Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

As I write this column, two health care workers in Dallas have come down with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled from West Africa and died from the disease. By the time you read it, there will most likely be more cases.

Still, there’s no need for panic. I repeat; there’s no need for panic. It’s important to keep what’s happening with the Ebola virus in perspective. Even with the latest news from Dallas, that makes a total of three Ebola cases outside of West Africa: a nurse in Spain and two nurses in the United States, all three health care workers exposed to the virus while performing their jobs. Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 480,000 people die in the United States each year from cigarette smoking; 88,000 die of alcohol-related deaths. More people will die of the flu this year than from Ebola.

Did I mention? There’s no need for panic. But there is cause for concern, after watching the CDC respond to the first cases of Ebola in this country. So far they surely don’t inspire confidence that they know what they’re doing and are handling the situation well enough to prevent a potential crisis from escalating into a real one. It looks like they’re making it up as they go along.

At the Texas Presbyterian Health Hospital in Dallas, where health professionals were operating under close supervision of the CDC, it’s been one blunder after another. First, when Mr. Duncan initially visited Texas Presbyterian’s ER, they sent him home, even after telling them he had just come from Liberia. First breach of protocol. When he returned to the hospital, nurses were given only partially secure protective gear to wear. Second breach of protocol. And before she came down with the disease, nurse Amber Vinson, who was supposedly under observation and self-monitoring, was allowed to fly to Cleveland to visit family. Third breach of protocol.

After the fact, in each case, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, readily admitted “mistakes were made” — in not immediately sending a SWAT team to Dallas, in not issuing tough guidelines on gear and in monitoring persons exposed to the disease. But that begs the question: Why didn’t they get it right in the first place? Clearly, even though the Ebola virus has ravaged West Africa since 1976, health authorities were not prepared for its appearance in the United States — and failed to take it seriously until it did.

For years, health officials have warned the CDC that their guidelines for protective gear were too lax. Sean G. Kaufman, who oversaw infection control at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta while it treated the first two American Ebola patients, called them “absolutely irresponsible and dead wrong.” Finally, based on what happened in Dallas, CDC has issued new guidelines in the last week, but they are still not as strict as guidelines used every day by Doctors Without Borders, who’ve been fighting Ebola in Africa for decades. Unlike Doctors Without Borders, for example, CDC has not required, until now, that a supervisor be present every time health care workers don and take off protective gear, to watch out for mistakes.

Meanwhile, the nation’s nurses have received little, if any, training for handling Ebola patients. One nurse at a local hospital told me her team of nurses had received zero training. A nurse from Chicago said her entire training consisted of watching a five-minute online video, with no actual practice donning and removing protective garb. At Dallas, according to National Nurses United, “There was no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient. There was no protocol. There was no system.”

And, of course, there’s still no vaccine for Ebola, for one very good reason: Follow the money. As noted in a recent column by The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki, pharmaceutical companies are most interested in diseases that affect wealthier people who can pay a lot. “When a disease’s victims are both poor and not very numerous, that’s a double whammy,” writes Surowiecki. “On both scores, a drug for Ebola looks like a bad investment: so far, the disease has appeared only in poor countries and has affected a relatively small number of people.”

The series of blunders in Dallas, which is unnerving, to say the least, comes on top of a string of missteps: from cooking the books at the V.A. to letting a man scale the fence and get all the way inside the White House. Do you still trust your government to prevent an outbreak of Ebola?

Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show and the author of a new book, The Obama Hate Machine, which is available in bookstores now. You can hear The Bill Press Show at his website, His email address is [email protected]

AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Lynda Groom

    I will trust my government on Ebola until they can’t be trusted. So far I see nothing to change my mind. People are being treated and released free from the disease, which is the outcome that we should all be expecting.

    • FT66

      Right Lynda. People need to trust the government, if they don’t what else would they trust or run to in a situation like this one! Will they decide to run into ocean or what? The big problem is, some are injecting politics into it. If Ebola hits doesn’t understand who is republican or Dem. Neither who trusts the government or not.

      • Allan Richardson

        They are taking advantage of the fact that Ebola and our President both have African roots, tying that into the racist hatred of everything African, in order to oppose ANYTHING positive being done by the President, as they have for six years already.

        Ironically, if Ebola had been endemic when the slave traders were in business, far fewer slaves would have been brought to our shores, and slavery would never have been the big business which it was, leading to the Civil War!

        But we would have missed out on jazz (and R&B and rock), fried chicken, and a number of other positive contributions made by African-Americans.

