Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 6, 2014

Harvard Public Health School and Reuters: Ebola fear, not science, driving policies

Filed under: Biosecurity,Media,Public Health & Medical Care,Risk Assessment — by Arnold Bogis on November 6, 2014

The news agency Reuters and the Harvard School of Public Health have a partnership to produce “Health Watch,” which according to the School’s website is: “a web series featuring expert analyses and comments about the latest developments in health news. This series is presented by The Forum at HSPH and the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with Reuters.”

In this episode, “Dr. Paul Biddinger, Associate Director of the Harvard School of Public Health Center for Public Health Preparedness, tells Reuters that fear is driving certain non-science based policies like the involuntary quarantine of health workers.” Dr. Biddinger also directs the School’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise Program.


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Comment by Donald Quixote

November 6, 2014 @ 10:40 am

When there is a vacuum of understood and actionable strategy, policy, planning and preparedness for a serious threat, fear can be a powerful driver for the implementation of immediate procedures for containment – positive and negative. We need to address our ancient quarantine, isolation and response policies and procedures to reduce these actions before the appearance of a more serious pathogen. The fear is our fault so we should not contemn it too harshly unless we are willing to address it.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

November 6, 2014 @ 11:11 am

I do not disagree, for the most part. I do think that the perception of a vacuum of policy and preparedness is much greater than the reality. As Dr. Biddinger explains, we had plans, they were implemented in real life and flaws were discovered, so changes were put into place. We applaud and venerate our military for this type of behavior, but want to fire the head of the CDC for the very same thing.

The fear is our fault, because we don’t want to accept what the experts tell us. I’ve watched too many politicians talk about “common sense” and too many reporters tell an infectious disease specialist “I understand that, BUT….” when told the risk to the public is minuscule.

The responsible adults have been addressing the fear. They are sometimes ignored. Who then should address it?

Comment by Donald Quixote

November 6, 2014 @ 11:57 am

We do have many documents on our shelves (or hard drives), but I do not concur that we are terribly ready beyond that important and visible achievement. From an operational perspective that interacts with numerous federal, state, local and private sector partners every day in a major metro area, I believe that there is a serious vacuum in this arena – one that has not really been stress-tested. The two Ebola table top exercises that I attended in the last month demonstrated a serious deficiency beyond the most basic challenge for very squared away and well-funded agencies. Secondary and follow-up questions, beyond the exercise script, have brought the most uncomfortable expressions and responses that I have seen in years.

If less than 10 ill patients can physiologically stress the system and cause the justified or unjustified fears and media hype, we may not have established a level of preparedness and confidence needed for this issue. This concern does factor in the 24 hour media influence.

I continue to “fear” that Ebola is a warning shot that we shall ignore once it subsides from our radar screen and a real threat arrives or erupts here. The dots are more easily connected from the rear view mirror.

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