Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Seeking clarity about Ebola? Good luck getting past 'trust us'


Are you confused about the recent outbreak of Ebola? Worried? Unsure what to believe?

Well, dear reader, you are in luck. We are pleased today to bring you “In the News,” in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Let’s begin with the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, Sept. 30 vintage . How confident would you say you are that U.S. health authorities can keep Ebola from spreading beyond its first U.S. documented case in Dallas, Texas?

“I have no doubt that we will control this importation or case of Ebola so it does not spread widely in this country.”

That’s good to hear. And how many individuals may have been exposed to the patient?

“I think handful is the right characterization.”

Excellent. Now we turn to Tom Frieden, Oct. 2 vintage . Is “handful” still the right estimate?

“At this point the teams on the ground … are assessing about 100 people to determine whether or not they have had contact.”

Oh. We see. Well, let’s move on to officials with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where this individual was treated. With us is hospital epidemiologist Edward Goodman, Sept. 30 vintage . How prepared would you say your hospital was to deal with a case of Ebola?

“Ironically enough in the week before this patient presented, we had a meeting of all the stakeholders that might be involved in the care of such a patient. Because of that we were well-prepared to deal with this crisis.”

Very good. And now we have the chief clinical officer for the non-profit company that runs the hospital, Daniel Varga, Oct. 15 vintage . Do you believe the hospital’s preparation showed in its treatment of the patient?

“Unfortunately … despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes. We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry.”

Yes, we suppose so. What about the nurse who treated the patient, then flew between Dallas and Cleveland, and a day after returning showed symptoms of Ebola. What is the CDC’s position on her traveling, Tom Frieden of Oct. 15 ?

“She should not have traveled on a commercial airline.”

So it seems. And what about the CDC spokesperson quoted in news reports on Oct. 15 ? Anything to add?

“(The nurse) was not told that she could not fly.”

Uh-huh. And why, Dr. Frieden of Oct. 15 , shouldn’t someone exposed to Ebola travel by plane or, say, a public bus?

“You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.”

It sounds like the people on the nurse’s plane should be concerned.

“(T)he answer is no. … I don’t think that changes the level of risk of people around her.”

Ah. Mmmm. Well.

Dear reader, it seems we may not be able to bring you clarity from public health officials about the Ebola outbreak. So for our last question, we turn to you:

The president canceled travel plans to hold cabinet meetings about Ebola. Two schools in Ohio closed even though no one in their community so much as glimpsed the sick nurse. In light of what we’re hearing from the CDC, is it any surprise the overarching message of “trust us” isn’t being heeded?


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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.