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Getting a Grip on Ebola

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Robert B. Reich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog


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We have to get a grip. Ebola is not a crisis in the United States. One person has died and two people are infected with his body fluids.

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The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that's being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.

That hysteria is causing us to lose our heads. Parents have pulled their children out of a middle school after learning the school's principal had traveled to Zambia. Zambia happens to be in Africa but it has not even had a single case of Ebola.

A teacher at an elementary school has been placed on paid leave because parents were concerned he might have contracted the Ebola virus. When and how? During a recent trip to Dallas for an educational conference.

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Are we planning to quarantine Dallas next?

Some politicians from both parties are demanding an end to commercial flights between the United States and several West African countries. But there are no direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where Ebola is taking its biggest toll.

So do they want to ban all commercial flights that might contain someone from any of these countries, who might have transferred planes? That would cover just about all commercial flights coming from outside the United States.

The most important thing we can do to prevent Ebola from ever becoming a crisis in the United States is to help Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where 10,000 new cases could crop up weekly unless the spread of the virus is slowed soon.

Isolating these poor nations would only make their situation worse. Does anyone seriously believe we could quarantine hundreds of thousands of infected people a continent away who are infecting others?

The truth is quite the opposite. If the disease is allowed to spread in these places, the entire world could be imperiled.

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These nations desperately need medical professionals in the field, more medical resources, isolation facilities, and systems in place to detect early cases.

Even at this stage, that's not an impossible task. Nigeria is succeeding in checking the spread of the disease. It has not had a new case of Ebola in over a month.

But I'm worried about America. I'm not worried about Ebola. I'm worried about our confidence and courage.

Every time a global crisis arises these days -- the drug war in Latin America, terrorism in the Middle East, climate change that's straining global food and water supplies and threatening many parts of the world with flooding -- the knee-jerk response of some Americans is to stop it at our borders.

As if we have the option. As if we live on another planet.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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