Thorner & Ingold: Time for travel caution in dealing with Ebola outbreak

October 7, 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

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By Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold – 

Breaking news as this article was being written is that Howard University hospital in Washington, D.C. has admitted a patient — a recent traveler to Nigeria — who has symptoms that could be associated with Ebola. Receiving little coverage was a report on Thursday, 3rd, that an American freelance television cameraman working for NBC News in Liberia has contracted Ebola, the fifth U.S. citizen known to be infected with the deadly virus.

To date, there has been one confirmed case of Ebola in Texas, Thomas Duncan, a visitor that arrived by commercial air from Liberia on September 20. He is now in isolation at Texas Presbyterian Hospital, having been affected with Ebola before he left for the U.S., when he helped carry a convulsing pregnant woman who later died of the virus along with four more of his neighbors. How Duncan was permitted to board the plane on September 19th to travel to the U.S. has now come to light. According to Liberian authorities, Duncan allegedly lied on his airport departure screening questionnaire about whether he had had contact with a person infected with the virus. Liberian authorities plan to prosecute Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan when he returns home.

Four days after Duncan’s arrival in the U.S. he sought treatment at Texas Presbyterian Hospital for non-specific symptoms and was sent home with a prescription for antibiotics. During the interim, before returning to Texas Presbyterian Hospital with full-blown Ebola two days later, Duncan had contact with several family members, including five school children, who attend four different schools in Dallas. These children are now being monitored.  The four individuals having direct contact with Thomas Duncan were quarantined on Thursday, Oct. 2nd in the Dallas apartment where Duncan stayed.  His sheet and other items used were sealed and taken away in plastic bags. More recently the same four individuals were moved to a place in a gated community.

We can’t know for sure, but dozens, possibly hundreds of individuals, including medical personnel, were exposed to Thomas Duncan after he developed symptoms. The CDC, which can’t seem to keep track of viable smallpox samples, assures us all is under control. They are tracking possible contacts, but have no plans to quarantine these contacts as a precaution.

Obama is as defensive about African affairs as he is about Islam, especially when the two overlap and reinforce. The Administration draws a parallel to the SARS epidemic, which “never really was as bad as predicted.” Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Asians who contracted it. What about the thousands of canceled flights?   Face masks mandatory in public throughout much of China? It could be worse, because China filters bad news, and deals firmly with leaks. The administration’s response to a potential Ebola epidemic is rife with political correctness.

The Obama administration in 2010 quietly dumped Bush-era plans to enact quarantine regulations supported by the Centers for Disease Control that were designed to prevent travelers from spreading infectious diseases.

The regulations were proposed by the Bush administration in 2005 during the height of avian and swine flu fears. The rules would have required airlines to report to federal authorities any ill passengers. They mandated that airlines collect information on international passengers – including email addresses, traveling companions and return flight details – to make it easier to trace passengers in any investigation of a disease outbreak.

Despite the calls for heavy travel restrictions between the U.S. and those west African countries hardest hit by the outbreak, with one advocate even warning against the possibility of “Ebola tourism” by patients seeking better care here, the administration is rejecting calls for a visa ban for West Africans.  Visas are held by 13,500 people in three Ebola countries in Africa, Sierra Leon, Guinea and Liberia, to visit the U.S.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reported on Wednesday, Oct. 1, that the manufacture, financing and distribution of a large-scale Ebola vaccine is not possible until the middle of next year at the earliest.  WHO is expediting Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials on two highly promising experimental Ebola vaccines, hoping to obtain approval next February.

Can we believe Ebola victims are only contagious once symptoms start? If so, Ebola must be unique among viral diseases. Besides, symptoms are not turned on and off like a switch, and the hospital in Texas missed even the most obvious ones. Is it only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids? Perhaps, but bodily fluids are spread by coughs and sneezes too. We don’t catch colds from exhaled carbon dioxide (not even the Climate Change Cult believes that, so far). Furthermore, bodily fluids linger on clothing and other things. How long is the virus viable under those conditions? Duncan was carried into the ambulance, where he continued to vomit. Have those EMTs been quarantined? How many patients and hospital workers did they contact after being contaminated? It’s simple math. If one person infects two others, the spread is by definition, exponential and the chart resembles a hockey stick.

Well worth reading is this article, Ebola: The Truth About How Viruses Work by Suzanne Hamner (pen name).  To be considered is the final sentence in Hamner’s article:  Officials, right now, appear to be over-confident which can be dangerous because no one at this juncture can say they know “all there is to know” about Ebola.

This underscores the utter madness of sending 4000 American soldiers to West Africa to help deal with this disease. There will be no “accidental” contact in their case, it is virtually assured. And what of their friends and loved ones when they return? Will they all be quarantined too? Are we absolutely certain that the disease is spread only by direct contact, and not airborne or through other vectors? Are we sure the virus is not contagious when it has run its course, even though it is still present in body tissues for months or years afterward.

Congress must be urged to stop this troop movement before it occurs. Render all the humanitarian aid as practical, but at arm’s length. Flights to and from West Africa and the US must be stopped or severely limited, as well as flights that might transfer through other countries.

History tells us what can happen in we proceed in ignorance.  The Plague (Yersinia pestis) ravaged Europe in several waves from the 6th to the 18th century, spread by travelers returning Crusaders.  Nearly one third of Europe’s population was lost.  The Plague is still endemic in certain areas, including the American Southwest, despite antibiotics.

In truth, Ebola is probably not as virulent as other pandemic diseases and can be treated and controlled by exercising due diligence. However, this diligence is unlikely to occur as long as the White House is in denial. Obama’s fantasy administration isn’t just a game anymore. In the events of this week, we see that the resources used to deal with a handful of Ebola cases in the United States are already strained. Ad hoc efforts at quarantine for relatives of Thomas Duncan in Texas were ignored until enforced with an armed guard. Voluntary compliance is likely to be poor, and cases may go unreported if doing so results on confinement for a month.

The United States is the only Western nation permitting virtually unrestricted air travel from West Africa. This is not a reason to cry “panic,” but a call to exercise firm and effective measures to prevent the spread of a devastating disease and its economic consequences, while exercising compassion for those in suffering.

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