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“Because Ebola is not contagious until symptoms develop…”

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Of course I believe the CDC on this point.  And of course fanning panic or even hysteria would be contemptible and immoral.  That  is the key point that the CDC was trying –not very effectively– to make in the presser today.

But because the level of trust is so low in government –IRS, VA, and now the Secret Service to name just the three most obvious answers to the question “Why?– the CDC has to go the extra mile to assure people that anyone who might have contracted the disease that they have been notified, and that they can seek beneficial treatment early in the course of the disease.  Those who have been following the path of the disease in Africa know that this early warning system is crucial to containing the disease wherever it appears.

That means publishing the flight Patient Zero-USA took from Liberia, as well as as many details of his or her movements in Dallas upon landing as they become known.  The protocol that develops in the aftermath of the first unannounced arrival of the disease in the U.S. matters a great deal to establishing credibility of the agency over the long term.  The CDC cannot share too much information.  Since the “R nought” is believed to be around two, journalists have to assume that two people have been infected by Patient Zero-USA.  So who are they, and where did they encounter the patient, and have they been cared for in such a way as to reduce the “R nought” factor to less than 1 in the U.S.?

More information is always better than less when the public’s attention is engaged on the responsiveness of the government to a crisis.  Protect the patient’s privacy of course, but alert everyone who might have come in his or her path, however minimal their risk of developing the disease.  If the CDC is in tune with the vast reach of social media –both responsible and irresponsible– they will have already figured out that misinformation travels much faster than fact, and will have already agreed upon the course described.  If it is “bureaucracy-bound,” the CDC will respond sluggishly and lose the confidence of the public.

Watch that space.  Closely.


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