As a dentist, I spent a lot of time in dental school in the lab. We learned about bacterial and viral pathogens, their sources, dangers, and treatments. Infection control is a part of every dental and medical practice.
For this reason, I am particularly alarmed at the rapidity, virulence, and contagiousness of the new novel coronavirus spreading around the globe.
As a people, and our government that is responsible for addressing such threats, we walk a line between calmly and rationally assessing the potential threat -- without fear or panic -- while simultaneously not overreacting or underreacting by being too complacent.
The task is made harder because to be truly vigilant and proactive, immediate travel restrictions would be imposed at the outset of a contagion. But in an era of globalization, such action has real economic costs to hotels, airlines and dozens of related businesses and industries.
The risk associated with acting too slowly or too deliberately is that the contagion is here among us and only after it has spread to a wide enough distribution do we act.
In my view, we should act quickly in imposing restrictions on travel into our country from the affected region. That includes airports and seaports.
When we receive reports of a new pathogen trending in a certain region, we can target that region early to keep our own people as safe as possible. By preventing the contagion from arriving here in the first place, we will save lives, money and time.
By preventing the contagion from arriving here in the first place, we will save lives, money and time.
This should be standard protocol with the Centers for Disease Control. Like all good medical and hygiene practices, prevention is the key. Treating a problem after the fact is always a poor option.
Around the world, many countries have already suspended flights to China and have begun to limit travel from the outbreak region. Countries including Australia and the Philippines are denying entry to anyone arriving from mainland China. The United States should join them.
An epidemic or outbreak is not subject to a fixed definition, but a pandemic is an epidemic that is spreading from one country to another. The CDC noted that an influenza pandemic took place in 1968-69, when the Hong Kong flu killed almost 34,000 Americans in just seven months. Obviously, a travel restriction imposed more quickly would have helped contain that pandemic before so many individuals died.
The CDC does not have an easy job making the call, but President Trump was prudent to form a Coronavirus Task Force. This stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s disastrous handling of the 2014 Ebola pandemic. The medical community, and Americans in general, were horrified when President Obama allowed Ebola-stricken patients into our country. He further allowed an Ebola-infected nurse, who was symptomatic, to travel on commercial airlines. He failed to protect Americans by failing to impose a travel restriction.
President Trump has shown far better sense. Let us hope this new virus can be contained before too many Americans are impacted.