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Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Ebola: Don’t let past false alarms affect current response

The lack of strong response to the Ebola crisis by President Obama and Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows they are “fighting the last war,” causing them to fixate on the economic cost of imposing a West Africa travel ban [“Second health worker tests positive for Ebola,” Nation & World, Oct. 15]

Frieden’s “last war” is the SARS false alarm in 2003. The disease did not develop, and the CDC was criticized for putting screenings in dozens of airports, spending around $40 million and contributing to a downturn in business. President Obama’s “last war” is the Great Recession he faced when he took office. His attitudes were forged in the crucible of a near-depression that he had to control to avoid a failed presidency. Both now overestimate the costs, and underestimate the benefits, of keeping Ebola out of the U.S.

But they need to look with fresh eyes at the Ebola facts and numbers and consider the cost of not implementing such a ban. In the U.S., our ability to easily contain the outbreak is called into question by the infections of the Dallas hospital medical workers. The poor level of containment in West Africa makes experts’ worst-case estimates the most likely: up to 1.4 million cumulative infections by January. Efforts by the U.S. military and other countries take time to ramp up and are not operational. Yet, we let about 150 West Africans a day into our country.

Both leaders must rise to the task of fighting this war, including a ban on entry of persons from the three affected countries (U.S. medical and aid workers and military excepted.)

Eileen Crawford, Seattle

Comments | More in Ebola | Topics: Ebola, Eileen Crawford, President Obama

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