The Anti-Science Party And Ebola Politics

“I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear and, most frightening, quarantine.”

Kaci Hickox, nurse for Doctors Without Borders

Much of the Republican Party is at war with science, as its last political platform and other sources of Republican opinions would indicate. Consider:

♦ A majority of Republicans believe global warming is a hoax, therefore drill, baby, drill.

♦ The 2012 GOP platform expressly opposes embryonic stem cell research because, as many conservatives believe, embryos should be constitutionally protected people.

♦ That also means, of course, that the creation of surplus embryos used for in vitro fertilization is a no-no.

♦ Many religious conservatives falsely believe that IUDs and emergency contraception pills are abortifacients and, thus, baby-killers.

♦ Anti-choice Republicans also claim that abortion is more dangerous than childbirth, which is not only not true but its opposite is overwhelmingly true.

♦ A vast majority of white evangelical Republicans don’t believe in evolution and many want to teach a version of creationism in science classrooms.

So, because he wants to be his party’s presidential candidate in 2016, it should come as no surprise that Chris Christie is the first Republican governor in the country to do something utterly anti-scientific, if politically popular, regarding Ebola.

Not only did Christie forcibly quarantine Ebola-fighting super-nurse Kaci Hickox in a tent outside a hospital in New Jersey, but after receiving some fairly intense criticism from medical and health professionals, he actually defended his actions by appealing not to other health professionals in his state or elsewhere, but to the American people, who have been scared out of their wits by people like Chris Christie:

The American public believes this is common sense and we’re not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change.

It doesn’t matter that Christie and his policy of forcibly quarantining someone without symptoms of Ebola infection lacks any scientific or medical justification. Nor does it matter that forcibly quarantining Ebola-fighters might make it more difficult to fighkaci hickoxt the virus at its source in West Africa. What matters is that he has a frightened public behind him.

But this would be a great time for Christie to demonstrate his much-touted leadership skills and lead his party, and the American people, away from fear and misconceptions about the transmissibility of Ebola. Instead, he feeds those fears and, worse, feeds off those fears.

He ought to be ashamed of himself. But he won’t be, obviously. Maybe some journalist should shame him by asking him whether he would have ordered Kaci Hickox, who was not sick and did not test positive for Ebola, shot and killed should she have tried to leave that tent.




  1. ansonburlingame

     /  October 28, 2014

    Here we go again, Duane,

    Many people fear Ebola, some irrationally. Just the fact that the first man with Ebola arrived in America caused concern. But it really went viral when two health care workers came down with Ebola after treating him. Then the doctor in NYC, a man that “wandered the streets” unknown and unchecked until ………

    When things like this happen many people look to government to fix the problem and not require or even suggest personal responsibility as a matter of priority. Release even a small amount of radioactive material into the environment and everyone goes “nuts” wanting government to fix it. Recall the observations I made several years ago during the Japanese nuclear crisis, a crisis 5,000 miles away, but we had about 13 different government Emergency Operations Centers manned up for a few weeks and people worried about …… in America.

    Thus far and probably will continue, the only people infected in America by Ebola are health care workers. Obviously THEY, each one, made some mistake or multiple mistakes and thus contracted Ebola. Yet once a possibility of becoming infected is noted a NURSE screams about “inhumane” quarintine and demands release.

    Any professional health care worker should know full well that even in this age of modern medicine quarintine is needed when ……….., effective quarintine, which is unpleasant but needed until we understand that disease much better and know how to really prevent it.

    The doctor in NYC KNEW he had had contact, close contact with Ebola patients. He “thought” he had done everything correctly and assumed he did not have the virus. But he did have the virus. Is that stupidity, ignorance, arrogance, or what on his part I ask. He certainly failed to protect his girl friend and maybe a few others, and he fed public concern by not taking action on his own to protect everyone until he was sure he was “clean”.

    As I have written before, if I had any question at all right now if I had come into contact with someone with Ebola, I would take strong action to protect my wife and family AND the general public until I was SURE I was “clean”.

    When dealing with really dangerous, not fully understood and “invisible” substances, anyone must be sure they are not infected or “dangerous” themselves before going back out into the public.

    But instead we have multiple learned men emphasizing how hard it is to catch Ebola and the President appointing a Czar to deal with the matter politically, not technically and as a perceived public emergency, which doctors say it is not. Well if it is not an emergency, why have now three health care workers failed to protect themselves you might ask.

    I do know this. If Janet was a nurse and had treated an Ebola patient, I would take the dogs and go live with her son for 21 days and she would demand I do so as well. Americans are fearful of the unknown or not well understood but fail to consider personal responsibility and expect government to fix things and not inconvience anyone in doing so.

    As for trained professional to jump into the breach to help others, of course they should do so. If a large truck with radioactive material turned over on I44 I would be willing to jump right into the middle of it, if asked. But before I left the scene of the accident or contact with any injured people I would be damned sure I was “clean” before returning to ……..

    Hoping you are “safe” or “clean” or assuming such is the case is wrong. Being sure is the only acceptable way to contain such things, personal inconvience be damned. Thus far three professionals made mistakes. Others may well show up as well, maybe. What should THEY be doing as a matter of personal responsibity, I ask. And if they won’t do it, well what would you suggest?



    • Let’s establish some facts related to what you posted here.

      1. The nurse was not sick and therefore not in danger of infecting anyone, especially in the sort of casual contact one would have in public. Therefore she should not have been essentially incarcerated for being a threat to the public health. It would have been a different story if she had a real fever, as opposed to a bogus fever reported by a worker who took her temperature with an imprecise forehead scanner. When she first saw a doctor, as she said, he checked her temperature with both an oral thermometer and the forehead scanner. It was normal on the precise one and 101 on the imprecise one. She was flush from being upset and the scanner was apparently reading her external and not her internal temperature. She should have been released at that point.

      2. The doctor in New York, Craig Spencer, did not, as you wrote, assume “he did not have the virus.” How do you think he found out he had a slight temperature (misreported by a state agency of 103 when it was really 100.3) in the first place? He was checking himself twice a day and knew he could not infect others while he was asymptomatic.

      3. Further, when he went out in public he was “clean.” For God’s sake, Anson, the man is a doctor who just risked his life treating Ebola patients in Africa. Why would he, to use your suggestion, stupidly or ignorantly or arrogantly expose Americans, including his girlfriend, to the infectious disease? Think about that.

      4. You wrote, “Well if it is not an emergency, why have now three health care workers failed to protect themselves you might ask.” It is not an emergency in the United States. It is an emergency in West Africa. As far as failing to protect themselves, human beings, no matter how cautious they might think they are, are still subject to messing up procedures designed to keep them safe. As CDC director Frieden has said many times, it not easy to take off all the protective gear and do it right.

      5. Comparing Ebola to exposure to radioactivity is, well, ridiculous. You have to come into contact with bodily fluids to catch Ebola. Look at how many people, dozens of them including close family members who were shut up in the same apartment with him for days, who had contact with Thomas Duncan and were never infected.

      6. Using your logic, and the logic of Chris Christie and even of some Democrats, anyone who has ever been in the vicinity of an Ebola patient or in the vicinity of someone who has treated an Ebola patient (same logic applies), either here or in West Africa, should be quarantined, either by force or voluntarily. That would amount to countless people, Anson. It’s ridiculous on its face, not to mention impractical and not to mention it would jeopardize the fight against Ebola by dedicated healthcare workers travelling to West Africa.

      7. As just a matter of squashing public fear about the disease, I would daily reemphasize that there is exactly ZERO chance of there being a widespread outbreak of Ebola in the United States. ZERO. I would also constantly tell them how hard it is to catch Ebola. Over and over again I would tell the public they have nothing to fear from people who have treated others with the disease, so long as those others are not symptomatic. And if I were a healthcare worker who had treated someone in the late stages of the disease—when it is most contagious—I would voluntarily isolate myself, if only to get away from all the hysteria and enjoy a paid vacation. Bottom line is that this is a very nasty virus, but it is, thankfully, fairly difficult to catch.

      8. Finally, Ebola is mutating. There is some evidence that the “viral load” in the blood of Ebola victims is increasing, making people potentially more contagious. It’s not unthinkable that safety protocols and infection-fighting measures will need to be modified in the future. For now, though, and in the foreseeable future, experts know how to fight this disease and panic is unnecessary. We need to trust the science. And politicians exploiting the issue for personal gain is shameful and ought to be condemned by both parties. Sadly, one party is using the fear of Ebola as an electoral advantage. I think you know which party that is.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  October 29, 2014

    As expected, containing Ebola is now a political issue. “You (government) cannot incarcerate me without scientific proof that I have Ebola” seems to be the point.

    I watched Anderson Cooper on CNN interview a man, I forget where, that was ordered into quarintine in his home and an armed guard stationed at his door to ensure compliance. The man was outraged and so was Cooper. “I demand judicial review” was one point made by the man. “You have been tested twice and don’t have Ebola” was an exact quote from Cooper. Hmmm?

