United States ill-prepared to handle Ebola crisis

Ebola is a virus that is spreading exponentially in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama called chances of Ebola getting to the U.S. “extremely low.” This is a pure display of overconfidence, and that could cause trouble. Underestimating the threat of Ebola could be very catastrophic.

Most people believe the president is right, because the U.S. has a stronger health care system than those in West African countries. President Obama argued that, “We know what has to be done and we’ve got the infrastructure to do it.”

Even though the U.S. has a great healthcare system, that does not make the U.S. immune to an outbreak of Ebola.

By Flickr user CDC Global

“I want the people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low,” Obama said during a Sept. 16 briefing on the Ebola outbreak.

When I first heard this statement from the president, I was puzzled at the level of confidence the president has regarding this issue. This strain of the Ebola virus has the highest fatality rate, and has already claimed about 4,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization.

There are loopholes in our healthcare system, as proven when the late Thomas Eric Duncan was sent home after a hospital visit, despite showing Ebola-like symptoms and telling the nurse that he just came from Liberia, an Ebola hot zone. Though he was sent home the first time, his family still pushed the Dallas hospital to run tests on him and put him in isolation so he would not infect others with the virus.

The fact that we do not have multiple cases of Ebola in the U.S is not because of our exceptional health care system. It is because the family of the patient involved in this case was determined to do the right thing and used common sense to prevent the spread of the virus. The breach of protocol at the Dallas hospital shows that most hospitals in the U.S. are not prepared to handle any case of emergency in regards to Ebola.

Another thing Obama ignores is the chance of terrorists using Ebola as a biological weapon. According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus is considered a Category A bioterrorism agent, which means that terrorists could use it as a weapon. If Duncan was a terrorist, we could have been battling a serious Ebola outbreak by now.

The president and other officials need to be realistic and admit that there is a real threat of an Ebola outbreak here, and put in preventative measures like restricting flights from Ebola hot zones and sending medical resources to deal with the crisis there.

The White House has refused to ban flights from these countries, and I just don’t understand the rationale behind that. If flights are not cancelled from countries battling the Ebola outbreak, it will spread to other countries, which means that more people are going to get sick. I know there are screenings at airports but sometimes people with the virus do not show symptoms during its early stages. That was the case with Duncan. After flights have been cancelled from countries with the disease, medical resources and aid should be sent there to combat the outbreak.

This is similar to the method of isolating one person. You isolate that person so he or she does not infect others with the disease, and then you provide medical treatment to that person so they can get well. This is not just about the safety of the United States; thousands of people travel to and from the United States on a daily basis, so if there is there is an outbreak here, it would most likely result in outbreaks in other countries.

The public has to be educated on the signs and symptoms of the disease, and ways it can be contracted and how we can protect ourselves from the disease. In addition to that, government has to make sure that every hospital has a protocol in place for diagnosing and treating the virus. Only a few hospitals have protocols for diagnosing Ebola in place, and this shows that the United States is not well prepared for an Ebola outbreak.