Ebola: USA Laser-Focused on Containment
Although there were missteps related to the delayed diagnosis of the first Dallas Ebola patient, Mr Duncan, and subsequent infections occurred in two nurses which might have been prevented with better protocols, these issues appear to have been remedied. I am very encouraged by the recent decisions to transfer infected individuals to appropriately equipped and readied hospitals. I think that is an excellent move. It is a sign that the nation's efforts are coming up to speed. Hopefully therefore, this thing will be contained and eliminated in short order. Might we see more infections occur in the USA? Perhaps. But awareness and vigilance, not panic and fear, are of key importance moving forward.
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From the AMA daily email:
Frieden testifies at congressional hearing on Ebola.
The CBS Evening News (10/16, story 3, 2:30, Axelrod) reported, “Federal health officials were on Capitol Hill today. They came under fire for the handling of the Ebola situation.” CBS Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes added, “Under oath the CDC director went head to head with Republicans, who want a ban on travelers from West Africa.” Tom Frieden, CDC Director argued against such a ban, saying, “If passengers are now allowed to come directly, there is a high likelihood that they will find another way to get here, and we won’t be able to track them.” Cordes added that Dr. Daniel Varga, the head of Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, “testified by videophone.” Dr. Varga said, “Unfortunately in our initial treatment of” Thomas Eric Duncan, “despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes. We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. and we are deeply sorry.”
Bloomberg News (10/17, Wayne, Hunter) reports that “in written testimony submitted before he appeared before a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,” Frieden said, “We remain confident that Ebola is not a significant public health threat to the United States.” He added, “We know Ebola can be stopped with rapid diagnosis, appropriate triage and meticulous infection-control practices in American hospitals.”
Meanwhile, in a 1,200-word story titled “Transfer Of Ebola Patients Reflects A Tacit Shift In Strategy,” the Los Angeles Times (10/17, Levey) reports, “The federal government effectively began to restrict the care of Ebola patients to hospitals with special bio-containment units” yesterday, “and the Obama administration labored to reassure jittery Americans and increasingly skeptical lawmakers that public health authorities can prevent a widespread Ebola outbreak” in the US. This “tacit shift in policy came amid growing concerns about mistakes at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where two nurses who treated Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia have since come down with the disease.” One of those “nurses is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta,” while “the other” will be treated at “a specialized treatment center at the National Institutes of Health.”
Obama considers appointing an “Ebola czar.” In an 1,100-word article titled “White House takes drop everything approach to respond to public health crisis,” the New York Times (10/17, Shear, Subscription Publication) reports, “President Obama remained at the White House on Thursday to focus on the government’s response to Ebola, canceling a second day of election-season travel as the administration concentrated on what is already turning into a political as well as a public health crisis.” According to the Times, “Aides said there was no sudden shift in the president’s thinking and described his new, more aggressive public posture on Ebola as the natural response to a ‘dynamic situation.’”
According to the Washington Post (10/17, Eilperin), the President’s effort to show he is focused on the Ebola outbreak “has done little reassure a jittery America public that the danger is contained or to stanch the political fallout, some of it from lawmakers in his own party.” The Post says the White House “is now engulfed in a crisis that has resurrected questions about the president’s governing style.” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer is quoted as saying, “We need to try to calm people because many people are fanning the flames here now in a way that’s deeply irresponsible, but we also understand that there is real concern, and we’re trying to be sensitive to that.”
In an 1,800-word front-page story, the New York Times (10/17, A1, Healy, Tavernise, Goodnough, Subscription Publication) reports, “President Obama raised the possibility on Thursday that he might appoint an ‘Ebola czar’ to manage the government’s response to the deadly virus as anxiety grew over the air travel of an infected nurse.”
The AP (10/16, Kuhnhenn) reports that the President “said his team of Ebola advisers is doing ‘an outstanding job.’” But, he said, “It may make sense for us to have one person ... so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process just to make sure we are crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is.”
Calls for travel ban mount. The AP (10/17, Werner, Daly) reports that on Thursday, “House Republicans demanded a travel ban...calling it the only sure way to protect Americans,” but, according to the AP, the White House continues to insist that a ban is “not under consideration” and “could actually make things worse.” Although some Democrats are among those urging the implementation of travel restrictions, most reports cast the debate in partisan terms.
On CNN’s AC 360 (10/16), Anderson Cooper reported that President Obama had just announced that he “didn’t rule out appointing a so-called ‘Ebola czar’ if need be, and also talked about growing calls to restrict travel from West Africa.” President Obama was shown saying, “I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe. The problem is, is that in all the discussions I’ve had thus far with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting.”
The Washington Times (10/17, Wolfgang) notes that CDC officials “argue that if a ban is instituted, travelers who have visited affected countries — primarily Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia — may lie about where they’ve been in order to get into the US,” which “would complicate efforts to track the virus and determine who may have been infected.”
Visit the AMA Ebola Resource Center (10/16) for expert resources for physicians and the public