Ebola — Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool …

In case you missed it, there’s been a disturbing development in the ongoing U.S. Ebola saga. This time, it’s not the spread of the disease, it’s the spread of misinformation.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was initially evaluated, misdiagnosed and released by Dallas Presbyterian Hospital and after the story hit, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases blamed the nursing staff. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said publicly that the nursing staff “dropped the ball,” having known about Duncan’s travel from Ebola-stricken Africa, but not putting it into his chart.

Now it turns out, it was in his chart — his Electronic Health Record included all of that information, but the doctor didn’t see it.

That was the first mistake that the feds made, but it wasn’t the last. No sooner had Fauci corrected that mistatement, then another official, Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it was nurses’ own fault they contracted the disease while caring for Duncan.

“There was a breach in protocol and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection,” Frieden said. “When you have potentially soiled or contaminated gloves or masks or other things, to remove those without any risk of any contaminated material touching you is critically important and not easy to do right.”

The next day, of course, Frieden took it back after reports began surfacing that the nursing staff was ordered to treat Duncan for two days without hazmat suits and that’s more likely how the disease was transmitted.

Then there was the travel. Nurse Amber Vinson, who’d cared for Duncan, was diagnosed with Ebola just after returning from Ohio on a passenger plan.

Frieden called her out again, saying “She was in a group of individuals known to have exposure to Ebola. She should not have traveled on a commercial airline.”

That’s strike three for the feds after it turns out that Vinson had been in regular contact with the CDC, which Frieden runs, and had been given permission to take the plane.

In times of crisis, we need to be able to count on our leaders to provide accurate information to keep us safe — and calm. Three major mistakes in a row not only erodes our confidence, it also slanders the front-line responders who are now literally risking their lives to care for the sick.

Our national healthcare agencies may do well to remember the old adage: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

NPR first reported this story at http://www.npr.org/2014/10/24/358574357/was-cdc-too-quick-to-blame-dallas-nurses-in-care-of-ebola-patient.

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About Tara Courtland

Tara Courtland is the communications director at NEMT.
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