Texas' Second Ebola Case Makes Mockery of Those Who Downplay Its Threat
A nurse who provided care to Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Presbyterian Health Hospital has tested positive for the virus. The nurse, now identified as Nina Pham, 26, is reported to also be showing symptoms of the disease.
A Dallas neighborhood was greeted with the scary news over the weekend, with flyers and broadcast messages and a house-to-house search for anyone who may have come into contact with America's second Ebola case, and the first reported transmission of the virus on U.S. soil.
By the nurse's and the hospital's accounts, all protocols were observed while Duncan was receiving care after he was admitted on September 28 and tested positive, on September 30. The Centers for Disease Control, though, claims that there was some breach of protocol, only, it doesn't know what that breach may have been or when it may have happened. The CDC appears to be falling back on bureaucrat-speak to explain something that, so far, it cannot.
What if the protocols aren't good enough?
The fact is, Duncan could have and may have transmitted the virus to others anytime after September 24-25, when he first went to the hospital with symptoms. The search for everyone who came into contact with him is always going to be incomplete. Memories fail and government is just not all that competent most of the time.
Had he not been in the United States at all, of course, he would not have brought it here. That nurse would not be infected, her neighborhood would not be on edge, and Dallas would not be the epicenter of what may be an outbreak.
For all that we know about the Ebola virus, which is quite a lot, the United States still has just four hospitals that are fully equipped to care for Ebola victims. Four. They are in Montana, Nebraska, Georgia and Maryland. Obviously, Texas Presbyterian is not in any of those states. The vast majority of the country has no hospitals that are Ebola-equipped. The Texas case, especially the early misdiagnosis and communication failure(s), indicates that we have multiple potential points of failure -- the victims, the hospitals, etc.
Because flights continue from the Ebola-stricken countries to the United States, carrying an average of 150 passengers per day, the threat remains that there will be more carriers of the virus who get here and transmit it to others. On average, an Ebola victim transmits the virus to two other people.
The screening regime that the Obama administration has set up is clearly inadequate. Even if we could adjust Duncan's timeline so that if he left Liberia today and entered the U.S. through JFK under the new screening procedures, the first airport to begin the new screening procedures, it would miss him again. He would defeat it by arriving ahead of showing any Ebola symptoms, and by lying on his Liberia exit form.