Commentary: Ebola is Raging Again - And The U.S. Is Not Ready

Joe Lieberman, Tom Ridge | Chicago Tribune | September 6, 2019

Five years ago, the Ebola virus broke through inadequate public health systems in West Africa and spread throughout the world. America was lucky. Only a few cases traveled here, but the U.S. government also did not respond as we had reason to expect.Despite assurances that our country would be able to handle such a serious disease, our public health agencies and health care institutions made some serious mistakes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention neglected to consult with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration when developing guidance for hospitals. It issued the guidelines and then had to reissue them because they had not adequately accounted for air-handling systems and missed the mark when it came to personal protective equipment.

Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, co-chair the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.Congress waited much too long to provide emergency supplemental funding to help our health care and public health infrastructure respond. And one governor quarantined a nurse only because she had provided humanitarian assistance in an area where the disease was prevalent. Communications to the public about what was happening were disorganized, confusing and unnecessarily frightening.

Today, the threat from Ebola is more serious. The World Health Organization has declared it to be a global public health emergency because Ebola has again defied controls and spread to the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it could in turn spread throughout more densely populated urban areas and gain access to the global transportation system. We support this declaration and the additional resources and attention it should bring to the situation, but the WHO should have made it earlier. Ebola was an emergency long before it spread to Goma...