Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Thought About Ebola And Quarantines

I'm sure that as soon as Health and Human Services can break someone free from their Birth Control Enforcement Division they'll be all over this with a wonderful solution. In the meantime, I'm thinking that if Ebola ever gets loose in, say, the migrant worker camps of California, the back hills of West Virginia or New Orleans' 9th Ward, we're pretty much screwed.

It sure would be nice to close off the border right now and ban flights from Africa. If you can't control it once it gets loose inside the country, your best bet is to stop it while it's still outside.

Naahhhhhh. Closing the border is racist. I'd rather die from Ebola than risk being called a racist.


Ilíon said...

"Naahhhhhh. Closing the border is racist. I'd rather die from Ebola than risk being called a racist."

You haven't quite captured the essence of "liberal" "thought". More precisely, it's: "I'd rather *you* die of Ebola than risk that I be called a racist."

Ilíon said...

You see, leftists never intend to be personally affected by their own policy preferences; it's always *someone else* who must be made to "pay".

tim eisele said...

One problem with quarantines: they are strictly a stopgap measure to buy time. If the reservoir of disease isn't removed, then in the long run they don't work[1]. If we allow the epidemic to continue to run in Africa, then eventually, it *will* jump any quarantine.

And the thing is, at the moment Ebola is still a controllable disease. It isn't all that contagious (if only because people get too ill to move around much, or die, before they can pass it on to too many other people). A serious control effort, with enough resources to care for victims and keep them isolated until they either die or get better, would stop the epidemic cold. But the countries where the epidemic is going on don't have the resources to do that, and so a lot of victims end up dying at home where they can infect anyone who cleans up after them. And with every generation of viruses that goes by, the most contagious strains are being selected for. The longer this is allowed to go on, the worse the disease is going to get. In the worst case, it could become an airborne disease that you can pick up from an infected person just by passing them on the street or touching something they touched, like the flu.

It isn't a civilization-wrecking epidemic *yet*. But if we slap on a quarantine and basically tell Africa to go die on their own time, then eventually it will be. And then, after it kills a few hundred million people and evolves into the unstoppable uber-virus that everyone fears, then some pitiful quarantine won't save us.

[1] I say this from what I've seen with agricultural quarantines. You can keep the pest out for a while, but eventually some yahoo smuggles it in anyway. Like the varroa mites that nearly wiped out honeybees in North America. There was already a ban on bee imports (because of the earlier importation of tracheal mites) when they came into the country. Which means that somebody had to SMUGGLE PACKAGES OF LIVE BEES through the quarantine. And don't get me started on the small hive beetles, the new strain of nosema, and evidently a bunch of other as-yet-unnamed diseases which also jumped the quarantine because of bee smugglers. No matter how well-justified a quarantine is, there are still people stupid enough to go out of their way to break it.

K T Cat said...

Nothing is foolproof and the results could be catastrophic, so we should be doing everything right now. Closing the border is good for lots of reasons, not just Ebola. In any case, quarantines can slow things down to give you a chance to get ready for its arrival.

Trigger Warning said...

Tim, your comment is pure nitwittery.

First, your analogizing bugs and viruses is simply ridiculous. Technically, you're making a category mistake. And to claim that quarantines are futile and should be abandoned because some people (like entitled NBC reporters) don't observe them is like saying that homicide laws are futile and should be abandoned because some folks kill people anyway. Do you know what medical professionals are doing with those patients in the hospital? They are quarantining them.

And how letting West Africans with Ebola migrate to the US is a benefit to West Africans with Ebola who don't migrate is lost on me. Is it your thinking that if a quarantine were in place the developed world would just leave those people to die? Or are you making the implicit claim that one either establishes a quarantine or makes aggressive efforts at control, but the two responses are mutually exclusive on some technical basis? Not to put too fine a point on it, but both cases are just pure bullshit and de facto false.

tim eisele said...

I'm not saying the quarantines should be abandoned. I'm saying that establishing a *continent-wide* one on Africa will not actually solve the problem, but will give people a false sense of security and stop them from effectively solving the problem.

And establishing such a quarantine would effectively go both ways: it is hard enough to get medical personnel to go to Africa to fight the disease in the first place. The quarantine would just add the restriction that *they couldn't come back home*. How is that going to help in eliminating the disease? For that matter, what are you going to do to the crews of planes carrying supplies to Africa? Make them stay there?

tim eisele said...

One other thing, for "Trigger Warning":
I think you'd better go read that "category mistake" article again yourself. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Ilíon said...

You're "reasoning" like the Obamanation do ... strawmanning and all.

No one is talking about *simply* imposing a quarantine. Moreover, no one is talking about trying to quarantine the entire continent and letting the unfortunates stuck there live or die. It is strawmanning to "argue" against these non-positions.

Further, the whole point of a rational quarantine is keep "the reservoir of disease" from growing.

"A serious control effort, with enough resources to care for victims and keep them isolated until they either die or get better, would stop the epidemic cold."

Ah! Let's "isolate" the African countries in which it is currently out of control.

It doesn't matter what one calls it, a quarantine is a quarantine. The only real question about a quarantine is whether it is applied, and enforced, rationally.

With a disease such as this one -- for which there seems to be no effective treatment ... and for which we're seeing high numbers of the medical personell who try to treat the victims become infected themselves -- it may well be that quarantine, both of individuals and of whole regions, turns out to be the only tool with which to stop it spreading.

tim eisele said...


Thanks for at least advocating a quarantine of just the contries with an ongoing epidemic. But as for your accusation that I was "strawmanning", KT actually wrote, and I quote:

"It sure would be nice to close off the border right now and ban flights from Africa."

That's pretty definite. I see absolutely no indication that he meant anything other than closing off air travel from the whole continent, and contains no indication of doing anything other than hunkering down and waiting for it to blow over. If that's not what he meant, then maybe he should say it differently.

Doo Doo Econ said...

Did anyone else notice that 25 million American are about to lose their insurance in the next few months due to ObamaCare?

I wonder how evil it would be if the ebola scare was being drummed up a little to scare Americans into the ObamaCare system?

Just wondering...

K T Cat said...

DDE, these guys have shown almost zero ability to orchestrate anything. Right about now, I'll bet their staff meetings are utterly reactive. While they might use the Ebola threat to heard people into supporting government health care, I can't imagine that they've planned any of this.

K T Cat said...

As for the argument above, allow me to revise and extend my remarks. When you've got external threats - ISIS, Ebola, illegal alien kids - the very first thing you should do is secure your borders. It's not a panacea, but it's sensible. If you get robbed because your front door is unlocked and the cops tell you more criminals are moving into the neighborhood, wouldn't you at least lock your door?

K T Cat said...

Re: air travel. Yeah, I'd probably go for a medical quarantine on anyone who may have come in contact with the virus. It would start crudely, but become more sophisticated over time and less onerous. The price to be paid for Ebola getting loose in poor parts of the US is enormous.

How about Ebola loose in one of our prisons? Those things are overcrowded hothouses waiting for an epidemic. Yeehaw!