Today President Obama said regarding the Ebola Virus, “we can’t give in to hysteria.”
But who is kidding who when it was reported that at least 1,000 Americans are being monitored for Ebola.
Dallas: Whether by land, sea or air, the fear of Ebola has been spreading far faster than the growth in the number of people diagnosed with the disease.
As of Friday, about 1000 people are being watched for symptoms, have been asked to monitor themselves or have been urged to check with a counsellor at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The group includes a handful of people who have been ordered into quarantine, a larger group that is being closely watched with temperatures taken at least daily and a much larger group of travellers who may haven flown on a Frontier Airlines jetliner used at some point by an Ebola patient travelling with a low-grade fever.
Alarm: Pentagon workers walk through a pedestrian tunnel in the South Parking lot area that crosses under Interstate 95 highway during an Ebola scare. Photo: AFP
None of those being monitored, regardless of their group, has exhibited any Ebola symptoms. The swelling numbers of those worried comes as President Barack Obama named a former White House adviser Ron Klain to co-ordinate US efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak, after criticism the government’s response to the virus has been slow and inadequate. Mr Klain, a lawyer and businessman, was a senior White House aide to Obama and chief of staff to Vice-President Joe Biden. He will report to homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and national security adviser Susan Rice, a White House official said.
Separately, the World Health Organisation admitted it botched attempts to stop the spiralling Ebola outbreak in West Africa, blaming factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information.
In a draft internal document obtained by the Associated Press, the UN agency wrote that experts should have realised that traditional infectious disease-containment methods wouldn’t work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems.
“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” WHO said in the document.
In the US, the fear of Ebola infection has spread from California to Connecticut – places where people have said they had symptoms such as fever or vomiting, prompting official responses such as sending people home or to hospitals for testing. Schools in Texas and Ohio have been been closed, and false alarms have been sounded across the country. The Pentagon in Washington also had a scare a woman who had reportedly visited Africa reported feeling ill.
However, travel-related issues are to the fore.
On Friday, Carnival Cruise Lines announced that a lab supervisor from a Dallas hospital is in isolation on a ship out of “an extreme abundance of caution”. The unnamed woman had no signs of illness and was considered to be a “very low risk” by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the cruise ship, the Carnival Magic, was denied docking off the coast of Mexico and is headed back to Galveston, Texas.
The CDC also said two other Dallas hospital workers, who had travelled abroad and returned, had been asked to monitor themselves for signs for symptoms of Ebola. They had not been under the travel restrictions that are now in place for those who may have been exposed to the virus at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas hospital.
Those travellers are among the 75 health-care workers who were involved in treating Thomas Duncan, who entered the hospital for the last time on September 28.
In all, Dallas officials said about 135 people are being monitored to some degree. They include four of Mr Duncan’s family and friends who shared a Dallas apartment for several days and have been quarantined for weeks, but their 21-day period of being physically cut off is scheduled to end on Monday. The boyfriend of Nina Pham, the first nurse to contract Ebola, is also being monitored at the Dallas hospital. He has not been identified beyond the fact that he works at Alcon, a Fort Worth-based eye-care company.
None have shown any symptoms.
Republicans have pushed Mr Obama to ban all travel from West Africa, where Ebola has already claimed more than 4500 lives. Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican presidential hopeful, backed that call on Friday.
“Air travel is in fact how this disease crosses borders and it’s certainly how it got to Texas,” Mr Perry said during a televised news conference, adding that there should be an exception for aid workers.
MCT, Reuters, AP