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Government Mistrust Is Epidemic

By Friday, nearly 30 countries had established bans on travel to and from the three countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Most of the ban nations are in Africa, where experience with Ebola goes back decades.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. will impose no such ban. His science advisers tell him it could be counterproductive, Obama says. Would that be the same science advisers who told us the chance of Ebola coming to the U.S. was minisciule and that if it did, it would be contained effectively?

Would it be the same Centers for Disease Control officials who told a Texas nurse there was no problem with her traveling to Cleveland a couple of days after she helped treat a man who died of Ebola?

Here are some things you may want to consider, regarding the government’s reaction to the Ebola outbreak:

  • Remember SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome? In reaction to a worldwide outbreak of it in 1993, the government established an intensive program of screening passengers at U.S. airports. There were just eight U.S. SARS cases, none fatal, in this country. Worldwide, it killed 774 people. Ebola has killed more than 4,400.
  • Ebola is nothing new. I’ve been writing about it, off and on, for nearly 20 years. Ebola is just one of many “emerging diseases” that kill people effectively and often in great numbers. The CDC lists 16 such “viral special pathogens.”
  • One VSP, Hantavirus, appears to be endemic to the Southwest U.S. A 1993 outbreak there was reported extensively in the news media. Fortunately, Hantavirus, which causes severe pulmonary problems, does not kill as frequently as Ebola.
  • About 500 U.S. troops already are in the West African hot zone, building new facilities to treat Ebola patients. As many as 4,000 Americans may be sent there. This week, Obama signed an executive order allowing use of National Guard troops – you know, the citizen-soldiers who serve, then go home to hundreds of communities – for the Ebola mission.
  • U.S. officials say there is little risk U.S. troops will contract Ebola while in West Africa. The same officials who said protocols were in place to safeguard American hospital personnel? Here’s part of the first sentence of a Wall Street Journal story on our troops in the hot zone:?”American and Liberian soldiers hammer, saw and sweat in the afternoon sun …” Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids.
  • Another Ebola outbreak occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, beginning in July. It has killed more than 40 people, but the disease appears to have been contained there.
  • Never let a good crisis go to waste, say the liberals. To that end, some Democrats are claiming Republicans in Congress slashed budgets for two agencies that fight disease, the CDC and the National Institutes for Health.

In 2000, the NIH budget was $17.8 billion. For fiscal 2014 it was $30.1 billion. No cut there.

In fiscal 2005, the CDC budget was $4.5 billion. For fiscal 2014 it was $6.9 billion. No cut there, either.

But cuts in CDC funding have been proposed – by Obama. Congress, with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, rejected them.

If there is any panic about Ebola, it is because many Americans have lost all faith in their government. Why believe a president who promised repeatedly that if you liked your health insurance, you could keep it?

Why trust a government that can’t even get a health insurance website right but can use the Internal Revenue Service to harass political foes?

Why have any faith in a CDC that tells the Texas nurse to go ahead and get on a plane to Cleveland?

Why accept a CDC that has known about Ebola for a generation or more, yet diverts money to politically correct initiatives on gun control, breast feeding, climate change and education to prevent rape? Some may be worthy causes, but what do they have to do with the CDC’s basic mission?

Ebola will be contained, eventually. But what of the other epidemic – mistrust of government? Where’s the hope that will change?

Myer can be reached mmyer@thein-telligencer.net.

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