Opinion by Jay B Gaskill
Most of us by now have read the account of a decent man, a good Samaritan who helped carry a sick pregnant woman to an African hospital, became infected with her Ebola, then traveled from Liberia to the USA, and in that trip he has potentially exposed hundreds of people to the deadly virus. Now he lies in a quarantined section of a Dallas hospital, in critical condition, close to death.
Texas authorities are reportedly mulling over the question whether to prosecute him.
At the same time, the trained medical personnel who examined this man and then sent him home; and the travel authorities who may or may not have been culpably careless; and the federal authorities who have yet to address the travel issues that a potential pandemic presents – all these players seemingly get a pass from accountability.
When the horse has left the barn, it is time to see to the other horses. Recriminations can wait.
Deadly disasters have a way of illuminating the dull, the slow and the careless for all to see. Think of a battery of searchlights suddenly lighting up to reveal railroad tracks filled with cavorting children, just as the charging locomotive has already wreaked deadly havoc a quarter mile away.
Former Vice President Cheney caught a lot of flak for being too vigilant about threats to our security. In his famous 1% doctrine, he was quoted as follows: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”
Let me restate the 1% doctrine in terms of the grave health threat posed by the Ebola virus: If there is a one percent chance that someone or some set of circumstances will constitute a contagious vector for spreading Ebola to the USA – or otherwise mutate it from epidemic to a pandemic, then we must treat that chance as if it were 50%.
Allow me to hazard two predictions:
[A] Ebola will prove to be more contagious than we have been led to expect.
[B] Commercial travel bans to and from Ebola hotbed destinations will only belatedly be imposed, if at all, with the result first world medical establishments, even in the USA, will overwhelmed.
I do NOT want to be right.
But the battery of searchlights shining on the American health care establishment has exposed a fragile system, slowed and dumbed down by embedded bureaucratic institutions, suffering from inadequate training at the intake level, and all too often characterized by a complacent mindset. This is a system (exceptions noted) that is ill-adapted to curb an epidemic like the one that now looms. On the whole, it is a still-broken system whose front-line representatives are too accustomed to delays and far too burdened by common, but non-fatal health issues.
We often use the term, Rude Awakening. This time, I fear it is to be a Brutal Awakening.
The Ebola crisis is a grave threat with implications for public policy that can’t be ignored. The chilling political thriller by the author (Jay B Gaskill’s Gabriel’s Stand ) is an all too plausible exercise in speculative fiction that has suddenly become disturbingly relevant to the issues surrounding Ebola threat. Readers are praising it as a satisfying a page turner, but also as an object lesson.
Gabriel’s Stand is now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble as a trade paperback; and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook and i-Pad.