Finally, a little good news to share with Legal Insurrection readers about epidemics.
It looks like we’re declaring victory on our “War with Ebola”.
Recall that after after outrage at this administration’s “Keystone Cop” style response to America’s first Ebola patient, President Obama appointed political operative Ron Klain as Ebola Czar.
He was slated to leave office in March, but now that date has been pushed up:
Ron Klain, the Obama administration’s point man in the fight against the Ebola virus, will leave the administration on February just shy of three months after he stepped in to coordinate the government’s response to the crisis at home and abroad.
In an interview on “Face the Nation” in late December, Klain said that the American people should be “proud” of the work done by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and praised the generosity of Americans who had traveled to West Africa to help provide medical treatment and other services.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday that the fight against the disease had moved to a “second phase” focused on ending the epidemic rather than slowing transmission. There were fewer than 100 new confirmed cases last week in the three hardest-hit countries since the end of June 2014.
It is standard practice of political operatives to take modestly good news about a small battle and declare outright victory in a war. So, let’s take a look at the number the World Health Organization has reported. While the number of cases on one West African region has fallen, there are troubles elsewhere on the continent:
…But Guinea reported 30 confirmed cases in the latest week, up from 20 in the previous week. The epidemic is also still spreading geographically there, with a first confirmed case in Guinea’s Mali prefecture bordering Senegal, which reopened its border with Guinea on Monday.
A resurgence of the virus in Guinea, where the outbreak began, would threaten President Alpha Conde’s goal of eradicating Ebola from the country by early March.
“It is too early to declare a success or a deadline for success,” Dr. Peter Salama, global Ebola emergency coordinator for the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told a news briefing.
Other parts of the globe are still affected, too. In my home state, two patients were recently tested for Ebloa — happily, the tests came back negative. Also, a British military healthcare worker who suffered a needlestick injury while treating an Ebola patient has been evacuated to London.
Intriguingly, a group of poverty experts and economic gurus just published an opinion piece in The New York Times that questioned the “bad data” related to the epidemic, claiming it ginned up irrational fears.
…Misleading reports, speculation and poor projections from international agencies, government ministries and the media about the Ebola outbreak exacerbated the problem. The fear that was spread by the dramatic reports that accentuated the negative, undermined confidence, made it harder to encourage people to seek care, and misdirected attention away from Sierra Leone’s urban areas, where data suggest the economic effects of Ebola have been concentrated.
…Why were projections so bad? Partly because it is hard to collect good data in a crisis. But also, we believe, because dramatic headlines make for a better story. Agencies face asymmetric incentives: They are likely to face more criticism for underestimating rather than overestimating the impact of an emergency. As they scramble to raise funding for a crisis in a world grown weary of alarm calls, the temptation is to focus on the upper range of plausible estimates.
While it is true that the disease may not be as vicious a killer as originally reported, it is still causing death and people are still getting infected…and Americans those visiting this country are still being exposed to the virus.
So, is it too cynical to question the timing of this particular report, as the administration is poised to declare another victory?
If Klain gets bored at is new private sector gig as president of Case Holdings, perhaps he can get appointed as Measles Czar. With cases now breaking out in New York and Arizona is tracking 1000 potential infections that lead to the gates of the Super Bowl, it looks like we may need one.DONATE
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