Ebola is here. On September 30, 2014 at 3:22 PM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the media that the patient in isolation at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas did, in fact, have the Ebola virus.
Ebola has been spreading largely unchecked throughout West Africa, and there have been no attempts by the U.S. government to tighten border controls or halt travel from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, or Nigeria. As a result of this lack of quarantine, and despite reassurances from officials as high as Barack Obama that Ebola was “unlikely” to spread to the United States, we have our first active case and an unknown number of potential cases given the patient’s travel history.
While it is important to remember that the Ebola virus is not spread through the air, but only through bodily fluids like blood, saliva, and feces, it is a disease without a cure, and doctors have no established treatment schedule for it either. In Africa this variant of the disease has killed, on average 60 percent of its victims or over 3000 people. These are not reassuring statistics.
Also not reassuring are reports that only four hospitals in America are truly equipped for dealing with diseases like Ebola. These medical sites have special care and isolation units and are located in Missoula, Montana, Atlanta, Georgia, Bethesda, Maryland, and Omaha, Nebraska. While medical care in the United States is far more advanced than it is in the African countries affected and the U.S. government is capable of formulating a fast and targeted response to limit the spread of disease, deadly epidemics make people nervous and American citizens are beginning to question whether their leaders are paying close enough attention or taking this threat seriously enough.
It’s difficult to say what event will get various officials motivated to work diligently and in concert to make sure everyday people are not exposed to diseases that do not originate on the continent of North America and could only arrive here through gross negligence. One family in Liberia is currently employing a modern American solution: Michael Tengbeh’s parents are suing the hospital in Kakata where their son was treated and died. Attorney Jason Jansma of the West Michigan Defense Team believes that all it would take is the right patient succumbing to Ebola in the U.S. to start a landslide of lawsuits that would force officials to enforce the kinds of stringent measures needed to halt the spread of this epidemic.
Until that or some other point of revolt is reached, the safety of Americans is in the hands of leaders in whom they have lost confidence.