September 19, 2020

Ebola is ‘jerking us back to the 19th century’


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ebola-thomas-eric-duncanBy Erin Fuchs From Business Insider

Americans being quarantined for Ebola experience a terror and isolation that recalls long-past epidemics like cholera, typhus, and the bubonic plague, an expert on the history of medicine told The New York Times.

“Ebola is jerking us back to the 19th century,” Dr. Howard Markel told The Times. “It’s terrible. It’s isolating. It’s scary. You’re not connecting with other human beings, and you are fearful of a microbiologic time bomb ticking inside you.”

Terrifyingly, life under quarantine for possible exposure to Ebola is becoming a new reality for many Americans. This week, officials in Texas, where an Ebola patient died, said 100 healthcare workers had agreed to a voluntary quarantine for 21 days. Meanwhile, the four people who shared an apartment with that man, Thomas Eric Duncan, have been forced to remain quarantined under armed guard.

The New York Times paints a devastating picture of what it’s like to be cooped up under such conditions. From The Times:

It has been particularly wrenching for Louise Troh, 54, Mr. Duncan’s girlfriend, who has had to mourn his passing in isolation. When her pastor, the Rev. George Mason, arrived to break the news of Mr. Duncan’s death and she collapsed to the floor in tears, he could not console her with a hug. On his regular visits to the house, he stands three feet away and signals his affection by crossing his arms in an X over his chest.

Quarantine can be traumatic even for those who aren’t likely to have the disease. A missionary named Allen Mann quarantined himself voluntarily for three weeks in his home of Payson, Arizona after traveling to — even though there was little risk he had the disease, according to The Times. But rumors began to circulate that he had the disease. A commentator on a news site suggested he burn his house down.

“People had this lynch-mob mentality,” Mann told The Times.

The panic in Payson does seem eerily reminiscent of the panic that ensued amid the spread of the bubonic plague, or Black Death, in the 14th century. Here’s a description from the History Channel of the atmosphere in Europe during the plague:

In a panic, healthy people did all they could to avoid the sick. Doctors refused to see patients; priests refused to administer last rites. Shopkeepers closed stores … And many people, desperate to save themselves, even abandoned their sick and dying loved ones.

Luckily, modern-day Americans can arm themselves with more knowledge than Europeans had back in the day about how disease is spread and how to contain it. There will always be paranoia and panic, but hopefully we won’t be abandoning our loved ones any time soon.

IMAGE: Ebola Thomas Eric Duncan REUTERS/Jim Young

Reverend Jesse Jackson (R) puts his arm around Josephus Weeks, the nephew of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, in Dallas, Texas October 7, 2014.

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Obama administration resists Ebola travel ban even as other nations restrict entry

By Valerie Richardson From The Washington Times

More than two dozen countries in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere have instituted Ebola-related travel bans, but public health officials continued to insist Sunday that entry restrictions would do little to help prevent an outbreak on U.S. soil.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, maintained that a travel ban would have “downsides” as he made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows.

“The strongest argument against it is that when people are coming into the country, you know exactly [and] you can track them,” Dr. Fauci said on Fox News Sunday. “If you say, ‘Nobody comes in from , Liberia or ,’ there are so many other ways to get into the country. You can go to one of the other countries and then get back in. So when they come in from a place where you know you can track them, you know [where they are].”

Rep. Tim Murphy, the Pennsylvania Republican who helped lead an oversight hearing Thursday on the Ebola outbreak, argued that a travel restriction was needed to “protect and defend the people of the United States.”

“The president has sealed off Israel in the past. We’ve sealed off other areas temporarily. We can have travel restrictions until we get the rest right, and the rest is not right,” Mr. Murphy said on Fox News Sunday. “Assumptions that they have — for example, that it will lead to the collapse of the economy in Africa — I don’t agree with.”

The International SOS website reports that 28 countries have implemented entry restrictions on those with visas from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — and, in some cases, Nigeria. Most of the travel bans are within Africa, but other countries with restrictions include several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica, as well as Belize and Guyana.

The Ivory Coast has closed its land borders but recently lifted its prohibition on passenger flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to International SOS.

Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health said a travel ban would “seriously impact our ability to get people in and out of that area.”

“If you’re prepared today to give us hundreds of military planes that will fly in and out at will when we need them to move not only material but people, then I’ll say, ‘Maybe we ought to reconsider this,’” said Dr. Osterholm. “But I don’t see anyone in Congress telling us today that we’re going to get hundreds of military planes.”

Mr. Murphy, a member of the Republican Doctors Caucus, said he and other lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to provide Congress with an authorization request for any additional support.

“I’ve already asked Dr. [Tom] Frieden, and I’ve sent a letter to President Obama saying, ‘Tell us what Congress needs to authorize.’ We’re sending thousands of troops over there through ships [and] planes,” Mr. Murphy said. “We could do a lot here. The ability of the U.S. military to move goods and supplies is pretty massive. We all want to stop Ebola in Africa, but we also don’t want it to come here.”

A number of lawmakers have called for a halt on travel from those coming from nations, but Mr. Obama said Saturday that such a ban “could actually make the situation worse.”

IMAGE: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, maintained that an Ebola-related travel ban would have “downsides” as he made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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