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The Ebola Crisis as a Crisis of Public Trust

Fear and distrust of government are major problems when it comes to controlling Ebola in West Africa, but the United States has its own problems along these lines as well. America’s public health authorities should look to the civil defense legacy for lessons on preparing for pandemics.

Published on: October 15, 2014
Patrick S. Roberts is an associate professor of public administration and policy at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria, Virginia, campus and the author of Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected (Cambridge, 2013). His website is
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  • Flatus Rectum

    Flights from west Africa need to be halted immediately. This is a prudent and entirely responsible public safety action that needs to be taken. If Mr. Obama had done this there would be no Ebola scare.

    • Fred

      But you have to look at the big picture. Obama can’t afford to upset the Democrat base this close to an election by doing something blacks might interpret as racist and Hispanics might interpret as anti-immigrant. It’s far better a few tens of thousands should die of Ebola than that the Democrats should lose the Senate.

      • Corlyss

        That’s not the bigger picture. That’s the narrowly partisan picture and it’s obvious to every fired up Republican voter who is prepared to make Doofus eat his narrowly partisan picture.

        • Fred

          That’s not the bigger picture. That’s the narrowly partisan picture
          Of course. That was writ ironical. To any ordinary person that is the narrowly partisan picture, but since that is the only picture the Obamites see, for them it is the big picture.

          • Corlyss

            I hear you Fred, but I can’t count the number of talking heads I’ve heard say the same thing, and they aren’t being ironic.

  • ShadrachSmith

    The Ebola and Enterovirus D68 are just two of the current side effects of the Democrat’s Open Borders politics. If some American’s die, so be it, the resulting population will be more Democrat friendly. And that is the Democrat’s goal.

    • Tom

      I would hope that the Democrats weren’t that psycho. And if they were, I would hope they weren’t that stupid to think that their constituencies wouldn’t be the hardest affected. Epidemics hit cities hardest. Simple as that.

      • I’d bet on this one being the mother of all tummy-aches for Washington, DC. At the very latest we’ll stop the flights and close the borders when a Congressman gets Ebola.

        No, I won’t offer suggestions or comments on names.

        • ExiledOnMainStreet

          Or a rich Democrat donor. One who employs illegal aliens to cook and clean the bathrooms…

      • ShadrachSmith

        Hope in one hand and grab your hazmat suit with the other.

      • Corlyss

        Hope, as Frieden has discovered, is not an investable strategy.

  • Ebola is yet another blast from the perfect storm that is Obama and the hard left takeover of the federal government.

    No reasonable action would likely have prevented Mr. Duncan’s coming here, but now? We cannot seem to get serious about this even as we click to two (or is it three) cases coming from our ‘patient zero.’ and time runs out to strangle Ebola here at the start.

    I’ve spent a few hours today on the comment sections of relatively
    level-headed blogs and the level of frank paranoia is at an all time
    high: Perfectly reasonable events are being seen as incompetence or worse. People want perfect reassurance about an epidemic — something that hasn’t happened in America in a century — and Ebola, a disease that’s unknown in western cultures and thus likely to follow novel rules and require somewhat novel actions.

    Yet we learn that Obama’s popularity has fallen to a new ‘all-time low’ of 40%. Aside from the fact that I though it had been 40% for a year, isn’t it odd that the president during the scariest national event in my lifetime still has a pretty decent approval number for mid-second term? Are two out of every five of us already dead and doing polls by proxy?

    I had little feeling that most posters of comments had already written their Congressmen to say “Stop the flights, close the borders, and bring our soldiers home.” Liberals, of course will find all those objectionable but those who are frankly scared of this disease — why aren’t THEY acting?

    As to government regaining the confidence of the people, that’s a pipe dream until Obama’s gone, competent adults replace the leftest thugs at the top of the federal government, and the new team is visibly at work rooting out the Lois Lerners that are seeded all through the civil service and SES. A man who trusts the feds today is a fool — and that will be true for AT LEAST a few years to come. Ebola, however, may be a first step — albeit an extremely painful one — to fixing that.

