How to keep Ebola out of Amer­ica

Rather than bring dis­ease-suf­fer­ers here, doc­tors should fight the scourge in Africa

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Ben S. Car­son

As the Ebola in­fec­tion rate and death toll con­tinue to rise rapidly on the African con­ti­nent, many of us have be­come com­pla­cent with the mea­sures we have taken to pro­tect Americans from this deadly dis­ease.

Other na­tions, such as Eng­land, have gone so far as to ban flights em­a­nat­ing from the af­fected re­gions of Africa. The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and var­i­ous in­fec­tious-dis­ease spe­cial­ists have done a yeo­man’s job in their ef­fort to pre­vent in­fected in­di­vid­u­als in our coun­try from con­tam­i­nat­ing oth­ers. They have put ex­cel­lent pro­to­cols in place that would vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee com­plete safety.

Un­for­tu­nately, all of those valiant ef­forts can­not pre­clude hu­man er­ror, which re­mains an ever-present dan­ger, re­gard­less of in­tel­lect.

For this rea­son, I and many oth­ers are not com­fort­able with the idea of bring­ing in­fected in­di­vid­u­als into our midst when we can read­ily treat them else­where. We can hap­pily re­ceive them back once the in­fec­tious dan­ger has passed.

When one does a log­i­cal ben­e­fit-to-risk anal­y­sis, it is clear that the worst things that could hap­pen by in­ten­tion­ally bring­ing this dan­ger­ous dis­ease to Amer­ica are far worse than the best things that could hap­pen. Some say if we bring in­fected in­di­vid­u­als here, it will ac­cel­er­ate re­search en­deav­ors and a po­ten­tial cure or ef­fec­tive vac­ci­na­tion. Oth­ers say not bring­ing in­fected cit­i­zens back demon­strates in­sen­si­tiv­ity to­ward won­der­ful peo­ple who risk their lives for oth­ers. I am sym­pa­thetic to th­ese ar­gu­ments, and if we did not have safer al­ter­na­tives, they would con­vince me.

Per­haps we should be con­cen­trat­ing on stop­ping the spread of Ebola in Africa and erad­i­cat­ing it from the earth. Like the war on ter­ror­ism, we should fight it else­where to de­crease the like­li­hood of need­ing to fight it here. African lives are ev­ery bit as valu­able as lives in Amer­ica or any­where else, and this hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis has enor­mous health im­pli­ca­tions for the whole world. If, as some of­fi­cials say, bring­ing in­fected in­di­vid­u­als back here ex­pe­dites the ac­qui­si­tion of knowl­edge, which will lead to find­ing a cure when all com­po­nents of the dis­ease can be more care­fully stud­ied, why not trans­port more re­searchers and fa­cil­i­ties to the heart of the epi­demic and dra­mat­i­cally ac­cel­er­ate the process?

I have no de­sire to in­duce panic, but we must re­al­ize that some viruses are known to un­dergo mu­ta­tions, which make them even more vir­u­lent. If the Ebola virus be­comes even more patho­logic, the en­su­ing panic and de­struc­tion of hu­man life could go far beyond what is cur­rently be­ing ac­knowl­edged. This means there is some ur­gency to get­ting the out­break in Africa un­der con­trol.

The point is, this is an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous dis­ease with the po­ten­tial to spread through­out sev­eral African coun­tries and, sub­se­quently, into other parts of the world, in­clud­ing the United States. Most crises prompt warn­ings which, if heeded and acted upon, can avert dis­as­ter. On the other hand, if ar­ro­gance and mis­takes char­ac­ter­ize the re­sponse, hor­ren­dous re­sults are likely to en­sue.

If we stop try­ing to prove that we are right — what­ever our opin­ions are — and in­stead con­cen­trate our ef­forts on halt­ing the spread of the dis­ease where it is con­cen­trated and sub­se­quently find a cure, per­haps we can avert need­less panic and death through­out Africa, Amer­ica and the world. Ben S. Car­son is au­thor of the new book “One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard” (Tyn­dale).

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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