Jim Brock: U.S. Ebola cases could have been prevented
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Tuesday that he and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan have donated $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the fight against Ebola.
Good for you, Mark (We’re on a first-name basis because we are Facebook friends).
Donations from Zuckerberg, along with a $50 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a $9 million donation from Paul Allen of Microsoft, show us that the American spirit is alive and well.
If there’s one thing “The Gipper” and I agree on, it’s the idea that private donations trump massive government spending in a capitalist society.
Unfortunately, that idea only works in a perfect world, and we don’t live in that world.
Over the past few months, I have seen the usual suspects on the right blame the American doctors in Africa, vilifying them as if they were less than heroic.
In August, Donald Trump, one of the right’s many characters with foot-in-mouth disease, tweeted, “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!”
Maybe it’s time for Trump to give to the cause with his wallet instead of his mouth.
Meanwhile, the Ebola crisis worsens.
We now have confirmation that a second health care worker in Dallas has tested positive for the virus.
Also an employee at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital – where Liberian national Eric Duncan died last week – the new patient was “isolated within ‘90 minutes’ of her temperature being taken,” according to an Oct. 15 NBC report.
The new patient reported symptoms on Oct. 14 – one day after she returned from a trip to Cleveland.
So, we now have at least two patients who contracted Ebola in the U.S., both in Texas.
Is the right ready to call this another “Obama scandal”?
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in his recent Politico column “The Facts About Ebola Funding” is certainly setting the stage for it.
“In recent years, the CDC has received significant amounts of funding. Unfortunately, however, many of those funds have been diverted away from programs that can fight infectious diseases, and toward programs far afield from the CDC’s original purpose.
“Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent – $180 million – of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity. Especially given the agency’s postwar roots as the Communicable Disease Center, one would think that ‘detecting and responding to infectious diseases and other public health threats’ warrants a larger funding commitment.”
The Huffington Post recently reported that Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, blames budget cuts for the lack of progress.
“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here.’
“Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”
This could go on and on, and believe me, it will.
But if I were a Republican who believes in small government and pragmatic market solutions – especially in the area of health care – I would dig a bit deeper than the NIH, the CDC, Congress and even the White House.
I would ask where the pharmaceutical companies have been, and what they were doing to earn more than $700 billion in profits in more than 10 years.
“Over the past decade, the 11 largest global drug companies reaped about $711 billion in profits, according to a new analysis from the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) advocacy group,” according to an April 2013 report from ThinkProgress. “In 2012 alone, the drug companies’ annual profits totaled nearly $84 billion. The organization’s analysis credits much of these profits to the federal policy that prevents Medicare from negotiating directly with drug companies – which allows Big Pharma to price gouge the government program’s prescription drug benefit, known as Medicare Part D.”
The World Health Organization reported this week that the death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 4,447, warning that there could be up to 10,000 new cases a week within two months if efforts were not stepped up, the BBC reported on Oct. 15.
There are no approved vaccines or treatments for Ebola. Most of us know that, but one particular segment from an Oct. 8 CNBC report was a bit unnerving.
“The size of this epidemic – significantly greater than any others since the first Ebola outbreak in Zaire in 1976 – and the infection of at least two people outside of Africa for the first time, has underscored for many the need to finally develop approved vaccines and treatment… Fears that Ebola could spread significantly outside of Africa has led international and U.S. health officials to authorize speeding up the process for testing a set of potential vaccines and treatments.”
Sure, we have seen experimental drug treatments work here in America, but it should bother all of us that it took the virus infecting those “outside of Africa” for the right people to get serious about Ebola.
I can’t help but wonder if we would have a vaccine or a successful treatment for Ebola had it shown up in a European country or a nation we couldn’t just ignore.
Now that it is a threat here in the U.S., we can no longer ignore it.
It is frightening to know that this disease has the potential to do damage here in America, but it’s highly unlikely that it will come to that.
The American health care system will find a way to solve the Ebola crisis. It’s too bad our American values weren’t strong enough to kill two birds with one stone – save lives in Africa and protect our shores long before it came to this.
But who cares about a few thousand dead Africans when you can have billions of dead presidents in your coffers?