Oct 21, 2014. If US health care is even up to Nigerian standards, have Republicans gone nanny on us? Oddly, some of them are demanding that the government protect us from a tiny threat by telling healthy people they can’t fly from Liberia to the US. A tiny threat? Only two Americans have become ill in the US and both have recovered. Compare that to more than 100,000 children hospitalized with pneumonia each year, and over 40,000 pneumonia deaths (all ages) in the US each year. Should the government stop flights from countries with pneumonia? Flights from countries with tuberculosis?
But couldn’t a single Ebola carrier from Africa start an epidemic in the US? No chance. There have been 25 Ebola outbreaks in developing countries since 1976 that were stopped after doing a tiny fraction of the damage caused by our annual flu outbreak. Only in the most backward and superstitious areas has Ebola taken hold. The US has always been vastly more prepared than Zaire, Gabon, Uganda — which have stopped Ebola, and right now we are on red alert and hyper prepared.
But what’s the downside to stopping everyone trying to fly from Liberia to the US? The most exposed people flying are likely to be US healthcare workers, many of them good Samaritans returning from the real dangers of helping stop a horrible epidemic. And if you don’t care about Africans, then at least remember that the danger to you will only increase as that epidemic spreads. We need, and should honor such brave healthcare workers.
The administration has now confined incoming flights to five airports. But experts in the field conclude from a detailed study of air traffic that it would be vastly more cost effective to screen passengers at the three relevant African airports, rather than to screen incoming flights. This would protect the world, and indirectly, it would protect the US more. Quite likely this could have been done, were it not for fearmongering by the US media and the Republicans.