Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a telephone press briefing Wednesday that you cannot get Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus, but that infected or exposed persons should not ride public transportation because they could transmit the disease to someone else.
Gotcha. You can't get Ebola on a bus or a plane, you can only give it. Good to know. Thanks, Doc.
The Centers for Disease Control is one of those elite federal agencies that people hitherto assumed was, so to speak, immune to the pathologies of less glamorous government bureaucracies. It turns out it's the DMV with test tubes - just the usual "Sorry? Did we say you need two copies of the green form? We meant you need three copies of the pink form" routine with extra lethality. The Protocols of the Elders of Druid Hills have proved to be boundlessly mutable and mostly honored in the breach:
~Don't worry, the Protocols are in place - except that Thomas Duncan, the original Ebola patient, was left in an open area of the Dallas emergency room for hours and the medical staff treating him did not have protective clothing for the first two days.
~Don't worry, they did eventually get fully sealed, protective clothing - well, except for their necks, which remained exposed.
~Don't worry, exposed medical staff aren't supposed to fly - except that Nurse Amber Vinson got on a flight to Cleveland with a fever.
~Well, okay, but that was totally in breach of the Protocols - except that Nurse Vinson called the CDC to check and they said, "Sure, get on the plane. What's the worst that can happen? And make sure you share the bag of mini-pretzels..."
~Well, okay, but the next time Nurse Vinson got a flight, everyone followed the Protocols and wore hazmat suits - except for the guy with the clipboard, who works for the CDC and so can't be expected to know all this Protocol stuff...
As I said yesterday, the mortality rate for Ebola is 70 per cent - if you go nowhere near a hospital and just stay in your primitive disease-ridden village. If you go to a Liberian hospital, the mortality rate goes down a whopping three per cent to 67 per cent. One had assumed that western hospitals would be able to lower that significantly, but Hazmat Bob's Ministry of Propaganda is not terribly reassuring on that front. On stage in Minneapolis a week ago, I mentioned the big virus du jour of a decade ago - the now forgotten SARS. In Toronto, the health care system - which was meant to contain it - instead spread it. As I wrote in America Alone (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore, and which go to support my pushback against the climate mullahs):
In rural China pigs are valued possessions and sleep in the living room. That's why hundreds of members of a Catholic charismatic group from New York State had to go into isolation for a hitherto unknown respiratory disease in April 2003. A doctor from Sars-riddled Guangdong province went to a wedding at the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong, where he managed to infect 16 other guests with rooms on the same floor, including Kwan Sui Chu, an elderly lady staying there for one night. She flew home to Toronto and died, her death being attributed to a "chest infection". Her son Tse Chi Kwai went to Scarborough Grace Hospital and, as is traditional in Canada, was left on a gurney in Emergency for 12 hours exposed to hundreds of people. Lying next to him was Joe Pollack, who was being treated for an irregular heartbeat and whose wife wandered around the wards and came across an 82-year old man from a Catholic charismatic group. Mr Pollack, Mrs Pollack, the octogenarian charismatic and his wife all died, and their sons infected at least 30 other members of their religious group plus a Filipina nurse, who flew back to Manila and before her death introduced Sars to a whole new country.
The fellow with the irregular heartbeat, the Catholic charismatics, the Filipina nurse: none of these people went anywhere near rural China. They didn't have to.
The good news is Ebola seems to be rather harder to catch than SARS. The bad news is the CDC seems to be doing its best to change that.
~The dysfunctionalism of the hyper-bureaucratic state and its preference for soft targets (such as Kinder Eggs) over serious ones (such as Ebola) is one of the themes of my new book, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, which comes out on Monday across the US and Canada. It's as easy to pick up as Ebola: South of the border, you can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other major retailers. North of the border, you can get it from Indigo-Chapters, Amazon, McNally-Robinson and all good bookstores.
~Because of my overseas travels, it's been some time since I've been able to keep my weekly radio date with The Hugh Hewitt Show. Naturally, for my first week back, Hugh has decided to take the day off, but I'll be there keeping up my end of the deal, live coast to coast today, Thursday, at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.