Ebola outbreak: Time for Congress to come back to Washington

Without question the medical facilities, expertise and experience that American health officials have gained over the years, places them in a good position to combat the deadly Ebola virus.

In fact we should be leading the effort to eradicate Ebola from the earth and not just from American soil. In the same way that we are trying to put together a coalition to oppose the efforts of ISIS, every tool and agency available throughout the world should be employed in an attempt to avert an epidemic that could have implications for the entire world.

To underscore the seriousness of the situation, Congress should be called back into session to help propose and vote on a plan that is very comprehensive in scope and includes a variety of contingencies in case a major outbreak occurs in America or even in the event of multiple small outbreaks.

It will not serve our interests to be unprepared and to simply react as events unfold.


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    We must also accelerate the research efforts aimed at creating an effective vaccine for Ebola and we should be pursuing every promising potential cure with vigor and speed. All of this may require additional funding, but there are many much less important projects from which such funding can be diverted. This will of course require the ability to prioritize which has become increasingly difficult with a large and unwieldy federal government.

    It is very important that we provide to the American populace vital information about what to do if they encounter people with obvious respiratory or other potentially contagious illnesses.

    This should include information about all the modes of transmission that the average citizen might encounter. Those who fear that the people will panic if they received too much information are probably fooling themselves about the sophistication of the American populace. It is more likely that people will panic if they feel that they are being lied to and babied.

    Additionally, this very serious situation can serve as an opportunity to enforce the commonly accepted rules of hygienic living in today’s sophisticated society. There can never be too much education about ways to minimize the risks of contracting common viral illnesses that result in billions of dollars of lost productivity every year.

    It is shortsighted to concentrate the vast majority of our efforts to eradicate the Ebola threat here in the United States where we have extraordinary medical facilities and protocols to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Rather, we should be leading the charge in the African countries that represent the epicenter of the outbreak. These are the places where personal hygiene is less than optimal and facilities and healthcare personnel are inadequate to contain the relentless march of this deadly disease.

    If the outbreak is allowed to continue to progress throughout the continent of Africa, even if we are successful in containing it in America, that success will only be temporary as the epidemic spreads from Africa to other continents from which we will have a difficult time isolating ourselves.

    Like some other countries of the world, we would be wise to control air traffic coming into the United States from infected areas of the world. There should be no other country that cares more about the health of its citizens than the United States of America.

    The biggest mistake we can make with this deadly threat is to overestimate our abilities to control it. By bringing infected individuals into our midst for treatment and proclaiming our superiority in controlling disease spread, we are mitigating what should be a very healthy fear of this disease, thus potentially increasing the laxity with which the established protocols are followed.

    This is not to say that we should not have the utmost concern and compassion for American citizens who contract the disease elsewhere. If we had no good options for treating them other than bringing them back to our shores, that would of course be the only option. Since that is clearly not the case and since we can clearly treat them and then welcome them back with open arms, it is difficult after doing a benefit to risk analysis to understand how the benefits outweigh the risks in these cases.

    This Ebola scare is a real opportunity for the president to lead. He does not need to be an expert in disease control to lead the effort to cure or preferably eliminate Ebola and the threat inherent in its spread. He has much expertise and wisdom at his disposal and I can virtually guarantee him a populace that will appreciate strong and wise leadership in this time of uncertainty.