By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
While there are no other known positive cases of people in the U.S. contracting Ebola, outside of Liberian National Thomas Eric Duncan, who is now in isolation in Dallas, it is a fact that Ebola is already here. This fact cannot be ignored, and it should not be played down too much if at all. People should be concerned. They should not panic unnecessarily but they should have a greater awareness of reality and take reasonable precautions in their travel plans and social habits.
The CDC is attempting to track and vet every person that Mr. Duncan came in contact with since his arrival into the U.S. They believe that number to be 114 others. Which means that potentially, there are 114 cases but more realistically, it should not surprise us if there are at least a few more. Duncan remains in critical condition.
Already five Americans have been reported to have returned from West Africa with the Ebola virus in search of treatment.
Dr. Richard Sacra was just rushed to the hospital this weekend after falling ill. Sacra is counted as one of the few survivors from Ebola using experimental medical treatments and blood transfers. Sunday night he tested negative and is being removed from isolation again.
An American freelance cameraman named Ashoka Mukpo has flown back to the states for medical treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, after contracting the disease in Africa. He is scheduled to arrive at the hospital tomorrow morning.
Dr. Kent Brantly was the original Ebola survivor who was given the experimental treatments using the drug ZMapp and discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
A West African boy was just screened at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for possibly contracting Ebola. The results could take 48 hours.
Other scares and cases are highly likely as many more U.S. doctors and humanitarian workers reported sick are coming back to America. Banning air travel to and from West Africa may become mandatory in the short term as America’s sick return and as some in West Africa may attempt to escape conditions, not know they have the disease or even seek advanced treatments that only a small number of states like Canada or America can provide. After all, the deadly contagion is just one flight away. Only health professionals and volunteers should be permitted to go on condition that they might not be able to return if infected.
Right now more than 3,300 have died from Ebola since start of the spring epidemic. There could be 20,000 infected by November in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC estimated that there could be 1.4 million infected by January. It has a mortality rate of around 50 percent and no reliable cure, only experimentation (promising, but limited; safe? unknown?).
What U.S. health officials are saying is that they do not believe that anyone else has the virus up to this point and that they do not believe it is spreading. Nevertheless, our nation must act as there was an outbreak of unknown proportion and not just be prepared to defend against the virus but prepared to defeat it as well. This is not the CDC responsibility but American policy makers. Of course, it requires the the understanding, the vigilance and the alacrity of all Americans and all agencies and departments to deal with this threat.
Dr. Brantly saw firsthand the lacking global effort to fight Ebola in Africa. He criticized the World Health Organization’s response to the outbreak in West Africa as ‘slow.’ The tragedy would be to have the same thing happen here domestically within the U.S.
Will America be too slow to take serious action and respond in appropriate measure during the growing global Ebola epidemic as well?