CDCV chief: Ebola spread to US 'inevitable'
The head of the Centers for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, told a House committee that, inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries -- or from Lagos if it doesn't get it under control -- and are here with symptoms." He added that he was "confident that there will not be a large Ebola outbreak in the US."
Frieden did not say what that confidence was based on.
The CDC has already issued its highest alert to hospitals to be on the lookout for patients exhibiting the symptoms of Ebola, but the government is keeping mum on who they are testing and where.
There is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola, but it can be contained if patients are swiftly isolated and adequate protective measures are used, he said.
Healthcare workers treating Ebola patients should wear goggles, face masks, gloves and protective gowns, according to CDC guidelines.
- Equipment lacking -
However, Ken Isaacs, vice president of program and government relations at the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse warned that the world is woefully ill-equipped to handle the spread of Ebola.
"It is clear that the disease is uncontained and it is out of control in West Africa," he told the hearing.
"The international response to the disease has been a failure."
Samaritan's Purse arranged the medical evacuation of US doctor Kent Brantly and days later, missionary Nancy Writebol, from Monrovia to a sophisticated Atlanta hospital.
Both fell ill with Ebola while treating patients in the Liberian capital, and their health is now improving.
"One of the things that I recognized during the evacuation of our staff is that there is only one airplane in the world with one chamber to carry a level-four pathogenic disease victim," Isaacs said.
He also said personal protective gear is hard to find in Liberia, and warned of the particular danger of kissing the corpse farewell during funeral rites.
"In the hours after death with Ebola, that is when the body is most infectious because the body is loaded with the virus," he said.
"Everybody that touches the corpse is another infection."
Because of the difficulty in spreading the disease, and more modern health care facilities in the US, Frieden may be right that the US won't experience the kind of out of control epidemic raging in Africa at the moment. But that doesn't mean that hundreds of Americans couldn't die while the country comes to a virtual standstill. And what if the virus mutates and becomes airborne? Similar fears were expressed about Bird Flu a few years ago. It .hasn't happened - yet. But nature has a funny way of reminding us how pitiful our efforts to control her really are.
Right now, it's a crap shoot. Let's hope we don't roll snake eyes.