    You demand that science govern such matters. I agree, if science can provide the answers, which I suggest it cannot, yet, in terms of Ebola. Science has yet to find a way to PROVE that one does not have Ebola until 21 days elapse after contact with bodily fluids from a disease carrying patient or human. One sneeze on an airplane is enough to infect someone within “sneezing distance” once the virus becomes “viral” in the infected human.

    Three H/C workers in or from America have thus far been, first infected (as a result of inadequate control of preventing contact with bodily fluids), and later became capable of infecting others. There is no medical test yet available to determine if they have been infected, but not yet, maybe, incapable of infecting others. I submit science can yet determine when one has been infected (until they show symptoms) nor can science yet say at what point, exactly, they can become “infecting”.

    Is a temperature over 103 degrees the point of demarcation, between being infected (with an “invisible virus”) and becoming “infecting”? Or must that temperature be observed AND vomiting happening at the same time, or does it take vomiting and other waste actions by the body as well. What about a temperature of 102 degrees and sneezing? Does that point to the demarcation between infected and “infecting”. How about a temperature of 100 degrees and just sneezing?

    I trust you agree that science does not yet know how to prevent contracting the disease, a sure fire vacine for example, etc. All we know is do not allow ANY contact with bodily fluids from “infecting” patients with Ebola. Have you considered what it takes to be SURE, zero error possibility, to prevent contact with bodily fluids? Three trained and professional HC workers thought they had done enough, but ……..

    Back to Cooper and the man. You (I) have been tested twice and results show you do not have Ebola was the essence of what both were claiming. I give that a “whooper” falsehood. The man has been tested, twice, and shows no signs of having Ebola YET is the far more correct answer. Science is not yet ready to claim “NO Ebola” in his body, definitively. It can only say so far he does not have Ebola that we can detect, yet. But then science must add, “and we must wait the full 21 days to be sure”.

    The Army is taking the safe approach I hope you would agree. Quarintine all military personnel for 21 days after possible contact with an “infecting” human is now the “policy”. Are those men and women being treated inhumanely?

    If the Army considers such action to be safe and thus requried, why should not HC workers take the same actions?

    Finally, you state clearly there is a ZERO possibility of an Ebola epidemic in America, in your view. I say such a claim is unscientific so far.

    Go read TIME’s latest edition and see a clear presentation of how CDC made errors, along with other HC organizations. Those were not political errors, they were clear errors of failure to contain the disease, initially and still maybe “not quite” for now.

    No I do not call for panic, etc. The disease is manageable, in America, and maybe in West Africa someday. STRONG efforts to contain the virus, development of prevention from contracting the virus and effective treatment for ALL that show symptoms of the disease will come, later. But for now the only way to ensure no epidemic in America is “overkill” (out of a sense of extreme caution) in containment efforts, until ………

    That is not a political view. It is a cautious view based on the best science that I can understand, so far.

    Now go take a flight in America; sit next to someone that sneezes. Would you ask them if they have a fever? What if they say yes, but it is just the flu. How would you feel in such a situation today?

    Finally, do you believe Joplin is ready now to deal with an “infecting” or even an infected by not yet “infecting” patient, just one, today? I believe it was Reagan that said “trust but verify” in dangerous matters. Frankly, one patient in Freeman right now in Joplin would give me pause to consider for sure, in Joplin today. Consider, yes, panic, no.

    Prudence, based on science, is called for but not panic, in my view. But when prudence becomes inconvient well don’t ask Americans to do THAT, right?


    PS: I further suggest you do not know enough about radioactivity, scientifically, to claim it is “ridiculous” to correlate containment efforts in terms of radiological controls and infectious disease. There are VERY similar requirments between the two containment efforts.


  3. According to the CDC, testing for ebola is effective only after the appearance of symptoms. But this is consistent with the finding that ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear. Not only that, the degree of contagion is very slight at first, even with fever, and increases only in proportion to the severity of symptoms. This is why it ought to be acceptable for the potentially-exposed to be monitored rather than quarantined.

    I can find no exceptions to this in the literature, and ebola has been around long enough that the research should be sound. The epidemic is a test case for international public health system because the sensible approach is to contain the disease at its source, and this can’t be done if workers are discouraged from going there. The system is stumbling because of poor education, superstition, and most of all, grand-standing politicians putting self interest ahead of the public welfare. That behavior is now on full display and ought to tell the voting public which politicians prefer expediency over the long-term public interest.


