Ebola gaffes fuel quarantine questions

Left in place were federal quarantine rules in some cases more than 100 years old, a situation that has some worried that the government lacks the proper legal power to restrict the travel of infected passengers and take all necessary measures to limit the spread of Ebola…

Yet the highly-publicized slip-ups and unfounded assurances given in the federal Ebola response could exacerbate weaknesses in the current quarantine regime. By undermining trust in the system, the failures make it more likely that someone potentially exposed to Ebola might refuse to abide by the suggestions of doctors. That would tee up the kind of test of the government’s quarantine powers that some experts are concerned about.

If the Bush-era proposals had been enacted, they might have made it easier for the Centers for Disease Control to do the kind of passenger notification the agency is now trying to do in the wake of the stricken nurse’s flight. Speeding and easing the identification of passengers who faced exposure and informing them of what precautions to take could limit spread of the disease.