Will Ebola tip voters one way?
Fittingly, on Halloween a report surfaced that ISIS online chatter suggests that "lone-wolf" terrorists (as LFTC recently noted, not truly acting alone) use Ebola-infected needles to spread the virus. The CDC now admits that sneeze droplets could spread Ebola. The government has ordered one million hazmat suits. Health care experts put a 130-case ceiling on potential Ebola victims; we'll see if Ebola cooperates.
AEI health maven Dr. Scott Gottlieb warns that even a few hundred Ebola cases in Western countries could force mass quarantine orders. Rules adopted in 2005 by the Bush administration gave broad--essentially unbounded--quarantine authority; Team Obama junked the rules, but without surrendering plenary quarantine authority. We thus have the worst of both worlds: plenary government authority without standards to bound its exercise. Though better prepared than pre-9/11, the US, in the opinion of many experts, is not fully ready to deal with a mass biological outbreak.
Andy McCarthy, ever energetic, notes that internal Dept. of Defense documents suggest that there is evidence Ebola may prove tramissible through the air:
"Aaron Klein has uncovered a “broad agency announcement” (BAA) from the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), soliciting research proposals to combat Ebola (in connection with the government’s efforts against chemical and biological threats). The BAA is appended to a “Federal Business Opportunities” notice – the notice can be found here, and the BAA is an attachment atop the right column, accessible through the link “HDTRA1-15-EBOLA-BAA”).
"At page 7, Section 2.2.4 (“Ebola Characterization”), the Defense Department’s BAA explains that Ebola is “aerostable” and, since other filoviruses infect through “the respiratory route,” it is at least theoretically possible that Ebola could, too. (The CDC elaborates that Ebola is a filovirus.) As the BAA puts it:
While current science indicates the disease can only be transmitted by contact with contaminated body fluids, it remains unclear if other transmission modes are feasible. Filoviruses are able to infect via the respiratory route and are lethal at very low doses in experimental animal models, however the infectious dose is unknown. There is minimal information on how well filoviruses survive within aerosolized particles, and in certain media like the biofilm of sewage systems.
"The BAA goes on to add (McCarthy's italics): “While current science indicates the disease can only be transmitted by contact with contaminat”Preliminary studies indicate that Ebola is aerostable in an enclosed controlled system in the dark and can survive for long periods in different liquid media and can also be recovered from plastic and glass surfaces at low temperatures for over 3 weeks.”
"At page 9, section 2.2.6 (“Topic: CBT-02, Rapid Disinfection Processes), the BAA further explains that the Defense Department is thus looking for treatments that could combat deposits of Ebola transmitted “as an aerosol” as well as by the better known means of bodily fluid contact (again, my italics):
The DTRA is seeking innovative technologies for rapid disinfection of interior surfaces with viral contamination. The technology must prove effective against viral contamination either deposited as an aerosol or heavy contaminated combined with body fluids (e.g. blood, vomit, feces)…."
The US military has a long, distinguished history of leadership in combating infectious & contagious diseases.
Health policy maven Betsy McCaughey notes that Ebola science is far from settled:
- About one in seven people infected with Ebola doesn't have a fever before diagnosis. Airport screening relies largely on temperature-taking. Data from over 4,000 Ebola cases (the most complete analysis ever) published Oct. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine show that 13 percent of patients don't develop fever early on.
- Doctors and nurses can't be depended on to spot Ebola in themselves faster than other people. Relying on them to monitor themselves assumes they will catch any sign of illness quickly and avoid spreading it. But the New England Journal research found doctors and nurses with Ebola don't get to the hospital sooner.
- Health-care workers who treat Ebola patients are at risk of getting it, despite wearing protective gear. As of Oct. 25, the World Health Organization reports that 450 health-care workers contracted Ebola this year, and 244 have died. One staffer at Doctors Without Borders in Guinea who worked with Spencer called him a "rigorous man" who carefully followed procedures in removing his protective gear and decontaminating it, adding "we understand that we are also at risk despite the measures."
- The most important fact about Ebola is how little we know. There's no cure for the infected, no vaccine and no knowledge of how the virus might behave in colder temperatures. Doctors, nurses and missionaries who nobly volunteer in Africa could inadvertently be bringing Ebola home to every continent, giving the virus wings.
Israel, when the world is not stupidly shoving it towards a ruinous bargain with the Palestinians, is a world leader in innovation. An Israeli company has developed a sterile mobile isolation field tent that can aid in quarantining possible Ebola patients. Guinea, one of the West African countries at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, has already ordered the tents; other affected African countries are negotiating for them. Delivery takes two weeks, with the product tailored to client specifications. Another Israeli company sells an infrared camera used at airports for remote temperature monitoring.
Peggy Noonan recounts how her maternal grandmother accepted without complaint a 9-day Ellis Island quarantine. The self-absprbed nurse cycling around in Maine might profit from reading PN's piece. BTW, her West African sojourn roomate has Ebola; this does not mean the nurse will also catch it, but maybe a tad more caution is in order?
For a portrait of how Ebola affects a society, read this absorbing account of ground-zero life in Sierra Leone:
The Ebola epidemic has everyone here justifiably scared. People live with a fear that has changed everything about the way they need to go about their daily lives. Signs everywhere tell people not to touch: no handshakes, no hugs, not even brushing up casually against people as you walk down the street as happens in any normal place in the world. Before you enter any building, whether it is a restaurant, hotel, office or government building, store or supermarket, you must wash your hands with either chlorine solution or medicinal strength sanitizing soap. In many places, your temperature is taken before you gain entrance. You should not travel by public transportation or even taxi because you have no way of knowing who sat in the seat before you, nor what they touched in the vehicle.
Kids are home from school, probably due to the fact that they get there by public transport or school buses and because it would be hard to keep them from playing contact sports or getting into fights. They cannot play with a ball, because it passes from one person’s hands to another’s and sweaty palms can transmit the virus. You do not send your kids to play with friends in another house because you cannot be sure all parents are as careful as you are regarding following the rules reducing the chances of infection. However, it is difficult to keep kids indoors all the time and you will see many children out in the streets unsupervised, and these children are usually from the lower uneducated classes.
I can get infected if I run my hands along the banister I use to help me climb up or down a flight of stairs in a public building – if that banister was likewise touched by an infected person who also was already showing symptoms of being sick. In fact, I can catch it if I touch anything that was recently touched (or vomited on, or bled out on, or spit on) by someone who is actively contagious,. And then, only if I have an open sore where I touched the contaminated object, or if I rub my eyes with my now-infected finger or put that finger into my mouth. That is why people here wash their hands and have their temperature taken repeatedly ad nauseum. Just in case.
Hindering containment are social customs in African countries, and the country's limited medical infrastructure, as detailed in the linked article.
Here is CDC's Ebola update webpage.
Bottom Line. Catch-up continues--with the nagging feeling that authorities still are winging it, and exaggerating the knowledge they actually have about how the plague spreads.
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