Has The CDC Been Too Blasé?

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for people at risk of coming down with Ebola, meaning primarily health workers returning from West Africa:

On Monday, the CDC broke down people in the orbit of Ebola into four categories. Those at highest risk are anyone who’s had direct contact with an Ebola patient’s body fluids, including health care workers who suffer a needle-stick injury during a patient’s care. For those people who are at highest risk and asymptomatic, the CDC recommended restrictions on commercial travel or attendance at public gatherings. The guidelines were not specific about where a person should stay, but officials said they meant home or hospital isolation. For those with some risk, like who lived in a household with an Ebola patient but didn’t have direct contact, travel restriction can be decided on a case-by-case basis, government officials said.

But states are not bound by these guidelines and are free to implement their own protocols, as several more states have done following New York and New Jersey’s lead:

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) held separate news conferences Monday announcing their plans for Ebola containment. Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will be assessed by health workers and asked to agree to a 21-day monitoring protocol. Higher-risk travelers will be visited at home by health workers and asked to stay there. Individuals refusing to sign the protocol agreement or not following the rules could be involuntarily quarantined, officials said.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday announced a more aggressive Ebola-containment policy. Travelers from West Africa who don’t show symptoms, but who are considered high risk because of “known direct exposure” to Ebola patients, will be subject to quarantine at a designated facility, Deal’s office said.

With military personnel helping fight the epidemic in Africa, the Pentagon is also taking a more cautious tack than the CDC:

Army spokesman Col. Steve Warren did not call the move a quarantine in a statement issued on Monday. Rather, he said that “about a dozen” troops were being monitored. “Out of an abundance of caution, the Army did direct a small number of military personnel (about a dozen) that recently returned to Italy to be monitored in a separate location at their home station (Vicenza),” Warren stated. “There has been no decision to implement this force wide and any such decision would be made by the secretary of Defense. None of these individuals have shown any symptoms of exposure.”

According to reports, the soldiers are being monitored away from their families for 21 days. The Army refuses to call the isolation a quarantine, although separating people for medical reasons meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of quarantine.

Allahpundit ridicules the CDC’s recommendations, which in his opinion are “one notch more casual than [they] should be”:

To this day, if I’m not mistaken, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol don’t know how they contracted the disease in Africa; Doctors Without Borders, which naturally follows strict protocols in treating patients, has nonetheless seen 16 staffers come down with it, nine of whom died. Presumably Spencer had no reason to think he’d contracted it or he wouldn’t have gone bowling. If even trained professionals are getting caught by surprise in their exposure, why would the CDC err on the side of less quarantine once they’re back home? The public’s confidence in the agency is going to get much, much worse, needless to say, if we end up with another transmission from the “low” or “some risk” category.

The irony of all this, as Tim Cavanaugh notes, is that it’s the doctors at the centers of it who are making the public more, not less, anxious (not “panicked,” as is often wrongly said). If Spencer and Snyderman had diligently quarantined themselves, the public would have greater faith that voluntary quarantines are an acceptable alternative to the sort of state-imposed measure that Christie’s getting hammered for today.

And Jazz Shaw insists that protocols that rely on voluntary quarantines and self-reporting simply aren’t good enough:

People facing a potentially dire situation will frequently be in denial. We see that all the time with folks who avoid going to the doctor only to find out later that all of those warning signs were, indeed, cancer. But if you can’t bring yourself to admit it in your own mind, you likely won’t be checking off those boxes on a form either. Further, you might be thinking that it can’t possibly be Ebola, so why would I go through all the hassle of reporting this? Where would they get that idea? Maybe from hearing an endless stream of government spokesmodels being paraded across your television screen telling you that it’s almost impossible to catch in the first place. And if you’ve had that drilled into your head often enough, who wants to go get locked up in their house for three weeks for what is almost certainly just a case of the flu?

Follow all of our Ebola coverage here, compiled primarily by Jonah Shepp, the irrepressible young Dish editor.