By: Jack Besser
Selfish. Ignorant. Terroristic. You would never associate these words with a hero. Somehow, Americans have managed to do this.
Healthcare workers who have recently returned from saving lives in Western Africa are now being considered threats to society and treated like criminals.
Before you hail Governors Christie and Cuomo as saviors for issuing mandatory quarantine regulations in their states, there are several key factors that I would like to point out.
There is no doubt, Ebola is scary.
You see the high fatality rate and the fact that there is no proven cure except your own immune system and, understandably, you really want to avoid getting this virus. But remember, Ebola has some very distinct characteristics. Unlike the flu and the common cold, Ebola is not transmitted until a victim is symptomatic. Even if someone who might have been infected with Ebola in Western Africa comes into the USA, he/she poses no threat whatsoever to the public until symptomatic. Even once symptomatic, a person infected with Ebola could ride the subway, take taxis, fly on planes, and constitute no threat to the public if he/she wasn’t sharing bodily fluids. Ebola is not airborne.
Mandatory, twice daily, monitoring of temperature is key. Experts say there is no danger to the general public by allowing people from Ebola stricken nations into America, as long as they are monitoring their symptoms. If an elevated temperature is recorded, the patient reports it immediately and remains isolated before they can spread disease. This virus is different than many others- it is extremely difficult to spread early on when symptoms are not present.
Let’s examine the family of Thomas Eric Duncan a little closer. Mr. Duncan’s family lived in a house with him for days while he had symptoms, and none of them became infected by the virus. The only people to contract Ebola while in the USA were two nurses who were not adequately trained, or protected- a problem that has already been addressed and fixed.
One of the nurses flew on a plane while she had no symptoms of Ebola- nobody on the flight contracted it.
Now, we are faced with another question. To quarantine or not to quarantine.
It might seem logical to quarantine everyone from West Africa who comes to the USA, but is that the answer to stop the spread of disease? I beg to differ. With many concerned over the health and safety of Americans, flight restriction is not the answer to protecting us. Kaci Hickox, a nurse that recently returned home from Ebola stricken countries, told media that her “basic human rights have been violated” and that Christie himself was responsible.
No matter how long we try to hide from Ebola, the threat won’t go away unless we end the outbreak in West Africa.
We can shut down our borders, we can end flights, but that won’t eliminate the threat of Ebola. The best way to protect the USA is to end the outbreak at the source. So no, these doctors are not terrorists or selfish for coming back home after trips to Western Africa- they just are educated on and understand the facts.
The fears here are understandable, but unwarranted. Governors Cuomo and Christie fed into this fear by ordering the mandatory quarantines in their states, there is no scientific evidence to support this. All it does is create a stigma against these medical heroes. So before you support “locking up” these healthcare professionals understand that it does not make you any safer. It is impossible- your risk is already very close to zero.
Instead of fighting these medical workers going to Ebola stricken regions, you should be supporting them. The more workers we send over, the safer the entire world will be.
Encourage aid workers, and #spreadtruth.
Jack Besser, son of ABC’s Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, is creator of Project #spreadtruth. He created the project to fight and calm fears in the USA and encourage humanitarianism in Western Africa. His fact page, built with information from experts in the field and CDC guidelines, provides answers to the most important questions about Ebola, the outbreak, and information on how you can help. Read up, get motivated, and spread the knowledge.
Tweet, post, share, and #spreadtruth!