Society has a problem. The imminent apocalypse apparently is upon us. Ebola is sweeping Africa, a poverty-stricken continent with conditions not even remotely comparable to advanced countries like the United States. This is a cause for concern when workers return without symptoms and test negative for this virus.
Governor Paul LePage has joined the ranks of the growing paranoia by seeking legal authority to force a Maine nurse into quarantine. To be clear, this nurse shows no symptoms and has tested negative. Being an educated medical official who went to Africa with the mission of stopping Ebola at the root, she is aware of what to look for regarding symptoms and thus able to act accordingly.
But this isn’t enough, and like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, our Governor is going to take a dive into the irrational. Not that he can be blamed, a week away from his re-election, who wants to look weak with a panicked electorate?
Let’s talk about the facts of the matter though.
The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial, “Ebola And Quarantine“, signed by seven doctors opposing these quarantine policies. Their argument states that by taking these extreme measures, it discourages medical officials from going to Africa to combat Ebola. As they also later note, epidemics are best defeated when isolated at the root.
The alternative offered by NEJM is to closely monitor and document the health of returning workers, instead of completely cutting them off from the world. This would be a more humane and rightful alternative for people who have not shown any symptoms.
Society has a serious problem. If we cannot trust our medical officials enough here at home, how can we trust them in Africa where Ebola is spreading? Such lack of faith in the educated medical field by politicians with no background in the science will undermine efforts to prevent Ebola from spreading.
NEJM is correct when they state that the quarantine policy is “not scientifically based.” Instead, these policies are based on fear and when fear is fed, panic will rise. When logic fails, society’s psychological state will be conquered by paranoia.
Right now, Ebola is a serious cause for concern in Africa. People are rightfully concerned about its spread. Like the NEJM editorial authors, it can be agreed that the motivation for these policies is to protect the citizens of their state from the virus. But unfortunately for these governors, these good-intentioned policies are going to have an overall negative impact on efforts to stop Ebola.
We need to think logically when addressing health issues, especially Ebola. We can scare medical officials from going to Africa by threatening to cage them when they get back, despite every precaution taken abroad and at home to ensure they’re not affected. But is scaring them going to do the trick? The battle against Ebola will be won in Africa, not violating the civil liberties of medical workers at home with unfounded fears.