Since the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the United States in September, lawmakers from both of the parties have sought to politicize the government’s response, calling for the resignation of different officials, blaming immigrants for the spread of the virus, or suggesting that the Obama administration is too concerned about political correctness to implement sound policy.
But on Sunday, during an appearance on Fox News, Michael Osterholm, an expert on infectious disease epidemiology, urged elected officials to stop exploiting the situation for political gains and focus on the real problem at hand. “I think what we are not talking about is the devastation that this is causing in Africa, not just in human lives, but from a security standpoint,” he explained.
African governments and global health organizations are reporting that more than 9,000 people have become sick from Ebola and more than 4,500 have died from the virus.
“If this moves eastward, as we believe it now might, just by people walking on foot, not being checked at borders or not getting on airplanes, the potential this has to destabilize all of Africa is huge. Ask anyone in the intelligence community what that means in terms of potential safe heavens for terrorists etc.” Osterholm explained.
He also tore into Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) for pushing a travel ban against the affected African countries in light of almost unanimous opposition from public health experts.
“It is a bad idea in part because of the fact that we really don’t effectively stop people from getting into this country,” he explained. “But we do know that a travel ban will seriously impact or ability to get people in and out of that area.” He then ridiculed Murphy for comparing a potential ban to the Berlin airlift during Cold War.
“Congressman, with all due respect, I agree with you on the Berlin airlift, but that was all military. If you’re prepared today to give us hundreds of military planes that will fly in and out at will when we need them to move not only material but also people when we move around, then I’ll say, well maybe we ought to reconsider this. But I don’t see anybody in Congress telling us today that we’re going to get hundreds of military planes.”
Osterholm then turned to the real Ebola crisis raging in Africa. “We have to do more, and Congressman, I would love for you to take a look at why are we not seeing more troops on the ground? Why are our supplies not arriving in this effected countries? Why is the rest of the world not responding? …. And we need a vaccine, congressman, I hope you will help us get that vaccine because in the end that’s the only magic bullet that’s going to stop this whole thing.”