Right now, I’m not as afraid of Ebola as I am of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The agency held a press conference Monday to provide an update on the transmission of Ebola to a nurse that cared for Thomas Eric Duncan.
After listening to this update, I have to say, I am more convinced than ever that CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden is not the right person for the job. And I say this because this latest press conference consisted of him telling a room of reporters what anyone who has ever dealt with Ebola in the past should have known.
Unlike other disease-causing microbes, such as influenza, Ebola virus has not changed much since its discovery in 1976. The virus that is causing the West African epidemic, and subsequent cases popping up in other parts of the world, is the virtually same virus that has been around for almost 40 years.
Frieden listed a number of new procedures the CDC is considering implementing into the protocol for health care workers treating potential Ebola patients in U.S. hospitals. Those would include evaluating the protective gear being used by health care workers, having CDC inspectors observe personnel as they remove personal protective equipment outside of infected patients’ rooms, conducting full-body spray downs to decontaminate health care workers, and looking at whether or not medical equipment such as ventilators and dialysis machines – sometimes necessary for treating Ebola patients – can harbor the deadly virus after use.
Why were these procedures not put in place when the CDC assured America that U.S. hospitals were a safe environment for controlling Ebola upon medically evacuating the first American patients to be treated at Emory and Nebraska? Furthermore, why weren’t they implemented when the first case of Ebola was diagnosed on American soil in Dallas, when the CDC again assured us that all hospitals were equipped to deal with the potential for an Ebola patient arriving in their emergency room?
When the first Ebola patients to be treated in American hospitals were preparing for their medical transport, Frieden told us that the CDC was leaving protocol to each individual hospital – stating that “virtually any hospital in the country that can do isolation can do isolation for Ebola.” Now, we have the head of the CDC coming out and saying that a “breach of protocol” was what caused a Dallas nurse to contract the disease from Duncan. What protocol?
During the press conference, reporters pointed to the organization, Doctors Without Borders, a non-profit which sends medical volunteers to developing nations, and despite working with this and other deadly diseases rarely have volunteers become infected. Here’s a medical organization doing God’s work, seemingly taking better care and precaution than a government agency, full of hundreds of bureaucrats and billions of dollars in funding, who can’t achieve the same fete. And I don’t blame the hospital.
Frieden also indicated that health officials were “concerned and would unfortunately not be surprised to see additional cases in the health care workers who also provided care to the index patient.” So I’m not quite sure how he can still stand up at the podium and insist that the CDC is confident they will be able to control the spread of the disease. The American people’s confidence in the agency is crumbling.
I think Frieden should take a long, hard look at his agency’s lack of direction, and I don’t just say that because of Ebola. If you look at the culture of the CDC on Frieden’s watch, you’ll clearly see he’s no stranger to being a Monday morning quarterback. Of the recent scandal in which careless procedures potentially exposed dozens of CDC workers to live anthrax at a bioterrorism lab Frieden admitted that scientists who work repeatedly with dangerous microbes “can get a little careless,” and that “the culture of safety needs to improve” in some of the CDC’s labs.
Frieden showed up late to the game again on Ebola, which is not acceptable when lives are at stake.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.