Authorities could be forced to quarantine hundreds of citizens
In an op-ed for Forbes, Gottlieb, who previously served as Director of Medical Policy Development for the Food and Drug Administration, writes that the imminent onset of the flu season will make it harder to keep tabs on potential Ebola victims in the United States.
Sometime in January or February – as the Ebola epidemic explodes out of West Africa – we’ll start experiencing larger, more frequent outbreaks in American cities. With the flu as a background to confound suspected cases of Ebola, public health departments will be hard pressed to “track and trace” all of the potential “contacts” when perhaps dozens of Ebola cases pop up in their cities.
Unable to pinpoint who might have come in close contact with Ebola, and be at risk of contracting the virus, they will reach for their most absolute tool – forced quarantine – as a way to mitigate threat amidst uncertainty. The number of people who will be placed into forced quarantines could easily number in the hundreds.
Gottlieb goes on to predict that once Ebola hits Latin America, the U.S. is far likelier to begin importing cases on a more than sporadic basis, but that current measures concerning the quarantine of individuals remain convoluted, a factor that could lead to hundreds of unsuspecting healthy individuals being caught up in a medical dragnet.
“The prospect of larger and more frequent outbreaks seems highly likely,” writes Gottlieb, who is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU School of Medicine. “As we have seen with the anxiety engendered by just a few isolated cases, if we were to have a dozen or more cases in a major U.S. city, it could have a substantial impact on our economic and social life.”
As we highlighted back in August, Gottlieb warned that if Ebola were to arrive in America, the CDC would likely invoke powers to “hold a healthy person against his will,” and enact “sweeping authority to hold and isolate Americans in a public health emergency.”
With Ebola cases continuing to rise in West Africa, the CDC this week expanded the list of risk factors for Ebola which allow for the forcible quarantine of individuals suspected of being exposed to the virus, including if someone has briefly been in the vicinity of an Ebola victim, despite the fact that health officials continue to claim the disease can only be transmitted via direct exchange of bodily fluids.
As we reported earlier, the U.S. government today ordered 250,000 Hazmat suits to be delivered to Dallas, Texas, the location of the first Ebola outbreak in the United States.
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