  • timothywilliamson

    Ebola – Fix it in Africa – that makes good sense.

    © Timothy Williamson, 20 Oct 2014, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

    Great news out of Nigeria: they have been Ebola free for six week. But, the problem has not been solved. Ebola is still out of control in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.

    I do understand the concerns – the longer the #ebola crisis goes unresolved in Africa, the greater the concern, and threat, to the entire planet regardless of bans. Bans on travel will not stop the spread of the disease in todays world if a determined person decides to travel.

    Those people driven to survive and live will find a way to get to the best place that guarantees a greater chance of survival, regardless of restrictions, and will do so whether you track them or not – but the best choice is to track them. Likewise, those who want to destroy infidels according to their particular religious definition, and all religions, cultures, states, and ideologies are capable of this, so I’m not pointing my fingers at anyone, can also skirt any assessments and restriction if they want at will, and also regardless of bans and restrictions.

    The solution requires a multi-state, global, rapid response to the crisis area, en masse, NOW. Fortunately, the world is stepping up to get supplies, medical resources, medical personnel into Africa.

    Our focus should be on Africa. Fix it there, and then there is no need for other actions. By addressing the problem there we would be helping Americans, and the rest to humanity too, in the most effective manner.

    We’re wasting time and money on addressing irrational fear passed off as common sense when reason and good sense says stop the virus at the source.

    We must get past this mistaken idea that we’re all that matters on this planet, our particular state, religion, culture, ideology, etc., etc., etc., – we are far too connected, even disregarding the fact that we’re all human, for such myopia.

    Ebola is a human crisis and threat to all of us. Fix it in Africa. That’s good sense.

    The map below shows how the entire world is connected via regional and global bodies and organizations.

    And another view of the world where the evolution of those connections is shown over time:

    The last map shows the evolution of global connectivity.

    Contact me for more information or specialized mappings and analysis at [email protected],


    Timothy Williamson


    • awakenaustin

      Quit making so much sense.

    • timothywilliamson
    • FT66

      There are more good news today regarding Ebola and not only WHO declaring Nigeria free from the disease. Here are some of exciting news I gathered today:
      1. Relatives of the late Eric Duncan who have been monitored for 21 days in Texas are out of the quarantine.
      2. Two nurses who were working in West Africa and got infected (one Norwegian and another one Spanish) have recovered from the disease.
      3. Doctors Wthout Borders and America soldiers who are in West Africa are working around the clock and their work is quite promising to yield good results.

  • Bren Frowick

    Last I looked, Texas Presbyterian wasn’t a government-run facility. Maybe it’s the PRIVATE sector we shouldn’t be trusting. Especially after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the exploding factory in Texas, all the oil spills and the countless other demonstrations of private-sector ineptitude. Such things are hardly the exclusive purview of government! And the VA scandal was a clear result of the agency having been short-changed on funding while being held to ever-more critical standards, resulting in desperate low-level bureaucrats giving up and simply making things up, with higher level officers, always forced to obsess about the flipping’ POLITICS of everything, screwed up by trying to protect the people working for them. The intruder at the White House… well, we have an open society in which it is a little strange that the Presidential residence is routinely open to the public. The Secret Service obviously needs a good hard shaking up, but do we really want to build ever-higher walls around everything? All these incidents receive far more outrage than is due, with a hard-core right wing determined to seize power by any means necessary, no matter how much damage they do to the country along the way. One can practically SEE them squirming with glee every time we have an epidemic, a natural disaster, an act of terrorism, or a bureaucratic blunder.

  • Daniel Jones

    Follow the money.
    I trust the President and the CDC.
    I do NOT trust the right wing plutocratic machine and its bought and paid for government hacks or press-gang, including Mister Press.

    • Allan Richardson

      I have heard and read Bill Press many times, and I do not believe he is bought and paid for by the plutocrats; in fact, he usually opposes the candidates and policies they favor. If you read this article carefully, he is opposing the right-wing panic machine, while favoring reasonable improvements on the job the administration is doing. In other words, he, like us, DOES trust the President and the CDC more than he trusts the Faux Nooz fear machine. But he would like to see an even better job in the future.

