Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ebola, the Short Term and the Long Term

In New York and New Jersey Governors Mario Cuomo and Chris Christie have decided that healthcare workers returning from working with Ebola patients in West Africa will be quarantined until it's been demonstrated that they're not carrying the Ebola virus.

This is in response to a doctor who had been in Guinea working with Doctors without Borders coming down with the Ebola virus in New York City.

The move apparently caught officials in both New York City and Washington by surprise.

While this may seem like a logical response to protect the citizens of New York and New Jersey it has a down side. It places another potential obstacle in getting healthcare help to West Africa (as if there weren't enough already).

Now, in addition to the obvious dangers and hardships involved, doctors and nurses would face forced quarantine upon returning home. If enough places established such regulations, and Illinois and Florida have already indicated they'll follow suit, it could place a serious limit on medical help getting to West Africa where it's desperately needed and the disease is still spiraling out of control.

This is the concern of the so-called experts in the area who contend that the best protection for everyone else is to get the epidemic under control in West Africa.

In other words, we may have a case of "short term" versus "long term" strategy.

It's quite possible that if the outbreak in West Africa isn't contained, we could be seeing the start of a global catastrophe. In other words, playing ostrich and not worrying about it because "it's way over there in Africa" could be a enormous mistake.

On the other hand, outbreaks in New York, Dallas and Western Europe aren't going to make things any easier and would still deflect medical help from West Africa.

The White House is trying to make like a good global citizen but I'm not sure that strategy is correct. The best way to get the disease in West Africa under control is with a vaccine or a cure. That's the real long term solution. Having pockets of infection in the US and Western Europe isn't going to help that process and might very well hamper it if people really get all bent out of shape over this thing.

I have to say that in this particular case I'm going to go with Cuomo and Christie. If someone is willing to face going to an Ebola infested area, I don't think there's a high probability that a few weeks of quarantine on the way back is going to change their mind.

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