Ebola: A Tough Test for Authorities’ Credibility and Public Doubts

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Here’s the Good News: You Can’t Catch Ebola From Reading Your E-Mail

Relax, everybody!

A man who recently returned to New York City from a West African country is being tested for Ebola after showing up Monday at the Mount Sinai Hospital emergency room, the hospital said.

The unidentified man had gastrointestinal symptoms and a high fever Monday morning after visiting one of the four African countries where Ebola has been confirmed.

The man is in “strict isolation” and being tested to determine what is causing his sickness. But hospital officials tried to downplay the possibility the patient has the lethal virus, saying, “Odds are, it’s not Ebola,” at a 6 p.m. press conference.

“It’s much more likely that this is a much more common condition,” said Dr. Jeremy Boal, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Blood samples have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and results are expected within 24 to 48 hours.

Of course, a statement like that would be more reassuring if our government hadn’t already gotten into the habit of assuring us “all is well” when it clearly wasn’t – i.e., former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assuring us “the system worked” in the case of the underwear bomber, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest recently speaking of the administration “substantially improving” the “tranquility of the global community,” Obama’s May boast that “our ability to mobilize international opinion rapidly has changed the balance and the equation in Ukraine” or his 2012 declaration that the private sector is “doing fine.” The problem with multiple years of implausible spin and happy talk is that when you tell the truth on an important matter, you can’t dispel the doubts.

The slogan of the White House in every crisis.

As I noted Monday, it’s not a lack of compassion that would make one hesitate to bring those Americans infected with Ebola to U.S. soil. It’s just the hard lessons of recent experience: things go wrong. Government agencies that are supposed to handle vital duties – like, say, taking care of veterans with urgent health needs – fall down on the job. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are full of smart, dedicated folks who still make mistakes because they’re human, much like, say, the FDA:

Federal officials found more than just long-forgotten smallpox samples recently in a storage room on the National Institutes for Health campus in Bethesda, Md. The discovery included 12 boxes and 327 vials holding an array of pathogens, including the virus behind the tropical disease dengue and the bacteria that can cause spotted fever, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the lab in question.

Of course the folks at Emory Hospital’s Isolation Ward will take every precaution, and no doubt they’re the best of the best. But those doctors in West Africa were taking every precaution they could under the circumstances, too, and it clearly wasn’t enough. No one’s callous enough to say, ‘don’t treat those patients’, but let’s not pretend that there isn’t any risk here.

Meanwhile… doesn’t an ongoing threat of Ebola alter the dynamics of our ongoing immigration and border security debate?

Ace:

In the 1950s, British PM Harold MacMillan was asked what could derail his government’s agenda. He famously answered, “Why, events, dear boy. Events.”

The Right has long argued that border control is important for national security reasons; occasionally, as dangerous infections diseases break out around the world, we’ve added that concept to the national-security argument.

Obama, meanwhile, is permitting a border surge to continue, not only failing to oppose it, but actively assisting it.

What might destroy the public’s apparent willingness for a mass-amnesty?

Why, events, dear boy, events.

What if what “right-wing paranoids’ paranoid fears” turn out to be right, and we do have a couple of Ebola outbreaks traced to border-crossers?

What becomes of the Democrats’ election hopes then?

Perhaps for that reason — that events, dear boy, events could derail the Democrats catastrophically — the Obama Administration is insisting that it has not yet made any decisions on its threatened, and much anticipated (for good and for ill) mass executive amnesty.

And they might have reports like this in mind.

This report covers a period of time from 2010-2014 — it is mostly about the period before the recent outbreaks of Ebola.

However, there is no reason to suspect that people from Ebola-stricken countries have stopped trying to the enter the US through the sudden border, either…

Obviously having a porous border increases the risk of a foreign communicable disease spreading here, whether that risk becomes a genuine fact or not.

But if it doesn’t happen, people crudely assume, “Oh, the risk was 0% then, and all those people saying it was a risk were just silly.”

Nope! The risk might have been 30%, and maybe we just dodged a bullet.

When the risk becomes reality, people do the opposite Dumb Math (“Oh, the risk was 100%.”)

So both parties are prisoners here to People Who Don’t Understand Risk or Math.

However, it remains true whether Ebola breaks out in the US or not: By not controlling the border, we are in fact increasing the risk of this eventuality.

Biased Girl: “Who is going to argue that New York City is capable of containing Ebola? I’ll wait.”

Look, it’s not like it’s an easily-contained public health menace, like, you know… large sodas.

Leslie Dowd: “Just sayin’ – In the movies, the smart-asses who joke about the deadly pathogen are the first ones to bite the dust.”

Uh-oh.