From the campaign of Dr. Michael MacFarlane, Congressional candidate for Kentucky's 3rd district. I share Dr. MacFarlane's concerns (though his take is informed by him being a medical doctor). My C-J column this week also addresses the administration's response to Ebola.
Yesterday, Dr. Macfarlane wrote a thoughtful and timely Op-Ed piece in the wake of breaking news from Dallas, TX. The Courier Journal has responded this morning that they will not run any more pieces from Dr. Macfarlane before the election. Just to clarify, Dr. Macfarlane had only one article published by the Courier Journal in June. This is the letter to the editor that you will not see published.
Ebola virus and politics
Each new Ebola infection triggers an elaborate and expensive protocol of contact screenings and monitoring of hundreds of potential people in addition to decontamination procedures by hazardous material professionals. Routine care at a hospital with infected patients will be impaired. Texas Presbyterian has temporarily halted new emergency room admissions. It should be apparent that the situation could easily become overwhelming if more cases are encountered. We are presently out of the new experimental drug ZMapp, which has already been credited in saving the lives of other healthcare workers. The medication is a biologic of monoclonal antibodies and it takes time to produce.
Unfortunately, the Ebola topic has become a part of the political debate for the upcoming midterm elections. Is the federal government doing all that is necessary to prevent a major out break in the United States? Presently the disease is endemic only in a few West African nations where presently over 4,000 have already died.
The Federal response at this time is to set up screening facilities at major airports in the U.S. for travelers who have already entered the country. Each passenger will need to be evaluated based on their most recent travel destinations, undergo a mini-medical examination, and then have a decision made whether or not to allow them entry, begin further monitoring, a quarantine or hospitalization. I do not envy anyone who must make that call. Public health is at stake.
Common sense on the other hand would suggest treating such a deadly disease at its source rather than bringing it into the US. Common sense would also suggest curtailing unnecessary travel to and from these endemic countries temporarily, at least until we have more immunoglobulin and better procedures in place to ensure infected individuals do not get on planes. To be clear, travel bans would not restrict aid and humanitarian work in endemic countries or travel for medical professionals who are working to stop a pandemic at its source. We need a common sense approach and we need it quick.
Unfortunately common sense seems to be lacking in our government at every level. Fortunately for us, the people still have it and will soon weigh in.
Michael Macfarlane, M.D.
Candidate for KY 3rd Congressional District