    I think this is going to be a highly educational month and a highly educational year. Reality, at last, is no longer holding her fire.

  • Anthony

    First and foremost nationally this issue (Ebola) cannot become political fodder. The gravity of issue to country is too important to be kicked about by partisans. Indeed, what does the science say and, as mentioned in essay, what “civil defense” methods can be reliably carried out in conjunction with first responders – ports of entry, hospitals, CDC. On top of that, West Africa (specifically, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone) may need global coordination to contain virus spread.

    A few key points from essay: 1) panic spreading faster than the virus will harm peace and security in region; 2) epidemic disease requires more intensive safety measures, monitoring, and efforts to assuage fears than the fires, floods, and hurricanes that emergency and crisis managers usually prepare for; 3) despite the virulence of Ebola, it poses a relatively low threat to the United States in the short term compared to the possibility of large numbers of deaths and failed states in places without a robust health care system and modern sanitation practices.

    • That first sentence — “(Ebola) cannot become political fodder” — is a catapult into fantasy.

      Rational people may not be interested in the politics of Ebola, but the Politics of Ebola is interested in us. Do you think our president’s Cabinet meeting focused more on the disease or more on the ‘optics’ of the disease?
      Which will be the main focus of federal action over the next three weeks?

      The rest is unarguable and largely unactionable in our circumstances. (Obama is the mother of all ‘circumstances.’) If we are lucky our states and counties AND ESPECIALLY INDIVIDUAL CITIZENS will deal reasonably well with this but, regardless, the rest of the world is on its own.

      We can throw soldiers at it but the result will be similar to that of Britain tossing fighter squadrons at the blitzkrieg in 1939-40. Hopefully we won’t.

      • Anthony

        I’m not interested in President’s optics and was writing in concern of growing crisis now centered primarily in West Africa (where experts say outbreak could grow to 10,000 new cases a week within two months). More specifically, my reference (political) was to Speaker of House. Fundamentally, I want U.S. citizens informed and secure. Thanks.

        • No argument there. I was speaking of what I think we can expect, not what should be.

        • Corlyss

          1. Who gives a damn about the chronically inept Africans that the rest of the world should be put at risk for them?
          2. You cannot expect common sense out of the clowns running the US government.
          3. Boehner didn’t politicize the ebola fiasco; Doofus did the instant he decided not to quarantine people from the affected nations coming into this country because that would be racist. Surely we’re at least as capable of self-preservation as the Brits are, except we have a leadership that thinks self-preservation and self-interest in regards to the US is morally prohibited because 160 years ago we practiced slavery and were mean to the Indians! Idiots are running the country.

          • I agree with you.

            I am sympathetic to Africa, but their problems are THEIR problems and they will have to fix them. In fact, some Africans blame outsiders for helping them too much: They believe we cripple their efforts to grow their own institutions.

          • Anthony

            You are entitled to your biases and condemnations as I am entitled to avoid (and acknowledge) the facile politicization of a threatening virus (globally). Whether Africans or Zygotes, concerned people articulate virus’ potential to disrupt. Slavery and American Indian reference sans context but a moralist once informed me that “a man is known by the problems he keeps, or by the issues with which he conscientiously occupies himself. A person whose conscience troubles him much over trivial things thereby demonstrates himself to be a somewhat trivial person. A person whose conscience commands him to be effectively concerned with the problems of men, in his neighborhood, nation, or world, automatically thereby becomes…” Some old advise brought to mind as concept of morality has been injected.

          • Fred

            You are entitled to your biases and condemnations as I am entitled to avoid (and acknowledge) the facile politicization of a threatening virus (globally).

            Well aren’t you special. The fact is, this issue is political now whether you like it or not. This potential epidemic has been allowed to get a helluva lot worse than it needs to be for political reasons. So your pose of moral superiority is BS.

