepared to deal with an Ebola outbreak. Training and adequate equipment was inadequate in most hospitals.   Somewhat like open heart surgery, specialized hospitals are better bets than general facilities.

Second, the disgraceful display so many of our politicians put on as they catered to the least informed fears of the public does not portent well should there ever be a serious infectious disease outbreak.

Rejecting fact based recommendations in favor of crowd pleasing over control speaks poorly about these political leaders and puts everyone in potential jeopardy if a modern day SARS or Plague were to hit our shores in a big way.

The lack of appreciation for the sacrifices of both Craig Spencer and Kaci Hickox was disgraceful and speaks volumes about the narrow mindedness of these political leaders.   This suggests strongly that we ought to look for new fact based leaders for our own well being.

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