Could the US Lose Control of Ebola?

Clearly the World Health Organization lost control of Ebola in West Africa.  Of course West Africa does not have the health care system we have in this country.  But we hardly covered ourselves in glory on the Dallas case.  And Dallas residents exposed to Ebola are now claiming discrimination based on the measures taken to isolate them.  Jesse Jackson, sensing the opportunity to get in the news, is going to Dallas to take up their cause.

Of course these Dallas residents are being discriminated against, but not on the basis of race, ethnicity, or other prohibited classification.  They are being discriminated against based on their exposure to one of the most lethal contagions on the planet.  It’s not fair that they are being discriminated against.  It’s not fair that they have been exposed to Ebola.  It’s not fair that people are dying in West Africa.  But what does fairness have to do with it?  Isolating contagion is an existential imperative for the rest of us.  It’s not clear that we any longer have the political will to continue doing what needs to be done.

Our health care system seems to have a handle on the one Ebola patient it has right now.  If any of those exposed to him come down with the disease, how well will we be able to handle those cases?  And if we widen the circle exposed to those people, as Jesse Jackson apparently proposes we do, how well will we handle those further cases?  How many people will be exposed to those in the first-tier wider circle?  In the second-tier wider circle?  In the third-tier?  How far can we stretch the system before it breaks?

Quarantine is a brutal concept.  It was implemented not because it was thought humane but because it was thought necessary to preserve others.  I don’t want to be quarantined.  I don’t want my family quarantined.  But what right do I have to resist and thereby put others at risk?

One final horrifying thought.  We have lost control of our southern border.  Some think that’s good, and some think it’s bad.  But is incontrovertible that it has brought into the US diseases such as scabies, lice, and chicken pox.  What will we do when Ebola gets into Mexico?  Mexico’s health care system will likely be quickly overwhelmed.  Thousands more will stream north, some to escape the disease and some to seek treatment.  If there’s one think we know for sure, we do not have a system place to stop them.  Will our health care system be able to deal with that?  Surely not.  Then what happens?  How will we stop Ebola from sweeping through the general population uncontrolled?

At this point, I don’t know what we could possibly do.


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