  4. ansonburlingame

     /  October 29, 2014


    Thank you for a science based reply, not a political one. I was unaware that once temperature went above ????, AND vomiting and other wasted escretment methods (sneezing worries me a lot) were observed that Ebola became “viral” to others. But I would add that I have travelled on airplanes with people that have the flu and exhibited just such symptoms in times past.

    So in my airplane analogy, IF the persons sitting next to me sneezed but had no temperature spike above ???? AND had not quietly gone to the head on the plane to …… THEN I need have no fears. But of course he or she would be the only one to KNOW all those things had not transpired while on the plane, unless I stood watch on the heads with a thermometer in my hands.

    To nit pick, scientifically, I would also wonder how long it takes for symptoms to “transition from non-symptomatic to symptomatic. Take a non-symptomatic human boarding a plane (or bus or “submarine” ) going from NYC to LA, 5 or 6 hours in flight. Would it be possible, even likely, that Ebola carrying patient could be “clean” upon boarding but become “infecting” in 5 hours? I have no idea. But if that happened, what should flight crews do in such an event, a “clean” passenger gets “hot” and starts ………, DURING the flight? Is it “just” flu or …….?

    The other thing of concern, just seen on AOL news before I typed this reply, was the nurse now in Maine, having gone to Maine from NJ to remain in home quarintine, has now annouced she intends to violate that quarintine, essentially daring anyone to stop her.

    Does she exhibit enough sense to allow her to run loose in say YOUR dining place in town or would you prefer she just eat at home???



    • Anson,

      Have you no concern that a 100% quarantine policy will inhibit a medical response to the source of the epidemic? The experts say that is the case. Comparing ebola to flu is misleading because the two spread and exhibit symptoms very differently. From what I’ve read, it takes a period of days from the first onset of fever until the patient becomes infectious. Consider too, that not a single American has caught the disease by casual contact.

      But to answer your specific question, yes, I would prefer the nurse eat at home out of an abundance of caution, but I still don’t approve of her mandatory quarantine. If ebola transmitted like the flu, I would. As far as the nurse violating her confinement, I think she’s making a mistake because I can’t see the justice system giving medical experts policy precedence over politicians, and for the same reason I think her lawsuit is likely to fail.

      This controversy has clearly become a political football. Mandatory quarantine is an overreaction, just as going to war with Iraq was an overreaction to 9/11. This is what happens when politicians pander to public fear instead of leading.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 29, 2014

    For all you lurkers reading my views, I am NOT trying to call for “locking up ……”. But having experience dealing with deadly “stuff” I have strong views on how best to CONTAIN such “stuff”, scientifically, not emotionally.

    When dealing with deadly stuff, prudence, not personal convience is a matter of first priority, scientifically.



  6. ansonburlingame

     /  October 30, 2014


    Again, we are trying to keep this to “science” and not engage with a political football. But unfortunately everything can boil down to “politics” when humans brains interact.

    You began your response above with “Have you no concern……..” The dots in that case would mean, generally, “people that …..” I suppose. Of course I have concern for people that ……, don’t have enough to eat, have Ebola, get their heads cut off by ISIL, etc., etc. Everyone except psycopaths have some level of “concern” empathy if you will.

    But you can bet the bank Ebola has no concern for …….. It is an “unthinking” virus. It will infect anyone it can get its “hands on”, to “eat” so to speak. Think of ISIL as a similar “virus”.

    Well there I go, “strawmaning again” I suppose. In this case you can blame it on Henry Kissinger and his new book “World Order”. I will finish it today and have not yet used it as reference material. But I can say it is as profound a book on International Relations as I have every read, period. You will find me refering to it soon as we debate other matters of “world-wide” concern.

    In the case of Ebola (and ISIL) I can state this in terms of my concerns, two of them. I am concerned about people with Ebola (ISIL surrounding them). But I am equally concerned about preventing (containing) Ebola (ISIL) coming into “contact” with the uninfected, so far.

    We both agree that the nurse should stay home. Great. Now how should we go about ensuring that does happens? Unlike I would do with ISIL, I would not “bomb her house”. But as long as she is kept in a safe and comfortable place (her home) until she is SURE she has no potentially infecting virus, well quarintine is the best I can envsion for now. So I suppose the means I have greater concern for the uninfected than the infected, right now, until better medicine is available. For me at least 4 infected people in America is enough. I ask for NO more infected people in America and achieve that goal humanely as well.

    In her case 21 days is not much, compared to infecting others, maybe. In her case, all this will be over in a couple of weeks now, I hope.



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