Closing Cleveland Schools For Ebola Isn’t Actually Protecting Anyone

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hazmat suit man

In a glaring example of hysteria at its finest, two Cleveland-area schools have closed due to a staff member having traveled on a Frontier Airlines plane the night after Dallas nurse and Ebola patient Amber Joy Vinson had flown on it. I understand the schools wanting to take the proper precautions but if they are closing Cleveland schools for Ebola concerns, why stop there? Aren’t there grocery stores, gas stations, libraries and a number of other public places where people could come into contact with the disease? Clearly, this reaction is totally overboard and only serves to frighten people needlessly.

According to Huffington Post, the school district called the closings a “precautionary measure” that went beyond CDC recommendations and noted that the staff member would remain at home for the next 21 days. Frankly, I think even that is overkill. Is the staff member never going to leave her home over the next three weeks? Will she not be in public at all? Closing the schools is pretty pointless considering all of the other public places where this person could have gone where students or their parents could have come into contact with her. The proper precautions need to be taken but closing schools because a staff member flew on a plane that an Ebola victim flew on the day before, not even the same flight, seems extreme.

How about the fact that a man with no Hazmat gear on was seen standing right near Amber Joy Vinson as she was being loaded on a plane to transfer to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital for treatment. Talk about not taking proper precautions. Anyone around an Ebola patient should be properly protected and that is something we KNOW is an effective means of curbing the spread of the disease.

I will admit that hearing Vinson flew on a flight with over 100 other people while running a mild fever made me angry- why wouldn’t the CDC take every possible precaution and force this woman to stay off of airplanes and quarantine herself? I’m having trouble understanding why any of the healthcare workers who took care of Eric Duncan weren’t under a mandatory quarantine so as not to risk spreading the virus. That is the kind of precaution that makes sense. Closing schools because a staff member has the world’s most minute chance of contracting the disease is so over-reactive and unnecessary. According to the Mayo Clinic, the precautions for dealing with Ebola should include:

  • Avoid areas of known outbreaks. Before traveling to Africa, find out about current epidemics by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

  • Wash your hands frequently. As with other infectious diseases, one of the most important preventive measures is frequent hand-washing. Use soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.

  • Avoid bush meat. In developing countries, avoid buying or eating the wild animals, including nonhuman primates, sold in local markets.

  • Avoid contact with infected people. In particular, caregivers should avoid contact with the person’s body fluids and tissues, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. People with Ebola or Marburg are most contagious in the later stages of the disease.

  • Follow infection-control procedures. If you’re a health care worker, wear protective clothing, such as gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields. Keep infected people isolated from others. Dispose of needles and sterilize other instruments.

  • Don’t handle remains. The bodies of people who have died of Ebola or Marburg disease are still contagious. Specially organized and trained teams should bury the remains, using appropriate safety equipment.

Nowhere in these precautions does it say to freak out and close schools because one person flew on a plane that the infected person flew on a full 24 hours prior. Nowhere does it say to close the borders and freak out that Ebola is going to become a pandemic. There are sensible ways to keep this disease from spreading and we need to adhere to them but freaking out helps no one and only serves to fan the flames of panic. I hope we read very shortly that the CDC is close to figuring out a way to put a complete stop to the spread of Ebola but in the meantime, it is in everyone’s best interests to remain calm.

(Image: Carlos E. Santa Maria/Shutterstock)