Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was a reassuring voice of confidence Sept. 30 after Thomas Eric Duncan was confirmed to have Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
At a news conference, Frieden answered reporters’ questions like a real pro.
There was no indication that local, state and national officials would be making it up as they went along in treating the first U.S.-diagnosed case of the deadly disease that has devastated West Africa.
“It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual could develop Ebola in the coming weeks, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here,” Frieden said.
There is still no reason to panic, but there is reason to doubt that the CDC and the people in charge have the situation under as much control as they portrayed Sept. 30. They have looked sloppy.
Duncan has died, not an unexpected event. The World Health Organization has said 70 percent of patients in the current Ebola outbreak have died.
But now we know that hospital workers misdiagnosed Duncan’s illness Sept. 26 on his first visit to the hospital, sending him home despite knowing he had recently traveled from West Africa and had Ebola symptoms.
Two of the workers who helped treat him in the hospital have been diagnosed with Ebola. Attention has focused on whether they were properly using protective gear, something the hospital should have assured.
And on Wednesday, we learned that the second worker diagnosed, Amber Joy Vinson, 29, traveled by commercial airliner Friday and Monday despite a CDC directive that people exposed to Ebola should not travel except under “controlled” conditions.
She did not vomit or bleed while on the Frontier Airlines flights, and Frieden said Wednesday that the risk to other passengers was “extremely low.”
She reported herself ill Tuesday morning. Frieden said at-risk people will now be monitored more closely.
We want to have confidence in health officials. But North Texas is not a test case for Ebola treatment.
We need to see that Frieden and others bring real expertise.