Earlier today the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States was reported. Discovered in Dallas, the affected patient had been traveling in West Africa and was not exhibiting symptoms on return to the United States earlier this month. The patient is presently in what the hospital describes as “strict isolation.”
As the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control have treated people in the United States who had been infected in Africa, this case is not the first connected to this outbreak that U.S. facilities have dealt with. The key factor for containing the spread of the disease is not only isolation of the patient, but tracking and monitoring of those who have interacted with that patient since entering the country.
That said, I am concerned about panic. The threat of Ebola was used in recent political squabbling over immigration, and others advocated for not transferring infected assistance workers to the United States. I’d be really surprised if this diagnosis was not the source of some overreaction in some quarters.
The United States is in a much better position than the African nations currently suffering from the outbreak and the associated strains on its limited medical infrastructure. The relevant federal agencies have been preparing to deal with Ebola, and can transfer methods used in Africa to a United States context with a very, very small fraction of the thousands of cases currently in Africa.
It won’t be easy, but the U.S. has the tools, the people, and the infrastructure to contain Ebola.