It’s official. Ebola has spread to another person in the United States after a nurse at a local Dallas, Texas, hospital contracted the disease after caring for a Liberian man who was infected with the virus. The Liberian patient later died of the disease.
Shortly after it was announced that the nurse had contracted the virus, Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wasted no time in advising the media that there had been a “protocol breach.”
In other words, Frieden was implying that the nurse had somehow failed to take all necessary precautions to ensure that Ebola was controlled.
In this frame grab from video provided by Texas Health Resources, Nina Pham, who contracted Ebola after treating a Liberian man, talks while being recorded at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, before being flown to the National Institutes of Health outside Washington. (AP Photo/Texas Health Resources, Dr. Gary Weinstein)
Frieden went on to state that there would be a full inquiry into how the breach occurred and added that 48 other people who may have had contact were now being closely monitored.
While some health experts have criticized Frieden for using the nurse as a “scapegoat,” it’s not surprising to see the CDC beginning to point fingers at the “mistakes” of others.
“You don’t scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak,” Bonnie Castillo of National Nurses United said. “We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct.”
While Castillo is correct about not placing blame on others, her statement is of little comfort to those that may have relied on past CDC statements that boasted of U.S. preparedness in dealing with Ebola.
Now, it appears that the CDC may be ramping up its damage-control measures before a possible Ebola outbreak occurs due to the mishandling of the disease by hospitals throughout the U.S. -- hospitals which are not as well-trained or equipped as the CDC would have the American public believe.
Certainly, the CDC would not want to be held responsible for a possible pandemic should it occur in the near future.
Also, Frieden’s statement about the breach of protocol implies that all U.S. hospitals have been adequately prepared by the CDC or by other training, and the appropriate equipment is in place to properly curtail the spread of Ebola.
Generally speaking, the CDC does not get involved in telling hospitals how to run their operations but sometimes takes the initiative when it believes that the hospital has run into difficulties. This occurred recently when the CDC felt that hospitals were not handling their electronic health records properly.
Is it time for the CDC to take over other aspects of hospital operations, specifically those aimed at Ebola training and containment at all U.S. hospitals?
Before you answer that, let’s take a look back and see how well the CDC handles infectious and deadly diseases at its own laboratories.
The CDC admitted to mishandling five incidents in their own facilities when they improperly sent anthrax, botulism and a strain of bird flu to their government laboratories within the past decade.
At the time, Frieden said, “These events should never have happened.” The American people “may be wondering whether we’re doing what we need to be doing to keep them safe and to keep our workers safe.”
It turned out that there had been a problem at the CDC’s main Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology anthrax lab. Some of the problems involved the use of unapproved sterilization techniques.
No organization should be more prepared than the CDC in handling infectious and deadly diseases and potential biological threats in an appropriate and safe manner.
If the CDC can’t get it right 100 percent of the time, then how can hospitals that are (possibly) missing the same kind of training and necessary equipment be expected to respond correctly to such diseases?
The CDC’s record for handling deadly pathogens appears to be a tarnished one; that should prevent it from quickly speaking out to condemn others.
Clearly, we can’t rely on the CDC or our hospitals to prevent the spread of Ebola in all cases. The CDC appears to be downplaying the problems associated with the readiness of our hospitals to contain and control this disease.
This stance essentially amounts to playing Russian roulette with the health and well-being of the American public when they are ensured that all is under control.
One look at the CDC’s own track record shows that mistakes are possible and probable. When an infectious disease is involved, a mistake can be deadly.
Consider this: The only reason that lives are currently being impacted is because travel is allowed into the U.S. from West Africa.
Therefore, the best course of action that can be taken by the U.S. to prevent the disease from infecting anymore people in the U.S. is to temporarily halt all travel into the U.S. from West Africa. At the very least, a mandatory quarantine should be ordered for all those entering the U.S. from West African countries.
No other solution will guarantee that Ebola will not impact another life in the U.S.
How long will the American public remain silent about this national security threat that continues to be invited onto our shores daily by an administration that won’t even consider a temporary ban on travel?
Demand from your president and your Congress that they act now to protect lives in the U.S. by implementing a temporary ban on travel from West Africa. A refusal to act is a refusal to uphold the responsibility of the office to which they were elected.
While some believe that neither Congress nor the president will act, we cannot rebuff the idea until we petition them to perform their duties.
We must not take any option off the table at this point because the health and safety of the U.S. is clearly at stake.
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