The Costs of a 100 Percent Ebola Solution

A while ago, I noted that there are costs to a 100 percent ‘zero tolerance’ Ebola prevention strategy, ranging from exhaustion of trained personnel to misallocating research and healthcare resources. Speaking of healthcare resources….

Well, the CDC has just released a report on their initial experience with “PUIs” in US hospitals, and there’s this disturbing little nugget buried within:

“At least two persons who tested negative for Ebola died from other causes. Based on reports from health departments and health care providers, in several instances efforts to establish alternative diagnoses were reported to have been hampered or delayed because of infection control concerns. For example, laboratory tests to guide diagnosis or management (e.g., complete blood counts, liver function tests, serum chemistries, and malaria tests) were reportedly deferred in some cases until there were assurances of a negative Ebola virus test result. In other instances, radiologic studies, such as computed tomography and ultrasound scans, or evaluation for noninfectious conditions, such as severe hypertension and tachycardia, were reportedly delayed while a diagnosis of Ebola was under consideration.”

Given the ratio of PUIs to actual Ebola patients presenting to US hospitals, it is quite likely that more patients will die in the US from AOC (“Abundance of Caution”) than die from Ebola. Back to CDC now:

“…it is important to recognize that the likelihood of Ebola even among symptomatic travelers returning from these countries is very low. In the hospital setting, where policies and procedures should be in place to safeguard health care workers, consideration of Ebola should not delay diagnostic assessments, laboratory testing, and institution of appropriate care for other, more likely medical conditions.”

As I and many others have said repeatedly, when norovirus and influenza seasons kick into high gear–and this year’s influenza season might be a bad one–if we’re nuts about Ebola, we are going to incur a ton of costs, financial and personal, if we’re not smart.

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