Let’s start with a couple of facts:
- The death rate in the United States from Ebola is nowhere near as high as it is in Africa. As of 10/28/14, 9 people with Ebola have been or are being treated in the United States. Seven have recovered fully, one (Mr. Duncan) has died, and one is still being treated. I’ll add that the care of Mr. Duncan has been acknowledged to have been faulty, resulting in a delay in his treatment that did not happen with any of the other patients in the U.S. So, if we exclude the one currently in treatment, the death rate from Ebola in the United States to date is 12.5%, compared with a mortality rate of 50% or more in Africa (and a 37.5% death rate in Europe, using the same methodology I used for the United States). This map, from the New York Times, provides a useful picture of the treatment locations and results in Europe and the U.S.
- All of the documented cases of Ebola in Europe and the United States resulted from caregiving contact with someone who was infected with Ebola and was suffering significant symptoms. These cases include cases of caregivers in Europe and the U.S. who should have had access to appropriate equipment and should have been adequately trained in providing care. These cases led the CDC earlier in October to revise its directives regarding precautions and procedures for caregivers treating Ebola patients.
- Not one case of transmission of the Ebola virus through casual contact with someone suffering from Ebola has been documented in the United States or Europe. Not one. All cases resulted from close, caregiving contact with someone whose symptoms are pronounced. Hundreds of people who have had casual contact with Ebola sufferers in the U.S. have been tracked; to date, not one has been found to be infected. Mr. Duncan’s family and friends didn’t get it, even though he was sick in their residence. The close friends of the nurses from Texas didn’t get it. Only those involved in caregiving contact have been infected. Even Mr. Duncan, may he rest in peace, had nonprofessional caregiving contact with a fatally-ill Ebola sufferer before coming to this country, the probable cause of his infection.
So given these facts, why would we force anyone into a quarantine if they were (a) asymptomatic and (b) a trained health care professional who understands the early signs of Ebola and is willing and able either to self-monitor or to be monitored?
Because there is a highly contagious disease spreading across the country. It is a disease that can incapacitate the strongest individual. If left unchecked, it can cripple an entire community, an entire city, an entire nation. There is no vaccine to prevent it, nor medication that treats it well. And no amount of protective clothing can hold it back.
That disease is fear.
One doesn’t defeat this disease by pandering to it; that’s equivalent to arming the enemy.
The way one fights the spread of fear is with courage and truth. Courage is the protective clothing that offers hope of resistance. And truth is the drug that can slay this disease.
If you’re looking for leaders, look to those who exhibit these two attributes. Follow them.