Ebola Scare Elbows onto Political Stage

Fear of the spread of Ebola has taken center stage, pushing other political issues and concerns to the side as a national election approaches.

Fear of the spread of Ebola has taken center stage, pushing other political issues and concerns to the side as a national election approaches.

The arrival of the Ebola virus in the United States has claimed a lot of attention that otherwise would have gone to a stepped-up war on terror and the looming election November 4.

The death of a Liberian man in a Dallas hospital and the resulting exposure of two health care workers who treated him have spiraled into questions as large as whether the United States should close off its borders to anyone who has been in West Africa where Ebola has become an epidemic.

The Obama administration ordered tighter checks at major U.S. airports where most flights from West Africa land and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention is busily trying to train health care workers in protocols for treating persons with Ebola virus symptoms.

However, Americans have grown concerned after a series of missteps at the Dallas hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan died after he was initially sent home. The chief clinical officer for the hospital has apologized for mistakes that were made.

Those mistakes have extended to improper procedures and equipment that led to healthcare workers Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson contracting Ebola. Another nurse has turned whistleblower about protective gear that she said failed to cover someone's body around the throat and could expose a health care worker. The nurse said she would ask to be sent to another hospital if she came down with the Ebola virus.

The CDC has admitted to blame for being too cavalier about the readiness of hospitals to handle Ebola patients. Its judgment also was called into question after Vinson was allowed to go on a flight despite having a temperature.

The apparent bungling of Ebola care in Dallas and statements by nurses and others that most hospitals lack the training and equipment to deal with an Ebola outbreak has fed fears nationwide that the deadly disease could spread here just like in West Africa.

Like so many other issues, there is a partisan divide on the federal government's ability to respond effectively to Ebola here. An ABC/Washington Post poll revealed 76 percent of Democrats are confident of the federal government's ability, while only 54 percent Republicans share that confidence. More Republicans than Democrats worry that the Ebola virus could affect them personally.

Gone is the pride and relief Americans felt when the first two American health care workers who contracted Ebola in West Africa recovered successfully in the care of a Atlanta hospital. Pride and relief have been replaced by concern and, in some cases, fear-mongering that has made a lot of other bogeymen fade into the background.