  • marriea

    As I speak,(type) somewhere in the USA, I’d venture to guess someone is dying of some flu related illness, possible one in every state of the union. Yet where has the hype been? On one person who was obviously was unknowingly infected with the disease, went to a hospital for help but was given thoughly inadequate service because apparently he didn’t have insurance, and was sent home with the advice of taking Tylendol and antibiotics even though the doctors didn’t know if the antibiotics were the ones most effective to treat what they didn’t know he had. All antibiotics don’t work on all illnesses, so this is why they should find out what they are treating. I’m just a mere lay person. But I do know that. I don’t know if the doctors involved had even ever hear of Ebola. But I do feel that their lack of trying caused two of their own to have tested positive for contract they received from caring for Mr. Duncan. And now I read that they have taken out an ad of apology for their inexcuable actions. Probably fear a lawsuit is in the works. Let’s assume that a lawsuit is in the works. Just think, for the amount of time and money they would have lost in actually taking care of a sick individual with no insurance, they will probably now be paying double or triple that amount to just shut someone up.
    Now as for the media. I realize that it is their jobs to report things, especially things that might affect the general public. But the media should also know, or perhaps they do, the general public in America are dumb idiots. They half hear only what they want to hear anf jump to terrible conclusions. It kind of remind me of the incident that happened with, I believe Orson Welles? War of the World years ago. I understand that folks were actually dunning rifles to go and fight the aliens from another world because they actually thought a radio dramalization was the real deal. I suspect that even if we were invaded by ‘aliens’ unlike in the movies any weapons we have on this earth would be ineffective as , if some being have developed a system to get past what we are still experimenting with, in the first place what weapons or material do we have that can compete, and why would they even want to be bothered with us. Our media need to take a chill pill. No the sky is not falling, and the chances of a big outbreak is even less than smallpox.

  • howa4x

    What will save everyone is the fact that Ebola is not an airborne disease, and people have to come in contact with the vomit, stools and salvia of the victim. This is why healthcare workers contract the disease. The media has hyped this to the point where people are panicking. There is little threat to the general public, but the media runs the story 24/7. Over 30,000 are killed by gun violence, but 1 Ebola death is the end of the world. This is the rule of inverse importance, and why a story like this consumes the news cycles. Also with the news all over everything anyone says or does and constantly shoving experts in front of the camera we are loosing the ability to govern and it appears that we lurch from crisis to crisis because the media can’t give a perspective on any issue. Everything is breaking news, so if an Ebola patient blows a fart it is stop the presses time. It is the media that has made our politics so toxic because it gives every fool the mic unchallenged, and no one is required to produce any facts, just supposition will do. We live in a media created reality, and the news has become another commodity in a ratings game to attract advertisers. Success to them is to scare the crap out of you, so you will stay tuned for more. We are in trouble and it starts with how we package the actual news.

  • elw

    Given the number of cases of Ebola in the US, the fact that most of the people quarantined have been released and that the only spread so far has been in health care workers directly involved with the sick patients I even doubt how concern anyone should be. It is a disease spread by contact with infected body fluids not by the air so will not be spreading by the numbers you see with the flu or a cold. In fact I would say the screw up in Texas should be viewed as positive because they gave the CDC the chance to strengthen their protocols to ensure that in fact there will be no spread. Stories like this are sophomoric and nonsensical. Really; be concern about your government because mistakes were made? Come on would it be better if we were like Africa were there is literally no government to respond to the Ebola epidemic there? If the Right has its way that is exactly what we will be like. Next time you hear someone say to cut the CDC’s budget maybe remembering this Ebola outbreak will help you remember the important roll it plays in our Country.

    • Bill Quigley

      Amen to that brother!

  • Don51

    Thank God this is not happening under the former administration that created Homeland Security and hired only partisan people to man it, created undue political appointee positions in it, and fired many nonpartisan, exceptional people in the process. Its not just the republicans in the Congress who have been obstructive to the Obama administration!

    After the Anthrax attacks for which no one was found guilty, Cheney headed up a project to find cures for anthrax and EBOLA… let contracts go and got nothing in return… at least Dems want to make government work while Republicans don’t!

    • Allan Richardson

      The fact that the anthrax came from a US government lab, and was sent to the party OUT of power, the press, and the judges, rather than the party IN power (wouldn’t a terrorist want to make Bush and Cheney sick, rather than the people who wanted to replace them and call off the war?), indicates to me that it was sent by someone with an interest in getting the Patriot Act, which was being debated in Congress at the time, to be approved and upheld by the courts, and not be criticized by the media. In other words, someone hired by the administration.

  • Paul Hatgil

    It has been stated that Ebola is transmitted by body liquids. I haven’t heard once that it can be transmitted by mosquitos.