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Bungling the response to Ebola

NBC News
A worker in a hazmat suit prepares to decontaminate areas of a Dallas apartment exposed to Ebola by patient Thomas Duncan.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Occasionally, the pretense that our government has our best interests at heart, as well as an omniscient ability to respond to any and every threat to our well-being, is shot down by reality.

There even seems to be an inverse relation between size and scope of government, and efficacy in the face of a crisis. One of the latest examples is the Ebola epidemic currently headlining all major news networks.

A string of moronic decisions on the part of the Dallas patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, and the nurses and doctors at the hospital where he had been treated and then released, and the subsequent media fallout, generated a high degree of paranoia among pretty much everyone.

The White House, in a state of continuous damage-control, assures us that everything is being taken care of.

The CDC has been given a level of attention it hasn't seen since Swine Flu. Meanwhile, US troops are being sent to Ebola epidemic ground zero, Liberia, to war it out with the disease.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids, and is less contagious than the common cold. It is fairly difficult to contract, not being communicable until the infected person shows symptoms. Poverty, unsanitary living conditions, and the death rituals performed at the funeral for the deceased are the main factors in the rapid spread of the virus in the African countries.

The most recent outbreak began by a case of infection in Guinea in December 2013, spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The suspected death toll in these African nations stands around 3500, as of October 1st.

The Texas Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, contracted the disease in Liberia after carrying an infected pregnant woman to a hospital. He later proceeded to sign a document stating that he had not come into contact with anyone infected with Ebola before boarding a plane back to the US. After arriving in the US, he checked himself in to a Texas hospital when he began feeling ill. Amazingly, he was allowed to return home after examination. When his condition worsened, neighbors reported seeing him retching violently outside his apartment complex, he returned to the hospital where he was finally diagnosed with the Ebola virus. Everyone he has been in contact with is now under quarantine and surveillance.

It would be terrible to contract Ebola; the mortality rate is between 50 and 90 percent.

But should we really fear it? We give our government vast powers to protect us from terrorism, despite the low probability of death. Nothing compared to death from a car accident, a medical error, or a close encounter with a meteor. What are we prepared to allow our government to do in the face of the crisis of the moment? A government that continually needs a crisis to justify its size and scope will have an uncanny ability to find a crisis anywhere it looks.

The most effective response to Ebola in this country seems to be following relatively simple guidelines: identifying and isolating those infected, and tracing their contacts.

It doesn't require a gargantuan response in the form of centralized action. The only real danger to US citizens seems to be an overreaction of the government.

Government cannot shield us from every contingency, and we should not expect it to.

Government officials trip over themselves to portray themselves as heroically combating the latest emergency, but the bungling that follows usually exacerbates the problem.

Ebola seems something that is eminently controllable, having taken the necessary precautions.

We don't need a new federal agency, a new law, or a new tax to combat this.

Common sense and a cool head are better remedies than an atmosphere of imminent doom, which always seems to be the tone of conversation among crisis mongers when something like Ebola becomes politicized.

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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