Friday, October 10, 2014

Ebola Scare!

Run for your lives!  It’s coming to get us!  Quarantine everybody!

Really, Bobby Jindal (and others)? 

Am I scared of ebola?  Who isn’t?  If you’re not, you should be; this has the chance to be really bad.

Can we quarantine?  Not really.

Consider:  There are approximately 27,000 flights over the US every day (includes all flights). Worldwide, that number is 300,000.  IATA indicates there are more than 7,000,000 people a day on airplanes.

Airplanes go anywhere there’s a runway.

Let’s say the US, UK, and “the Eurozone” quarantine all flights to and from the affected African nations.  That’s cool; you’ll disrupt air traffic worldwide and cause financial hardship for many, many people and businesses (in fact, surely you’ll put some companies out of business entirely). 

All that means is that the air traffic would shift to other countries (say Mexico or South America) where there were no embargoes.

So an ebola-afflicted African travels to Mexico City, and suddenly there’s an outbreak there.  The US is doing such an excellent job of keeping people from Mexico from crossing into the US, isn’t it?  Um, no.  So there’s your entry and it’s not even from Africa.

Ground the entire air fleet?  Stop all trains?  Stop all shipping?  That would create a world financial disaster that would make both the Great Recession and the Great Depression look mild.

Use UN military forces to physically cordon off the affected countries?  First, the UN would have to agree to do it, and that would never happen.  But, if it did, it would have to secure permission from the border countries to do it, and they would never give it.  Besides, how exactly would you pull that off?  Who’s going to pay for it?  How long will it take you to get it in place?  (It’s not a matter of flying the Marines in; you have to have all kinds of equipment, supplies, etc). 

Speaking of the Marines—you’re talking about putting all of them at risk if they DO come in contact with an infected person.

The current “screening” process at 3 US airports?  LUDICROUS!  “Pardon me sir, do you have any fever or rash?  Let me use this thermometer to take your temperature…ok, 98.6, and you’re sure you haven’t come in contact with anyone who has it?  Ok, pass.”  1.  People LIE (especially if they’re desperate).  2.  With the long tail on the virus being contagious with no symptoms—anybody could have been exposed for up to 11 days without even knowing it.  Just ridiculous.  3 US airports?  Ok, that covers direct flights to the affected areas—but Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston has 182 destinations, many of them foreign, and serves 110,000 passengers a day.  It is the SEVENTH largest international gateway in the US with over 30 nonstops daily to Mexico alone. 

How exactly are you going to contain this?

Better get that vaccine ready…

My friend Jim Harrington does an excellent job of explaining why we SHOULDN’T panic on his blog.  You can read that here.