It worries me when I see a Fox News host using a retweet to encourage trutherism about the spread of Ebola, merely because cynical scaremongering is good for ratings (and for the GOP's prospects in November):
Granted, this tweet is expressing general doubts about government reassurances, not specific doubts about established science. It's not saying explicitly that everything we're being told about how Ebola is transmitted and contained is wrong.
But it encourages that sort of thinking.
There are two main issues right now with regard to Ebola and the administration. One is the decision not to suspend air travel from West Africa. That's what many Republicans are upset about, and at least their concern is consistent with science. Obviously, asymptomatic people can get through screening and arrive here infected. If we can have a discussion of this that isn't primarily about political point-scoring, fine.
But implying that we don't have well-established protocols for containing the virus and that the transmission process is poorly understood is dangerous. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is plausible to a lot of people -- not just because we're seeing a confirmed case here in America, but because we're seeing a failure to contain the disease in Africa.
Maybe if government officials made clear that Ebola's spread in Africa is because protocols aren't being followed, not because those protocols are in question, they could draw a contrast to the U.S. that would seem intuitive to ordinary Americans.
As The New Republic's Rebecca Leber notes:
The reason for the different odds here and there is obvious: In U.S. hospitals, patients are isolated in hospital rooms specially set up for biocontainment, they receive specialized care and hydration, and have access to an experimental vaccine. That's not happening in West Africa. In order to end this epidemic there , the CDC estimates, at least 70 percent of patients must be isolated in hospitals. In Liberia, the figure is just 18 percent.And as I've previously noted, there's this:
Health care workers in poor nations often do not have enough protective gear to keep them safe from being infected with blood-borne viruses such as Ebola and HIV, a new study shows.I'm convinced that people think we could have West Africa's experience. This is why we won't. We have plenty of isolation wards and protective gear.
... the study was conducted before the current Ebola outbreak began in West Africa last spring...
In Liberia, only 56 percent of hospitals had protective eyewear for doctors and nurses and only 63 percent had sterile gloves. In Sierra Leone, those figures were 30 percent and 70 percent, respectively, the researchers found....
And while average Americans probably wouldn't find this reassuring, I do:
Ebola spreads less readily than many other contagious diseases -- and if you reduce its transmission with careful isolation and effective contact tracing, eventually you contain the disease completely. It's worked in every past outbreak in Africa, with much weaker medical infrastructure. It would work here.
Americans need to grasp the fact that we understand this disease. In this situation, implying that everything the experts tell us is to be mistrusted is very dangerous. But that's the world Fox made, and we're stuck in it. So the administration has to push back harder than it has so far.