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Vulnerability to Ebola’s spread our fault

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Filed: Timeline

BY CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER : OCTOBER 17, 2014

In the face of a uniquely dangerous threat, we Americans have trouble recalibrating our traditional (and laudable) devotion to individual rights and civil liberties. That is the fundamental reason we've been so slow in getting serious about Ebola. Consider:

1. Privacy.

Pham's identity was initially withheld. In normal circumstances, privacy deserves absolute respect. But these are not normal circumstances. We're talking about a possible epidemic by an unseen pathogen that kills 70 percent of its victims. Contact tracing is the key to stopping it, we've been told. What faster way to alert anyone who might have had contact with Pham than releasing her name?

2. Quarantine.

When Duncan was first hospitalized, the CDC said it would locate his contacts and check regularly for symptoms. For the secondary and tertiary contacts this made sense. But not for those in the inner “concentric circle.” They had close contact with Duncan and were living in an apartment requiring massive decontamination. They should have been quarantined immediately.

Yet initially they were not. In fact, the word quarantine was not uttered by a single authority during the first news conference revealing Duncan's illness.

Quarantine is the ultimate violation of civil liberties. It's unfair. It's, well, un-American. But when an epidemic threatens, we do it because we must.

3. Evacuation.

Why have we been treating Ebola patients at their local hospital? This is insane. They will make mistakes — as we've now seen repeatedly at Texas Health Presbyterian.

Every Ebola patient should be evacuated to a specialized regional isolation center, such as the ones in Atlanta, Omaha or Bethesda.

Not because these facilities possess some unique treatment. There is no treatment. But they know how to prevent contagion.

4. Travel bans.

British Airways has already canceled all flights to the affected countries in West Africa. We haven't. A couple more cases of imported Ebola and we will.

Why are we waiting? The CDC argues that a travel ban would stop the flow of medical assistance to West Africa. This is silly. Simply make an exception for health care workers.

President Obama, in his messianic period, declared that choosing between security and liberty was a false choice. On the contrary. It is the eternal dilemma of every free society. Politics is the very process of finding some equilibrium between these two competing values.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Vulnerability-to-Ebola-s-spread-our-fault-5830549.php

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