Ebola is something happening over there – but in short order it could be happening here. This outbreak is far bigger than any before, and that makes one wonder, what’s different now? Is it happening in a part of Africa that’s more hospitable to its spread, or has the virus changed?
It’s not hard to imagine a traveler infected with Ebola arriving at a U.S. airport. The question then is how quickly can that person be identified and prevented from infecting others? The nation has an early warning system to detect infectious disease that’s become far more elaborate as a result of September 11, probably the only thing good to come out of that event.
New York City possesses a particularly sophisticated early-warning system. An important part of these detection system is the screening of symptoms of patients going to hospital emergency rooms. Some hospitals in New York are isolating patients with Ebola-like symptoms as a precaution. None are believed to be infected. Kennedy Airport, the city’s main arrival site for international travelers has isolation rooms for exactly this purpose.
Helping to make the city’s system even better was the 2003 SARS outbreak in which much was learned about how to handle international outbreaks with potential for rapid spread, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett told WNYC news.
No one has a crystal ball to see what happens next. By September we may have moved on to other concerns. On the other hand, Ebola could arrive, unidentified. And in that case we could have more immediate concerns than lawsuits against the President, young refugees crossing into the U.S., or even rockets being fired in Gaza and Israel.
Here are links to some quick and easily readable information on Ebola:
WNYC: Commissioner’s five Ebola takeaways.
Daily News: Health Commissioner says NYC prepared to rapidly identify Ebola.
Popular Mechanics: Why this is the worst Ebola outbreak yet.
NYC Department of Health: Ebola basics.
Here’s a link to a series of stories on Ebola from The New York Times.