President Barack Obama lied to sell Obamacare, and lately he’s using double talk to sell Ebolacare, his risky response to the virus sweeping West Africa. Sadly, he’s turning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once a trusted agency, into a public relations arm of the White House lie machine.
On October 23, the CDC website posted an explanation of the ways it might be possible to catch Ebola in addition to direct contact with an infected person. The website listed being sneezed or coughed on by an infected person or touching an object contaminated with the virus. The information is straight out of scientific journals. But it didn’t jibe with Obama’s repeated claim that “you cannot get it from just riding on a plane or bus.” So the CDC took it down a few days later and refused to say why.
Expect such shenanigans to backfire with voters. Likely voters rate health care second only to the economy in importance to them, according to an Associated Press poll on October 21. They also rate the government’s handling of Ebola as more important than immigration and twice as important as same-sex marriage. AP polling also shows that only a meager 35 percent of likely voters feel confident they’re getting a straight story on Ebola.
No wonder. The public knows that in Obama’s administration, lying has gone viral. That’s the real epidemic threatening the nation.
As for Ebola, the risk of getting it in the U.S. at this time is extremely low unless you work in a hospital treating an Ebola patient. Extremely low but not impossible. Here is what we know:
If an infected person coughs or sneezes, sending droplets several feet, and they land in your eye, nose or mouth, or possibly on an opening in your skin, you could get Ebola. That’s the information the CDC posted.
You might also get it sharing finger food from a common plate with someone infected, according to research in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
What about touching a subway pole or bowling ball? Unlike staph and other bacteria, which can last for weeks on dry surfaces, viruses generally last only a few hours, at most a day or two. There is no definite research showing that people have caught Ebola that way. A 2007 study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases shows Ebola survives much longer if it is in blood — for example, on a bloody bandage, tissue or tampon. The CDC included this information in its posting, too, only seven years after it was originally published.
Then there’s the risk of using a toilet right after an Ebola-infected person has used it and flushed. Flushing sends droplets of water from the toilet bowl up into the air. Some common hospital infections are spread that way. Investigators from the University of Illinois School of Public Health see the possibility of Ebola spreading that way, too: “Regarding diarrhea … flushing emits a pathogen-laden aerosol that disperses into the air.” Think airport bathroom.
The fact is, scientists don’t know all of the ways Ebola can spread. The roughly 20 previous known outbreaks occurred in rural African villages, so research is scant. When the president says it can only be spread through direct contact, and CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden parrots that, you may not be getting the whole story.
During an October 29 speech to the nation, Obama adopted a schoolmarm attitude, chastising those who disagree with him about quarantining health care workers for “losing their heads” and being driven by fear, not science. That’s untrue.
What we don’t know about Ebola would humble any scientist, but not the Obama administration. The exception is the Defense Department, which solicited research proposals on October 24 to get more information on how Ebola spreads.
Last week, the Associated Press hired several scientists to come up with estimates on how many cases of Ebola we’re likely to see in the U.S. The answers varied so widely, it’s clear no one knows. The AP also surveyed hospitals across the U.S. and found almost none ready to handle Ebola. This is falling on deaf ears at the White House. But Tuesday’s election results may deliver a dose of the humility that is needed.
Betsy McCaughey Ph.D. is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.