It has finally happened: Ebola has come to the United States. The first case of the disease on U.S. soil was confirmed yesterday in Dallas, Texas. Immediately the White House went into damage control mode, deploying communications materials and experts to reassure the United States public that the situation was under control. Time reports on the response,
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden briefed Obama by phone Tuesday afternoon on the diagnosis, as well as the “stringent isolation protocols under which the patient is being treated as well as ongoing efforts to trace the patient’s contacts to mitigate the risk of additional cases,” the White House said.
How confident should the American people be in the CDC’s ability to contain the virus? USA Today reports on not one, not two, but three separate incidents of “possible exposure to dangerous diseases at CDC labs.”
CDC Director Tom Frieden said of the incidents,
It’s most distressing not because it’s most dangerous. Everything we know today suggests there was no human exposure. The materials are all either destroyed or contained, and there’s no risk from it. What’s distressing about it are two things, really. First, our influenza laboratory is a superb laboratory. We have wonderful laboratory scientists in that laboratory and throughout CDC. So to me, the fact that something like this could happen in such a superb laboratory is unsettling because it tells me that we need to look at our culture of safety throughout all of our laboratories. Second is deeply troubling that there was what is an unacceptable delay in providing this information. It’s very important to have a culture of safety that says if you’ve got a problem, talk about it. The biggest way to get into more trouble is not to talk about something when you’ve got a problem. So that kind of delay is very troubling. And I know it’s very troubling to the people who oversee that unit as well and very unexpected. So we will do a full investigation to understand the causes of it. Again, we just learned about it within the last couple of days.
Are these the same “stringent protocols” which kept vials of anthrax, deadly influenza, and smallpox safe? If so, you might want to invest in some bleach and rubber gloves. Melissa Clouthier put the risk of infection in perspective on Twitter yesterday,
Any parent whose had a kid with a disgusting virus brought home from school knows how easily and magically even direct contact ones spread.
— Melissa Clouthier (@MelissaTweets) September 30, 2014