While we’re not hearing anything along the lines of ebola being the great plague of the 21st century (in terms of communicable threat level) the government has been quick to talk about all the preparations we’re making. There’s lots of training going on, education of medical professionals and crack teams ready to swoop in and isolate any further instances in the US. But as many reporters have noted, might it not make sense to start locking down – or at least putting some serious checks in place – on flights coming to America from nations where outbreaks of the infection are taking place? Our own Katie Pavlich, writing at Town Hall, covers the White House response.
Speaking from the White House Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dodged questions about why flights from countries with Ebola outbreaks are still being accepted to the United States. He did not detail any future plans to stop flights from those countries, or to track connections through Europe to those countries, despite the first case of Ebola showing up in the U.S. after a Liberian man went to a funeral in West Africa and then returned home to Dallas.
In his justification of the administration continuing to allow flights, Earnest argued that because people carrying Ebola don’t have symptoms when they get on planes, there isn’t a need to limit travel.
When I first read that, the immediate thought that came to mind was, we didn’t stop the guy from going to the water reservoir because he hadn’t actually taken the poison out of his pocket yet. The more details we see about how the guy in Texas who came down with Ebola might have contracted it, the less confidence people seem to have as to how “hard” it is to transmit the disease. Sure, it’s probably nowhere near as easily transmitted as influenza, but it might not be as much of a joke as some in the CDC are saying. Wouldn’t you want to lock down the most likely transmission points while it’s still (mostly) an ocean away?
Even if we’re not going to stop these flights entirely, it might be time to do more than simply ask people to check a couple of boxes on a form assuring us where they have or have not been. Would it be illegal (or even all that unreasonable) to mandate that travelers who pass through those countries go through a quarantine period and a blood test? Sure, it’s an inconvenience, but in terms of serving the greater good it’s probably not that much to ask.
But for now it seems that the White House will continue to treat this as a non-problem. I guess among the ranks of infectious diseases, Barack Obama’s staff sees Ebola as being on the jv team.