          • Anthony

            Well, I been waiting for you (knew sooner than later one of your deadly triggers would surface). Yet, I don’t think you are you! That is, your intermittent comment thread running through Via Meadia lacks both coherence and consistency (it appears that more than one writer pens under name – a cursory check by any interested party detects simple mundane rigid concrete rhetoric on hand hand then after hours away {sometimes days} on the other hand a more coherent syntactical display of grammar suddenly appears). Talking about BS…. Who’s BS… whom here anonymous web harasser. As I have said, write regularly to essays and Feed’s themes (rather than replies to comments of others by whomever is penning this BS) so reader audience can see was prompts (triggers) attacks.

          • Corlyss

            “I am entitled to avoid (and acknowledge) the facile politicization of a threatening virus (globally).”

            You mean you can stick your head in the sand and ignore the obvious. I trust you’ll find some more snotty put-downs while you’re thus engaged.

          • Anthony

            Put downs are your area of expertise (I also strive to avoid those where appropriate though being human I remain fallible). Check the record.

  • Sibir_RUS

    Julius Fucik: “People, Be Vigilant!”

    Brandon Smith. Activist Post. USA
    CDC Suggests “Hermetically Sealed Caskets” For Ebola Victims – AKA “Fema Coffins”
    Igor IGNATCHENKO.28.10.2012
    American democracy: what lies behind the facade?
    “FEMA Bill HR6566: Ordering National Preparation For Mass Death”
    September 28, 2012. Text of the law:

  • Sibir_RUS

    Financial analyst and trader Gregory Mannarino. USA

  • R. Howell

    “The nurse who treated Duncan also contracted the disease because of a breach in protocol.”
    Do tell! What was this breach of protocol? You must have quite a scoop, as no one else seems to have any idea.

    • B-Sabre

      Given the lack of resources, guidance and warning provided by the CDC and the hospital in general, I’m not surprised that there was a breach in containment protocol by untrained, ill-prepared nurses dealing with an unfamiliar threat using inappropriate equipment. If you go online, you can find a statement by the Nurses’ Union lambasting the CDC and the hospital for a lack of information, coordination and equipment, all of which probably led to their contamination. They had to improvise neck protection from adhesive tape! That’s all well and good, but how do you peel that off without touching yourself in the process?

  • Sibir_RUS

    Before the creators combat virus always have this problem:
    it is quite easy to create a virus that will cause a slight runny nose populations over large areas. But more deadly virus, which immobilizes infected human not able to self-spread. Therefore, it is important to find the source of the spread of this infection. For example, it may be infected water or artificial dispersion in the atmosphere.
    1763 – deliberate spread of smallpox among native American tribes. American colonizers sent in their camp blankets infected with syphilis. Among the Indians was an outbreak of syphilis.

  • Corlyss

    Another instance of Doofus the Clueless pretending to know more than he does, prompted no doubt by that idiot at CDC who knows only how to follow the politically correct “science” dictated by Doofus. Nobody knows how the nurses contracted the disease, so as Capt. Kirk would have said to Nomad, “You made a mistake (in your rosy PC pronouncements), and you failed to detect your mistake, so that’s two errors! You must self-destruct.” The CDC moron should resign, but he won’t; and Doofus should demand Fried’s head as the sacrificial goat, but he won’t. As C.S. Lewis once said, ““We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.”

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO:Patrick S. Roberts & Others
    RE: Trust the CDC??!??!?!

    Anyone who trusts that collection of incompetent Obamabots is a bigger fool than they realize.


    [The Truth will out….that the CDC is incompetent….or worse!]

    P.S. The Truth will out…..hopefully before it’s to late for all of US….

  • Despiser_of_Libs

    Modern Liberalism: In charge of everything, responsible for nothing.

  • vendome

    Ebola is actually being flown in to the Country from ebola countries.

    Entrovirus, TB and Polio is invited into this country and our schools by an open southern border.

    The solution is to STOP flights from ebola countries and SECURE the southern border.

    Our government has become complicit in the deadly diseases infecting our population. The flooding of our country with deadly disease is criminal behavior.

    Obama, the CDC, and Politicians who have allowed this disaster upon the people of America should be thrown out of office.

  • rusty_armor

    If the CDC had not squandered precious resources promoting cooked gun control statistics, they might have had time to actually come up with an effective protocol for handing outbreaks of infectious diseases …

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