A No-Drama Ebola Policy, Ctd

On top of the modest travel restrictions from the DHS, the CDC announced yesterday that anyone traveling from the epicenters of the epidemic will be monitored for 21 days after they enter the US:

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said that anyone arriving from the three countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – will be actively monitored on a daily basis and will also face new rules about where they can travel within the United States. He added that about 70 percent of all travelers stay in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia. People will receive a kit when they arrive at the airport that explains what the symptoms are, a guide to telephone numbers, and a thermometer, Frieden said. State and local officials will maintain daily contact with travelers for the entire 21 days.

Morrissey is skeptical these new measures will be effective:

The problem with this approach is that it’s still voluntary.

One assumes the CDC will follow the cases to ensure that the monitoring takes place, but they don’t appear to want to order anyone into quarantine — and how many subjects will they have to audit? If it’s just a few dozen it might work, but the more travelers who come in from these countries, the more stretched those resources will get. And who’s to say that even regular calls to those being monitored will result in truthful reporting anyway? Until they get sick, there doesn’t appear to be much incentive for honesty about abiding by the testing regime here, or for self-imposed isolation either.

David Francis also has doubts:

So far, none of the 562 who have been monitored under the CDC program has tested positive for Ebola. Details on how they would be monitored over the next three weeks were scant. According to Bryan Lewis, an infectious-disease expert at Virginia Tech University, the monitoring lacks true medical value. “It’s going to be very hard to implement and would have minimal yield in terms of finding other patients,” Lewis said. “It seems like an extra thing to assure the population that we’re doing every extra step that we can.”

But a couple of public health experts tell Jonathan Cohn that they approve of the new precautions:

“It is carefully layered, thoughtfully designed and will likely be effective,” said Howard Markel, a physician and historian of epidemics at the University of Michigan. “Remember, when employing socially disruptive measure or for that matter specific therapies, you don’t use a bazooka when a BB gun will do. These measures are in no way a BB gun, but they carry the advantage of not inciting restrictive travel bans against U.S. citizens or having a situation where the African nation in question won’t allow American, etc., health workers let alone military advisers into their country.”

“I think this really seals the leaks with regard to people entering the U.S. from those countries,” said Melinda Moore, a physician and CDC veteran who’s now at the Rand Corporation. “The numbers are relatively small. It will be interesting to see if this is really enforceable. It had better be.”