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By Nancy Thorner & Ed Ingold –
Dr. Tom Frieden appeared before an House committee today (10/16) to testify on CDC’s response to Ebola in America. It’s hard to say where his position comes from, whether a reflection of White House talking points, political correctness, or just a physician’s tendency toward self-deification (not unknown among bureaucrats either). When asked if he was being coached by anyone, he evaded the question.
CDC: Imposing travel restrictions on West Africa would inhibit humanitarian activities and strangle emerging economies.
FACT: Restrictions would be for non-essential travel. Humanitarian aid could continue, with the stipulation that returning workers would be subject to a three week quarantine. The“struggling economy” of West Africa consists primarily of oil, cacao and coffee. Nearly half of the world’s chocolate comes from this region. We are not proposing an embargo, just limits on non-essential travel. However travel restrictions might have a secondary effect on the quality of breakfast in
CDC: Travel restrictions would force people to take devious routes to the United States, making it harder to screen those at risk for Ebola and take necessary precautions.
FACT: Even without restrictions, there is a strong incentive for those at risk to bypass the existing screening procedure, or simply conceal signs of illness and lie on questionnaires. The alternative is to be denied access to US health care and face a long quarantine period. This has already occurred for the first domestic case of Ebola, where the person lied to gain entry, then went to the emergency room at the first mild signs of illness, rather than a local pharmacy (or bed) like the rest of us.
The prime directive to control the spread of disease is to isolate and eradicate. Travel restrictions are an essential ingredient for isolation. Every domestic case of Ebola requires the services of dozens of health care workers, monitoring of hundreds of persons potentially exposed to the disease, at enormous cost. Moreover health care workers are at the greatest risk of infection – Ebola is becoming known as “the nurse killer.” We cannot afford to import a single case of Ebola through carelessness, and screening is demonstrably ineffective. Congress should demand an account of these costs from the CDC.
CDC, the DNC and Democratic Congressmen: Republicans cut the budget of CDC by $500 million, making it harder to combat the Ebola epidemic here and abroad.
FACT: The Sequestration cuts only discretionary spending (used to study duck sexuality and build treadmills for shrimp), and limits only increases in that spending. The actual budget was not cut, rather the CDC is getting a smaller increase than requested. The “Sequestration” was, in fact, proposed by the Obama, passed both houses of Congress and signed by the President. In the actual budget, Congress approved 50% more money for disease control than requested by the President – $176 Million v $135 Million. In actuality, Obama pushed for CDC cuts years before the Elboa outbreak As to Democrats blaming Republican for the spread of Ebloa on budget cuts, the GOP house passed a budget increasing DCD spending by 8-1/2 %. The phantom budget cuts are but a desperate measure by Democrats and have nothing to do with why CDC fumbled Ebola!
CDC: The protocols recommended for the protection of health care personnel are in place and effective.
FACT: Actually neither is true. Workers at Edison Hospital in Dallas were not properly trained nor equipped for Ebola treatment, and the published protocols are not effective. The “official” protocol calls for disposable surgical gowns, face masks and gloves. There is no head covering, respirators, leggings nor shoe covers (aside from “booties” intended to keep dirt from being tracked into treatment areas). Meanwhile, Dr. Frieden appeared in Africa wearing full HAZMAT gear, being hosed down with a chlorine solution for decontamination. While the “official” gear is disposable, it cannot be disinfected for safe degowning. Nor were the protocols being followed. The Nurses at Edison complain that they received no training and inadequate gear. They used medical tape for extra protection. When the second health care worker arrived for treatment, after being diagnosed with Ebola, she was accompanied by two workers in full HAZMAT gear and someone in street clothes carrying a clipboard. Some protocol!
There is no reason to panic, but at the same time we must insist that effective procedures be established and followed. There should be national standards for procedures, and a limit on non-essential travel to and from West Africa, both of which which can be imposed at any time by the HHS Secretary or President Obama. Secondly, we must get honest evaluations of the risks and progress as they develop, not Disney-ish star wishes. The only thing which will prevent panic is trust in the government we elect to protect us. It is abundantly clear that Dr. Frieden is no “war time consigliore.” The real experts reside in the military, for which command and control already exist for biological and chemical containment.
Addendum to original Illinois Review article:
Dr. Frieden, head of the CDC not a practicing physician. He is the former head of New York State Public Health, a politician through and through. He just needs to polish his spin skills. That’s where the newly appointed Ebola Czar, Ron Klain, comes into play. Spinning is his only skill, and as Chief Adviser for Joe Biden and Al Gore, he appears to be pretty good at it. What he doesn’t have is any medical background, administrative experience, nor technical expertise whatsoever. His job will be to take heat away from the President, and make us all feel good.
Nothing Obama does is without a political purpose. I suspect that by treating the Ebola crisis in such a cavalier and counter-intuitive manner, he is taking attention away from the economy and the host of “phony” scandals haunting him. This is a calculated gamble. It is unlikely that there will be a lot of casualties to Ebola in the United States. However the cost and resources required to handle even a few dozen cases will be enormous, and occupy the headlines for weeks. At stake are the lives of those we depend on for our health and well being – nurses and doctors, not to mention the 4000 soldiers destined to serve in West Africa, their friends and dependents.