Bravo to Dr. Craig Spencer and other brave people on the frontline of fighting EBOLA in West Africa — still he should have been under mandatory monitoring for 21 days.
We called for such a measure in an editorial on October 1.
Fighting Ebola in West Africa is risky business and takes much courage and dedication. There was a recent article in The Wall Street Journal about the moral dilemma faced by Dr. James Sirleaf the son of Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — he is a doctor in Albany, Ga. Many Liberians have been critical of him because he’s not in Liberia on the frontline.
Dr. Spencer, who came back from Guinea on October 17, was diagnosed yesterday in New York with Ebola. He is now being treated at Bellevue Hospital Center. The 33-year-old had worked with Doctors Without Borders fighting Ebola.
After Texas Health Presbyterian handled the case of the Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan in a negligent, reckless, and incompetent manner –we anticipated the kind of problem a traveler like Dr. Spencer could present and in our October 1 Black Star News Editorial, we wrote, in part:
“The Ebola symptoms typically start within two days to 21 days after a person has been exposed to the virus. One possible measure is to have a medical monitoring period of at least three weeks from the time a traveler from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea gets her or his visa approved to the day they actually board a flight. Of course there is the possibility that the person may have been exposed just before the end of the 21 day period and may show the symptoms within a few days after they travel. So in order to minimize this risk, persons from the at-risk countries would also have to be medically monitored by the healthcare system once they reach the country of destination for another 21 days.”
We also wrote: “And, while imposing special monitoring procedures for Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea may sound intrusive, not to take any effective measures to prevent the spread of the disease would be unconscionable and reckless. Taking no action would also spark stigmatization of Africans generally knowing how ignorant popular corporate media can be.”
Thomas Eric Duncan died in Texas on October 8. Because of Texas Health Presbyterian’s incompetence, at least two nurses who helped Duncan have been infected. Scores of people who may have been in contact with the second nurse, when the CDC told her it was okay to travel from Dallas to Cleveland, OH, are being monitored.
In New York City, Dr. Spencer had been out and about since his return, before he became symptomatic, which was reportedly yesterday; this is also the stage at which a patient can infect others. The authorities are scrambling to retrace all his possible contacts as precaution. Dr. Spencer’s girlfriend has been quarantined and his apartment sealed.
On October 24, the U.S. announced measures to monitor arrivals from the most Ebola-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
The measures announced by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson includes the requirement that arrivals from these countries land only at five designated airports around the country that have enhanced screening capabilities: New York’s JFK; Newark; Dulles; Atlanta; and, Chicago.
But the post-arrival actions, once admitted into the country, don’t seem to be clear.
Secretary Johnson’s statement reads, “We currently have in place measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days.”
This does not translate into 21-days of mandatory monitoring upon arrival in the U.S. as we suggested in our October 1 editorial. Such a requirement could have prevented Dr. Spencer from moving around New York City, potentially putting others at risk.
The three-weeks mandatory post-arrival monitoring for people coming from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea must be imposed today.