WASHINGTON – Just a few Ebola cases in America exposed huge gaps in the nation’s preparedness to face any serious public health emergency. When news of the out of control Ebola pandemic in Africa spread here in the US, we were told by the top leaders of the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), that America was ready for anything. “We are the best in the world”. And then came the Dallas Hospital most embarrassing debacle. No system in place, no Ebola protocols, nurses infected. A real disaster.
Ebola in New York
And now we have the New York City variation of bad planning. It turns out that Dr. Craig Spencer, a physician who worked with Ebola patients in Guinea, (with Doctors Without Borders), flew back to New York. After a few days, he fell ill. He has Ebola. No doubt he contracted it while working with very sick people in Guinea.
Now, it would appear that Dr. Spencer, upon returning to the US, checked his temperature every day and tried to avoid having too many contacts with other people. As soon as he got a fever, he called for help, and he was immediately taken to Bellevue Hospital, a first class medical facility.
All under control?
So, all under control? Not really. First of all the news of the first Ebola case in NYC prompted an absurdly high level reaction. There was a news conference featuring Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York, and Andrew Cuomo, New York State Governor, plus the city and state top public health officials. Dr. Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC, participated by phone.
The point of the news conference was to reassure New Yorkers. “All under control. No reason to panic”. Really? And you need a joint appearance of the Mayor and the Governor, plus the head of the top Federal public health authority, to say that all is well? Is this the usual routine for announcing any hospital admission in NYC?
All is not well. The Dallas debacle included a nurse (who later became sick with Ebola) who, while under observation, was allowed to take a trip by airplane. And now we have a doctor who treated several Ebola patients in Africa who was free to go around New York, a densely populated city, without any special precautions or restrictions.
This is really, really stupid.
Ebola is a deadly disease. By now we all know this. Common sense should have suggested weeks ago that all health care workers who have been exposed to Ebola in Africa, upon coming or returning to the United States, would have to spend at least 21 days (this is the Ebola incubation period) in quarantine.
Minimize contagion opportunities
In other words, you minimize the opportunities of any contagion by keeping the persons who may have contracted Ebola in seclusion, until you know for sure that they are not sick. If they become sick while you keep them under observation, you take care of them, without endangering the general public.
Well, guess what, now that Dr. Spencer is sick the authorities of both New York and New Jersey have ordered such a quarantine for health care workers who have been exposed to Ebola while working in Africa.
And why not do this before? Because they do not think. Because they are slow, and quite frankly not very smart.
Think of the consequences of not taking the elementary precaution of placing in quarantine at risk individuals. Now that Dr. Spencer is sick with Ebola New York public health authorities had to quarantine his girl friend, and a few other people he came into contact with. They had to close down his apartment. They had to notify all his neighbors. Surely these people now are scared. All this is highly disruptive.
And there is also the unknown of other opportunities for contagion. The Doctor took the subway, several times. He went to a bowling alley. Are other people who shared the same space with him at risk? Probably not. But, nonetheless, the health authorities are trying to contact everybody who may have been in close proximity to the Doctor who turned out to be sick.
Quarantine, at last
And so now, after having reviewed the potential damage of just one sick person wandering around NYC, not to mention the cost of tracing and then monitoring everybody he came into contact with, New York and New Jersey have instituted a quarantine regime for health care workers returning from African countries where Ebola is rampant.“We do it now, after we have realized the consequences of not taking this most elementary precaution before”. Truly brilliant leaders, you must admit.
And this after the fact “swift action” is what is done in New York City, a sophisticated, modern metropolis, with state of the art health care facilities. Imagine elsewhere.
Let’s hope we do not have a real crisis
I really hope that at no serious health crisis will break out in America. We are led by self-described public health “experts” who are essentially unimaginative bureaucrats, always several steps behind. They see a problem only after it hit them really hard. No foresight. No serious planning.
These “leaders” cannot even take elementary precautions like placing in quarantine the people who have been directly in contact with Ebola.
Imagine the same people handling a real public health crisis, with emergency rooms overwhelmed by throngs of really sick people.