Forbes reported: “Given the scope of the Ebola outbreak unfolding in Western Africa, it seems possible that a case will eventually emerge in the U.S. We could even see an isolated cluster of infections in an American city.”
“Considering the nature of the Ebola virus, and the medical infrastructure we have to combat its spread, the diagnosis of some cases on American soil shouldn’t be reason to panic. We have a plethora of tools and public health practices to readily combat its spread. Yet because the virus is so dangerous, and feared, its arrival in America would likely to trigger a robust response from our public health establishment.”
“Yet given the deadly nature of the Ebola virus, and the popular worry it’s likely to engender, one can expect the CDC and health authorities to pull out all the stops. The response could include invocation of the CDC’s evolving quarantine authorities.”
“These federal powers comprise a set of rules that gives CDC sweeping authority to hold and isolate Americans in a public health emergency. These authorities haven’t been fully updated in decades. They’ve only been amended in piecemeal fashion to deal with modern threats like SARS and MERS. In advance of what may be a very public test of these powers, the collected scheme deserves closer scrutiny.”
” Updated quarantine regulations were first proposed in 2005 during the Bush Administration amid fears of pandemic flu. The regulations spelled out in detail how CDC would exercise its sweeping powers to involuntarily confine sick individuals and those believed to be exposed to certain deadly and contagious diseases. The rules also focused efforts on quarantine at airports. Among other things, it held airlines responsible for keeping records to help health officials track down people coming off flights, in the event they would need to be located later for quarantine.”
“The set of regulations also included a new “provisional quarantine” rule that would have allowed CDC to detain people involuntarily for up to three days, with no mechanism for appeal. CDC had to believe a person was infected with certain pathogens. Among the diseases included were pandemic flu, infectious tuberculosis, plague, cholera, SARS, diphtheria, and viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.”
“The regulations also defined “ill person” to include anyone with the signs or symptoms commonly associated with the diseases in question. This gave CDC more flexibility in deciding whom to quarantine by capturing a broader and earlier range of symptoms as the basis for holding an individual. It allowed for greater exercise of discretion public health officials and those staffing quarantine stations.”
Click here to read the full Forbes article “If Ebola Arrives In The U.S., Stopping It May Rely On Controversial Tools” by Scott Gottlieb.
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Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H., is Clinical Professor, Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Adjunct Professor, Baruch College ( C.U.N.Y.), Rutgers School of Public Health, and Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.
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