It’s still early days in the case of the man who hopped off a plane in Dallas two weeks ago carrying Ebola, was checked into a local hospital a week later with symptoms, to be discharged after, presumably, being told (in the nicest possible way) not to be such a whinger. I’ve read reports that Mr. Duncan is not doing well. It’s not to early to draw a few lessons from the incidents.
First, voluntary quarantines or limitations on travel don’t work. I’ve read multiple reports that Mr. Duncan fortified himself with ibuprofen to reduce his fever before getting on the plane. People lie. They’ll do what they need to do when their lives are on the line.
Second, the protocols presently in place in the United States for healthcare workers to identify and isolate Ebola are inadequate and will never be adequate because they’re implemented by human beings. This is no six sigma affair.
There are more lessons ahead. For example, if Mr. Duncan dies it will be because Ebola is a deadly disease rather than because he’s being treated in a Third World country. And if Ebola becomes endemic in West Africa, as may well occur, or, worse, if it travels to Brazil or Indonesia and becomes endemic there as well there will be future lessons.