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From The Los Angeles Times:

Ebola virus heading to the U.S.: Here’s why you don’t need to panic
By Christine Mai-Duc

With Emory University Hospital in Atlanta planning to receive and treat two U.S. citizens who are sick with the Ebola virus, some Americans have expressed fear that a deadly outbreak — which has killed at least 729 people in West Africa — could spread in the United States.

If you’re one of them, you can calm down. Health officials say there is virtually no danger to the public. Here’s what you need to know about the deadly virus:

What’s the likelihood of a major Ebola outbreak happening in the U.S.?

Remote, according to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If an Ebola patient were to be identified here, American health systems would quickly identify, isolate and treat the person, along with anyone who may have come into contact with him or her.

The chances are “remote,” according to the article. However, unless the author is using the incorrect word, the word “remote,” when referring to probabilities, does not mean none, does not mean zero.

The CDC and the World Health Organization say it’s very unlikely that American travelers to West Africa could contract the disease, since they would have to come in direct contact with an infected person’s blood, organs or other bodily secretions.

Weak healthcare systems in West Africa have led to the virus spreading rapidly there. So have traditional burial rituals that involve washing the bodies of loved ones after death.

These paragraphs tell us why the probabilities of Ebola spreading here are very small, which is helpful, and why the Ebola virus is spreading almost uncontrollably in West Africa, but, again, we are being told that the probabilities of Ebola spreading in the United States are not zero.

Why are we bringing people known to have Ebola into the country?

Evacuation to the U.S. ensures that the two aid workers will have access to “modern medical facilities and technology” that could save their lives, a White House spokesman said Thursday.

Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol both contracted Ebola while working in Liberia and are in serious condition, according to Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. Plans are underway to transport them to the U.S. by early next week.

A lot more at the original.

Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol are both brave people, and American citizens. By bringing them back to the United States, they will certainly receive better care. But, as Dr Sanjay Gupta reported on CNN,1 there are — or now were — no known cases of the Ebola virus or Ebola hemorrhagic fever anywhere in the Western hemisphere. We may have a lot of respect for Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol — I certainly do — but it is just plain stupid to bring people infected with a deadly, contagious virus to a place where that virus has never previously spread. Precautions are wise, and precautions are great, but accidents happen, things can go wrong, and one mistake here could mean the deaths of a lot more Americans, could mean the spread of a disease that was previously not here.

After all, the patients were working with Ebola patients, they knew the risks, they knew the danger, and knew the precautions which had to be taken . . . and they were still infected. Dr Gupta reported that it is believed2 that another health care worker, a local, came in contact with the disease, became infected, and came to work sick, coming in contact with Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol outside of the isolation areas, and that is how they became infected. While we assume that the workers at Emory University Hospital will take extreme precautions, it has to be remembered that not every worker there is a doctor or nurse or health care professional: there are janitors and laundry service and other people, not all of them well-trained, working at hospitals, performing essential functions without which a health care institution cannot function.

Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol are both very brave people, but they should have been treated in the area in which the disease is already present. Such would probably lessen their chances of surviving Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which is regrettable, but would not introduce the Ebola virus into the Western hemisphere, where it will probably, but not definitely, be contained.

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  1. Saturday, 2 August 2014, between 11:00 and 11:10 AM
  2. From the tone of that part of the report, I’m not sure that this part isn’t just speculation.

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