This article continues a series of posts examining non-biological factors contributing to the Ebola crisis’s severity. This week’s topic: red tape. Although bureaucratic inertia and hysterical political jockeying are usually mere annoyances, in this crisis they likely cost lives. Consider this disturbing headline from the Huffington Post:
Sierra Leone Finally Moves To Use Ebola Aid Sitting Untouched In Port For Nearly 2 Months
The article ran October 8th, 2014, days after the New York Times
and other news organizations broke a story about how $140,000 of medical supplies were sidelined by missing paperwork and unpaid shipping fees. It appears that the disconnect had been brought to light with the relevant Leonian authorities weeks before, but action wasn’t taken until the story exploded into a public relations nightmare.
Governmental failures and fiascos are not unique in to West Africa. Our domestic response to Ebola has been wrought with questionable political maneuvers. Domestically, a sometimes irrational and counterproductive has emerged under pressure from public and media hysteria. Consider, for example, New York’s and New Jersey’s well-publicized, overzealous reaction to the threat of Ebola, which they were forced to back off on just a few days later
. On October 30th, NPR ran a interview
with virologist Dr. Piero Olliaro, who had been barred from attending the annual meeting of The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The headline:
Ebola Researchers Banned From Medical Meeting In New Orleans
In the interview, Olliaro complains about the irrational decision of Louisiana health authorities to threaten him with quarantine for the duration of the conference even though he was symptom-free. Not did he find the decision unfair, but he concluded that Ebola-related travel bans and automatic quarantines do hamper scientific efforts to fight the disease.