Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Is the United States Overreacting to Ebola?

By Allen ChenPublished November 9, 2014

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What does it mean to be paranoid? The spread of a disease has never been easier than today. Ebola continues to travel from country to country despite our best efforts to curb it with chlorine and precautionary policy; however, are all these precautions warranted?
By Allen Chen, 11/9/2014

It has never been easier than now to travel across the world. Thousands of planes dot the sky traveling on air highways, allowing millions to participate in our world's global economy. Recently, with the Ebola outbreak, the United States and Europe have taken unprecedented precautions in an attempt to prevent the spread of Ebola within their respective borders.

Giant drums of chlorine have been sprayed on the personal belongings of infected individuals in the United States. Plane seats and carpets transporting potentially infected individuals have been ripped out and replaced. Some people have been asked to undergo voluntary quarantine. Others have been forced.

Since Ebola is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids or contact with blood of an infected individual, those infected individuals that travel in modes of transportations with crammed quarters for long distances have a greater chance of spreading the disease to others. As a result, people are scared to fly, worried that the person sitting next to them could be a vector of the virus, and are thus willing to allow the government to implement over reactionary policies for their safety.

Kaci Hickox, a nurse who volunteered to help treat infected Ebola individuals in Sierra Leone, was quarantined for three days after arriving in Newark, New Jersey despite not having any symptoms associated with Ebola. I question the effectiveness of this precaution. If the United States is so concerned about preventing the spread of Ebola, how come it still allows people to fly from Ebola-infected countries to major airports such as John F. Kennedy and Newark? The government has spent millions of dollars on disinfecting apartments, airport screening centers, and tracking down people that have had contact with potentially infected individuals; however, is it the best use of government funding?

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on October 24, 2014 that they intend on rolling out thousands of doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine by June 2015. The WHO also issued a statement that said the world would need one billion dollars of funding to fight Ebola. Johnson and Johnson, a pharmaceutical company, announced on October 22, 2014 that it is spending $200 million to fast-track the development of their Ebola vaccine. The United States, as of September 17, 2014, had contributed 35.3 million dollars to fight Ebola, rendering it the largest contributor to the fight against the spread of this epidemic.