What Would Keep Ebola From Spreading In The US? Investing In Simple Research Years Ago.

Maryn McKenna | WIRED | October 13, 2014

There’s a thing you learn, when you’ve been writing about infectious diseases for a while: People love drama. They’re not so much with detail.  Drama is H5N1 avian flu killing half the people who contract it, and the enormous surge in whooping cough, and the sinister movement of almost-untreatable NDM-1 resistance from South Asia to the West.

Detail is the question of whether health care workers treating pandemic-flu patients should expect viral spread for 3 feet or 6 feet; and why immunity conferred by the current pertussis vaccine fades a few years earlier than expected; and how hospitals can encourage their janitors to clean rooms more thoroughly, when they’ve always treated them as a disposable part of the staff.  All of those details are crucial to controlling those diseases. All of them are also research questions. None of them, guaranteed, have gotten the attention or funding that would answer the questions in a way that equips us to counter the dramatic problems.

I mention this, of course, because of the news Sunday that a Dallas nurse who treated Thomas Duncan, the Ebola patient who traveled from Liberia and became the first to be diagnosed within the US, is herself ill with Ebola and has been isolated at the hospital where she works. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed her illness in a press conference and said that “at some point there was a breach in protocol and that breach in protocol resulted in this infection.”...