Over the past few weeks I’ve been steadily downgrading, in my own mind, the threat posed by Ebola. Because while it seems to be highly contagious (and maybe slightly airborne) in its final stages, it doesn’t seem to be particularly contagious prior to that stage. The only people who caught the disease (so far) in Dallas were a couple of nurses caring for the Liberian patient. None of the people that the man met or shared a flat with prior to his admission to hospital seem to have developed the disease. So, while it looks like doctors and nurses need better protection, rigorous and forceful measures to isolate Ebola patients should act to stem the progress of the disease outside West Africa.
But I have little confidence that either the WHO or the CDC or the NHS are up to the job. In the first place, while the WHO has admitted that it failed to respond to the Ebola epidemic, it’s now blaming its own ‘incompetent’ West African offices. The same buck-passing has been going on in the USA, with Tom Frieden being very quick to blame the Dallas nurses for not following the correct protocols.
“At some point there was a breach in protocol,” Frieden said. “That breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”
Worse still, President Obama has now appointed a political operative, Ron Klain, as Ebola “czar”.
If Ron Klain sounds familiar to you, it’s because he has a long political pedigree. He has no medical, scientific, or federal agency administrative expertise, but he has a whole lot of political experience.
So Obama is going to treat Ebola as a political problem rather than a health threat. And everyone else is going to blame everybody but themselves for any further failures. He’s probably doing this because the USA is just weeks away from mid-term elections.
So “rigorous and forceful measures” aren’t going to be taken. It will all be spin, perception management, and buck-passing, at least until November 4.
But it’s not just that. This week WHO Director General Margaret Chan gave priority to attending an antismoking conference in Moscow.
“Yes, Ebola is truly an issue of international concern,” Dr. Chan told reporters in Russia, “but tobacco—if we put the evidence on the table—tobacco control is still the most cost-effective and efficient way of reducing unnecessary diseases and deaths arising from using such harmful products.”
And in the UK Lord Darzi has just been busy proposing a London park smoking bans in response to
the “major public health crises” of smoking and obesity.
And Tom Frieden was NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief architect of the city’s smoking ban:
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, has turned out to be an active policy advocate among the city’s department heads, the outspoken architect of some of the Bloomberg administration’s more controversial policies. Although Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is more closely associated with a law that bans smoking citywide, the legislation was actually developed by Dr. Frieden, who was also given responsibility for helping to push it through the City Council.
They’re all antismoking activists. And clearly, in their own minds, they regard their principal task as that of fighting the fictional “global tobacco epidemic” and the “obesity crisis” rather than any real contagious disease. Which is, of course, why the West African Ebola epidemic is now out of control. How can people like this be expected to be of any use whatsoever when confronted with a real epidemic?
But there’s also political correctness.
I’ll tell you our problem: Much of our political class is simply uncomfortable with the idea that border and immigration controls should be used vigorously and unapologetically to protect Americans. You can hear the objections now: It would be xenophobic, it might stigmatize West Africans, those countries will object to our State Department that they’re being discriminated against.
And what applies in the USA also applies in the UK and EU, of course. The attitude is exemplified by a guest on a US TV show saying:
“How dare we turn our backs on Liberia, given the fact that this was a country that was founded in the 1820s – 1830s because of American slavery. We have a responsibility to stay connected with them, and help them see this through.”
Add it all up, and what you’ve got is a major Ebola epidemic which, in the absence of politically-incorrect firewalls, is going to be repeatedly flown into the USA and Europe on unrestricted commercial airline flights for the next 6 months or more. And when it does arrive, it’s going to be met by a medical establishment which is fully engaged in fighting the entirely imaginary “global tobacco epidemic” and “obesity crisis”, and which will very quickly pass the buck for any failures onto everyone else but themselves. Add also ordinary incompetence, ignorance, and bureaucratic inertia, and it’ll get even worse. In fact, they can already see it coming:
Ebola will almost certainly hit London, Boris Johnson has warned.
Finally, H/T Brigitte, look at what’s written on the wall of Redemption Hospital in Monrovia (click on pic to watch the video):