Should Americans be concerned about Ebola? Should we suspend visas from the hardest hit countries?
These are the questions we’re wrangling with as we face the first outbreak of Ebola in the US. The administration and his supporters in the Democrat party are attempting to portray the very question as foolish, and concerned Americans as “hysterical.” So let’s take a look at this from a rational risk assessment perspective.
Above is a standard risk assessment matrix, commonly used by businesses and organizations to assess risk. We have two attributes to assess our risk: severity, and probability, or likelihood. Clearly Ebola poses a catastrophic risk, not only because it “may cause death,” in fact a 50/50 chance of death on an individual level, but poses a systemic risk to society in many ways if a large outbreak were to occur. Last month, we could have postulated that Ebola was “unlikely” to occur in the United States as the President said, but since we have already had one case of Ebola come to the US and spread, we have to conclude that even if unlikely, it’s obviously possible, and move our probability to “seldom”. That puts us in the “high risk” category, right now, today.
It also demonstrates why, no matter how many times Democrats quote figures of the numbers flu deaths each year, it remains a low risk. The risk is “negligible,” even though it is “likely to occur in time.”
Now we need to look forward, which all reasonable and responsible people do. Is it more likely that the disease will grow and continue to spread, or is it more likely that it will be contained and subside?
On this, there is no question, the World Health Organization has been very clear. There is no containment of Ebola in sight. Right now it has an R-0 factor of slightly over 2, which means that every person who contracts the disease spreads it to two other people. Until that number is brought below 1, the disease will continue to spread. At close to 10,000 confirmed cases, the medical system has been overwhelmed. What happens at 100,000 cases, or as the in WHO’s worst case scenario, a million cases by January? It’s literally unfathomable. Does that make it more or less likely that the disease will spread outside of it’s current borders? And what does it do to our risk assessment matrix? It’s fair to propose that the chance of the Ebola infection entering the US and spreading would go from “seldom” to “quite likely to occur in time.” Which would mean we would move into the “extreme risk” category. Additional contributing risk factors would be the uncertainties over means of transmission, the difficulty of performing human trials on a disease so deadly, and the completely unprecedented nature of the current outbreak (currently 9,000 confirmed cases, the next largest outbreak was 425 cases, according to the CDC.)
It should be clear by using common risk assessment, that Ebola presents a “high risk” to our country. Our leaders should treat it as such, and take every possible precaution to mitigate that risk in every possible way. The stakes are too high not to.