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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 4:25 am | Fair 47º


Ron Fink: Ebola — Just Like Every Other Disease — Is Manageable

For the last several weeks, the media and many politicians have been spending an awful lot of time criticizing the Obama administration for “doing nothing about Ebola.” I am not a fan of the current administration, but let’s take an objective look at the seriousness of the threat and government response to it.

I am not a doctor, I have never worked as a medical care provider (other than first aid) and I have a deep respect for the medical profession. But I have worked as an occupational health and safety risk management specialist for many years. To analyze risk, we need to look at the threat and then weigh the potential outcome.

First, the threat. Thousands are dying in faraway places from this disease. The places where this disease flourishes have sanitary, dietary and medical standards that are far below the standards in America and all of the civilized countries of the world.

These conditions and some cultural road blocks that cause people to be suspicious of the treatment protocols not only create a situation that allows the disease to spread, but also causes large numbers of people to die because there isn’t adequate medical help.

So what has the outcome been in the United States? Well, a handful of people, mostly medical professionals involved in the direct treatment of sick Ebola patients at home and abroad, have been diagnosed with the disease — all have been treated and released after a couple of weeks.

One patient, a man who came to the United States from one of the countries where this disease is prevalent, died.

There is an important point to be made about this man, though. He lived with several family members and had very close contact with a couple of dozen people in Texas — after quarantine they were all released, and none was found to have contracted the virus.

It’s easy to criticize the administration, but let’s put this whole thing in perspective.

President Barack Obama was elected to serve more than 300 million people. The U.S. government is an enormous operation, and some say it is way too big to manage, so the death of one person and the exposure of less than a few dozen people — all of whom were either found to not have the virus or were cured — doesn’t seem to be a big problem.

Throughout the history of America, there have been a couple of dozen viral outbreaks that have killed many people — cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever and viral hemorrhagic fevers are a few. But medical professionals seem to have managed these diseases through careful study, treatment and strong prevention programs. Only lax immigration policies will allow a return of these diseases.

I think it’s prudent to try to determine whether people might be exposed to or have symptoms of Ebola — just like I think it’s prudent to see if they have symptoms of many other contagious diseases before entry into the United States. I also think it’s important to quickly treat those who have this ugly virus and that it’s equally important to treat other viruses.

Apparently both the Bush and Obama administrations thought about Ebola because on April 4, 2003, President George W. Bush issued an Executive Order (EO 13295): “Providing for the apprehension, detention, or conditional release of individuals to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of suspected communicable diseases (that’s legal talk for quarantine).” Ebola was one of the diseases listed, and on July 1, Obama reinforced the EO by further defining the symptoms of listed diseases.

This EO explains why military personnel who have recently served in countries where the disease is prevalent have been quarantined because the military follows orders issued by the commander-in-chief. In a strange twist, federal civilian employees don’t have the same rules; are they somehow different than the GIs?

A valid criticism is that public health officials in the Bush nor Obama administrations do not appear to have done much to address the identification nor treatment of Ebola since the quarantine order was given 11 years ago.

Media talkers have taken the 11 governors who have established quarantines to task for politicizing the issue; they have been especially critical of Republican governors and seem to have ignored the Democrats who have done the same thing, including Gov. Jerry Brown.

These quarantines shouldn’t be punitive, though, and the people being monitored should be provided with comfortable surroundings while they wait. Those who aid others should be treated as superheroes for their commitment to their fellow man, not lepers who are banned from society.

Millions of dollars will be spent, thousands of people will be impacted, and a lot of misinformation will be spread by poorly informed media talkers and politicians concerning this disease in the next few weeks.

News anchors and their producers should stick to reporting events and politicians to kissing babies. Real journalism is badly needed here, and the anchor-commentators and the opinion-driven media should stop providing faulty analysis and just report the facts.

Ebola, just like every other disease, is manageable. Let the medical professionals handle it.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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