Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*I’m no alarmist, but it should be evident to anyone who’s been paying attention that the Center for Disease Control is behind the curve when it comes to having all the information needed to effectively fight the Ebola virus in the United States.

There’s conflicting information about how Ebola is transmitted from one person to the next, the CDC isn’t sure how long it takes for an infected person to show signs of the virus in their system or what symptoms are clear indicators of an Ebola infection.

And once you get it, there’s no known cure. Whether you live through it or die from it is a toss-up.

For an agency with more questions than answers about Ebola, the CDC is too quick to give quarantined people a clean bill of health.

And those who contracted the virus – including the pet dog – are being allowed back home too soon without knowing the possible long-term effects on a person’s (or pet’s) internal organs or immune system.

And these are only a few observations from my non medically trained, common sense point of view.

Ever since two of the nurses caring for Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas during his final days contracted the deadly strain, there is growing concern about who can get it and who can’t. It seems Nina Pham, the nurse who was part of Duncan’s ICU team after his diagnosis, never was exposed to any of his bodily fluids, which the CDC insists is the only way to contract the virus. Pham’s primary contact with Duncan was to transport him from one area of the hospital to another. So how did she get it? Yet other nurses who helped comfort Duncan in his last days and were exposed to his sweat, vomit and bloody diarrhea (as a result of dehydration and organ failure) have shown no signs of contracting the infection.

And that’s where the 21-day quarantine comes in. Those who were in physical contact with Duncan before and after he was diagnosed with Ebola during his stay in Dallas have had to be quarantined. So far everybody has passed the 21-day quarantine. But some healthcare officials say 21 days might not be long enough. Depending on the strength of their immune system, someone could take as long as 42 days to contract Ebola. And that temperature screening everybody must pass in order to leave west Africa or before being allowed into the United States…, some say that’s a waste of time and money. For one thing everybody doesn’t come down with a fever before getting sick. And if they do, by the time the fever is linked to Ebola it’s possible that sick person already could have infected other people. That’s how Duncan was able to leave Liberia and how Dallas nurse Amber Vinson was allowed (by the CDC) on a commercial airliner from Cleveland back to Dallas despite having Ebola in their systems. Neither of them showed signs of having a fever, according to CDC standards.

I just did a Google search of Ebola symptoms. On the list are red eyes, raised rash, stomach pain and bleeding from all orifices. A fever isn’t on this particular list. The list of symptoms are every-changing.

While the CDC information says Ebola is contracted only through direct contact with body fluids of an infected person, that is in direct conflict with how Pham contracted Ebola, as she never was in contact with Duncan’s body fluids. At least that’s how it was reported. Maybe the virus is transmitted through the air much like the flu. Or perhaps, like a germ, the virus can live on commonly used surfaces for an extended amount of time. Maybe the CDC knows this and is hesitant to confirm it. Maybe the agency isn’t connecting the common sense dots.

That’s why it’s important for the Dallas nurses who were in close contact with Duncan but haven’t been diagnosed yet and Kaci Hickox, the Maine nurse who returned from West Africa last week, to be quarantined or under observation at the very least for an extended amount of time beyond 21 days. Yes, we appreciate their work and sacrifice as healthcare professionals. Sure it’s inconvenient to put their lives on hold. But they should err on the side of caution, if not for the sake of everyone they unknowingly could infect, for the sake of their own health and that of their loved ones.

If Ebola is as dangerous as international and national healthcare officials declare it to be, there’s no way it would affect a cluster of people as it has and then poof, disappear without a trace. But that’s what the federal government would have us believe by not proving adequate followup information.

Until the CDC comes up with a better plan of attack the United States should consider a moratorium on all flights leaving west Africa. Ghana stopped allowing flights into its airports from other west African countries three months ago. That government knows what the United States has yet to realize: Preparedness is not an event, but a process.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions or for speaking inquiries.