Can the CDC Prevent Ebola in the US?


We trusted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contain Ebola. But then three health care workers got it. Wouldn't we be better off with a moratorium on flights from the Ebola hot zone?

Recently, I went to a local meeting of an Ebola task force. It was well attended and clearly the group understood the need for us to be prepared. During the spirited discussion, issues regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) morphed into a discussion of what type of shoes were needed to ensure complete protection. (What are Crocs?) Apparently, opening a hospital shoe store was not a viable option.

Then, at the same meeting, a purchasing agent informed the group that there is a backorder on the PPE.

I was dumbfounded. Really? A backorder? This made me wonder whether there is stockpiling going on in states very far from the airports where potential ebola patients might be arriving.

By extension, the national PPE shortage leaves local hospitals in my home state of New Jersey more vulnerable. NJ is also home to Newark Liberty International Airport, a point of entry to the US for passengers arriving from West Africa.

Furthermore I wondered if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the same difficulty getting PPE—obviously not, I hope. In 1992, Congress added two words to the famous CDC designation: and PREVENTION. Of course we still refer to them as the CDC and not CDCP.

With constantly changing recommendations on protecting health care workers from Ebola, this government agency seems to have forgotten that the CDC’s role in prevention compels it to provide this specialized equipment to those hospitals most likely to encounter Ebola patients.

These encounters are more and more likely to occur because of the simultaneous lack of restricted air travel from West Africa. Is this the better option in preventing the spread of Ebola into and around the United States?

Though it is difficult for me to imagine that a government agency like the CDC, with its enormous funding could not provide those of us who will care for Ebola patients essentially on our own with regard to PPE, that is what has happened.

Remember that the human suffering in Africa is the real issue. But closer to home, this serious viral disease is a threat to the dedicated doctors, nurses, and hospital staff that will be treating those who are sick from Ebola infection.

Surely the CDC and PREVENTION should at least, deploy the “space suits” that they consistently sport in the media, to the hospitals closest to the airports with incoming flights from Ebola hot zones. In addition, how about some direct instructional guidance in their proper donning and doffing---a word I hadn’t heard until very recently-- and the safe disposal of contaminated outer layers, and the proper decontamination of patient rooms etc.

This instruction is available only on the CDC website. (In fairness, it is nicely laid out.)

If the CDC can't give us proper PPE and instruction, maybe we should restrict incoming flights.

While the experts in Ebola seem to all agree that a so- called travel ban would not change the course of the epidemic, it is intuitive enough to realize that the more patients that come here, the worse things could get.

The fight to end this epidemic has to be taken to its source because an epidemic will not be contained while allowing it to continue.

With this in mind, I feel that a temporary moratorium on travel to or especially from the hot zones is the best way to keep Ebola out of the US. This does not include limiting travel for those brave and selfless doctors and nurses who wish to help relieve some of the unimaginable suffering in West Africa. Special dispensation could easily be arranged for them with the required quarantine either before returning from a hot zone or after returning to the US. This humanitarian effort must continue. The time to act is now and the place to act is in the hot zones of West Africa.

A true worldwide response in terms of manpower and resources would go a long way toward reducing the scope of the problem at its source. No one is immune.

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