Why the Texas case will not cause an ebola outbreak

I’ve scanned about 500 blog posts tagged #ebola since August 2014 and I can say with confidence that there are a lot of paranoid uninformed Americans out there. These fears are founded on misinformation and suspicion of the system designed to protect the public, not on facts. Here are the facts about yesterday’s case:

The system worked as it should

  • The Ebola carrier left Monrovia, Liberia (Sep 19) without symptoms and arrived in Dallas, Texas (Sep 20) without symptoms. His temperature was taken in both airports and did not indicate a fever.
  • Fever is one of the early symptoms of ebola. If a patient has no fever, he cannot spread ebola.
  • The carrier visited a hospital on Sep 24 with symptoms. This hospital was prepared for ebola, had briefed its staff, and had an isolation ward ready. Because the symptoms were run-of-the-mill flu stuff (no hemmoragic fever), he was sent home.
  • His family brought him back on Sunday, Sep 28 and he was admitted. His blood tested positive for the ebola virus. PCR is a very precise test. Only a 99% exact DNA match will test positive.
  • All people who contacted him during the days he was contagious are being monitored for symptoms. It only included his direct household relatives.

Ebola can only be spread through direct contact. Ebola does not spread through the air. So the only people who could be exposed are known and being monitored.

Why USA is different from Liberia

  • Access to healthcare is much better in America. There is one doctor for every 400 Americans, compared to one doctor for every 20,000 Liberians.
  • Every hospital bed in Liberia has been filled for weeks. Sick Liberians are not likely to visit a hospital anymore, and so the virus spreads faster there. For how the number of beds affects models to count the number of cases and predict disease spread, look at this academic paper. “By September 30, 2014, without additional interventions and using the described likelihood of going to an ETU, approximately 670 daily beds in use (1,700 corrected for underreporting) will be needed in Liberia and Sierra Leone (Figure 2).” There are an estimated 2.5 ebola sufferers for every one that got a hospital bed in September, 2014.
  • Obamacare has reversed the trend of making hospitals only available to the rich and the employed. At the moment, every seriously sick American (citizen or not) will go to a hospital for treatment, making quarantine possible. If large segments of society expect to be turned away from hospitals, denied treatment, they will stop coming, and ebola WILL spread in America.

Here is the CSPAN briefing about the Ebola case in Texas from September 30th: