WHO Botches Ebola, Debunks Ridiculous ALP Posture

HOT ON THE HEELS of yesterday’s provocative discussion on the Ebola crisis — and the disgusting apparent strategising over it by the ALP — the key health body charged with frontline response to global health threats has candidly admitted it botched the job. It debunks the “compassionate” story of the Left that Ebola has ballooned because it didn’t emerge in an affluent country, and smashes key pillars of Labor’s latest despicable intrigue.

It really is a short post from me this morning, and even then just to follow up on yesterday’s poke-the-bear article on the ALP’s truly obscene war-gaming around using Ebola, public panic and deaths from the virus as political tools; very late yesterday it emerged that mine will be a busy weekend indeed — obligations deriving from my “real world” life away from this column — and whilst I will aim to post again later today, it could be overnight. Stay tuned.

The key reason for my post this morning is that an article from AAP and appearing in The Australian today reveals that by its own admission the World Health Organisation, the UN health agency responsible for initiating the response to global health threats, botched the response to the current Ebola outbreak, with its African regional office — in the words of the doctor who helped discover the virus — doing “nothing.”

I leave it to my readers to go through the article attached, and to draw their own conclusions. Where is becomes relevant to our discussion lies in the material we covered yesterday — which showed either an orchestrated campaign to exploit the issue by the ALP for the grubbiest of political expediencies, or a series of stunts that collectively amount to the same thing — and how the admission already puts holes into the “moral” case on which the entire Labor scheme rests.

There has been enormous chatter in the past 24 hours — characterised by opinion writers, international figures and political identities hailing from or friendly to the Left — which has suggested that had the Ebola outbreak occurred outside Africa, the wealthy nations of the West would have rushed headlong to deal with it.

In fact, as we now know, the outbreak was allowed to initially run out of control due to the inactivity and incompetence of the local branch of the WHO itself.

It doesn’t change the fact that there are huge questions over the effectiveness of infection control protocols and even the protective equipment and clothing available to frontline response teams when it comes to this particular virus, and those questions remain unanswered.

But this fact, combined with the revelation that a failure to act allowed the outbreak to escalate beyond control and not the comparatively poor economic standing of the countries in which it originated, destroys arguments fashioned around the “obligation” of the West to respond in the way it might have had the crisis materialised in one of its own countries — which, as we now know, it wouldn’t have.

In fact, had WHO in Africa done the job mandated of it, this Ebola outbreak would probably have fizzled out with relatively few deaths just like every other outbreak of the virus has to date.

I also note that over the past day, whilst there has been little comment around the apparent political strategy Labor is trying to pursue over Ebola, sudden and sharp condemnation of its proposals to swamp West Africa with aid workers and resources to “stop the outbreak at its source” — with all of those questions earlier unresolved — has been widespread.

The “compassion” argument of the Left — a patrician condescension of “poor little Africa” made from an arrogated position of self-superiority — is thus exploded: the West is not responsible for the ravages of the Ebola menace that is wreaking havoc on Africa at a rapidly quickening pace.

That is not to say the Africans should be left to deal with their own misfortune: far from it.

But whilst I’m the first person to agree that dealing with the problem is extremely urgent, we now have hard evidence that not only did the Ebola virus get the jump on global authorities, it was given a head start: and that lead, whilst placing attempts to contain it under great compromise, only heightens the need for any co-ordinated response to nail the problem on the first attempt.

Perversely, it may well be that the best approach is to wait before deploying a co-ordinated counterpunch: with infection rates spiralling exponentially now, it is absolutely critical that all of the question marks and uncertainties around how to deal with this problem are resolved before attempting to do so in any systemic fashion.

In turn, it just highlights how dangerous what Labor is proposing really is — not that it makes any difference to the charade, the disgraceful quest for votes by the implicit personalisation of a global health threat and lobbing it at the Prime Minister’s feet, that Labor is really seeking to engage in.

The “urgency” of sending large numbers of unprepared and vulnerable Australians into the epicentre of it as quickly as possible, as Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek now enthusiastically advocate, is a dangerously irresponsible indulgence that should be ignored.


With a little more time later in the weekend, I will be back.


Ebola Shows Nothing Is Too Low For ALP To Stoop To

IT TAKES SOME NERVE — in its hatred-driven quest for “points of difference” with Prime Minister Tony Abbott — for Labor to use the horror of the Ebola outbreak in the grimiest of political stunts, but it has done it; disinclined to behave responsibly in the face of growing human disaster, Labor has formulated a stance which, if adopted, could exponentially worsen the problem: just to chase votes. It shows nothing is too low for the ALP to stoop to.

Readers will know, I think — from the time my articles have been posted of late — that I have been working through the small hours; the flipside of talking to people in other time zones means that there is a lot of time between calls to trawl the morning’s news portals, and today I have pieced together something so far beneath contempt that the only word that could spring to my (arch-conservative) mind is “Labor.”

The ALP appears to have constructed a frightful new position from which to attack the government that is predicated on drawing moral links between Australia’s commitment to confront the scourge if Islamic State in the Middle East and the exploding catastrophe of the Ebola virus in West Africa that now threatens to leap into dense population centres in Western countries.

Underpinning this crass, imbecilic attempt to play gutter politics over matters that are quite literally deadly serious — and which both pose risks to Australia — is a cake-and-eat-it-too approach to tackling the Ebola crisis, camouflaged in compassion and a perverted story about noblesse oblige that ignores emerging signs that Western countries are far less equipped to handle the virus than first thought if it takes root outside Africa.

If pursued, Labor’s opportunistic and cynical new tack could exponentially worsen the very problem it purports to be designed to confront, and far from saving any lives it could contribute to countless additional deaths.

Yet when you’re the Australian Labor Party, and you are blinded by an obsession with a political opponent that is driven by seething and unreasoning hatred, people’s lives are the last thing that are likely to bother you.

First up is an article being carried by Fairfax mastheads today, which sympathetically emphasises Labor’s new demands for Australia (and by extension, Tony Abbott’s government) to send teams of medical practitioners to West Africa under the auspices of “contributing to the international fight against Ebola.”

The piece is at least balanced enough to note real logistical problems in either repatriating Australian aid workers who contract the disease or sending them to Europe or the US (which are closer) for treatment, but the line it most potently disseminates is the demand by deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and Labor’s Health spokesperson Catherine King for the government to “help do more to fight the Ebola outbreak.”

It is written in such a fashion that any reader inclined to take it at face value is left in no doubt that with all the good intentions and self-sacrifice on offer, it’s just the neanderthals in the Abbott government who stand between Australia sending teams of experts and equipment which could make all the difference in halting the spread of the disease. At a stroke. Nothing simpler.

Never mind the fact (as Fairfax correctly notes) that repatriating sick doctors and nurses would probably mean they would die in transit, so far from West Africa would any Australian Ebola treatment facility lie.

This particular complication of any mass relief effort — and with the absence to date of agreements from EU nations or the US to treat Australian nationals contracting Ebola — is compounded by the fact that a lapse in disease control protocols in the US and the second case of transmission of the virus within the United States has triggered alarm over whether US hospitals and the American health system are properly equipped to deal with cases at all, and whether infection control protocols are even strict enough.

Remembering that the procedures being adopted and used for dealing with the virus in Western countries all derive from the World Health Organisation, these lapses and deficiencies are likely to be common to facilities in the US, the EU, and any established in Australia. There are questions emerging about whether protective HAZMAT suits are completely effective as a barrier to contaminated body fluids encountered by medics dealing with Ebola cases. Reports of breakdowns in protocols are emerging with increasing frequency.

And in further reading for anyone who thinks current “best practice” is efficacious in halting the spread of Ebola, this article from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph this morning could well prove prescient as a step-by-step explanation of how Ebola took root in he United States and began to spread like wildfire.

Remember, this virus is far more contagious than a lot of public health agencies are trying to suggest — efforts no doubt aimed at stopping people worrying. The disease itself might not be overly contagious compared to influenza, for example, but where there is close proximity, Ebola is extremely contagious.

The problems highlighted in all of these articles this morning simply underline that point, and add to the difficulty in responding to it.

Yet with all of those problems unresolved, Labor now wants Australian medical crews sent to West Africa “to help,” and in vastly greater numbers than has been the case to date.

It’s not difficult to see why.

Just a week ago, we discussed in this column the need for Western governments to “get real” about the threat Ebola poses on a global scale; the reticence noted on the part of the government, in the Fairfax article I have included, to jump indiscriminately into the kneejerk despatch of a throng of medical personnel to West Africa suggests that Abbott and his colleagues are at least exercising some well-indicated caution in this regard.

But the centrepiece of that discussion was the contention of Independent MP Bob Katter Jr that returning aid workers pose a risk to the civilian population; stripped of the characteristically provocative Katter rhetoric, his argument was essentially sound — and is now being borne out by exactly the kinds of obstacles that are restraining the government from acting.

In fact, and I agreed at the time, I don’t think Katter went far enough: and the problems with the potential spread of Ebola in the US at least now appear to bear this fear out.

Labor — under its so-called “leader,” Bill Shorten — all but called for Katter to be strung up in response.

Yet a bit more snooping around the news wires brings a piece in The Australian from Dennis Shanahan — a journalist whose carefully researched articles are built upon impeccably verified sources — into the mix; it is this one that is most revealing where Labor’s collective mindset, and the likely motivation behind its most recent posturing, are concerned.

Shanahan writes of the ALP’s desire to harness compassion over Ebola deaths in Africa, the fear of the virus arriving in Australia, to develop a “moral equivalence” between the Middle East conflict (which, at heart, Labor resolutely opposes despite its bipartisan rhetoric) and the Ebola crisis, in which it sees fertile political opportunity.

There is no “moral equivalence” between Islamic State and Ebola; any Labor Party notion to that effect is built on a false premise. But such a link is exactly the kind of thing the Left generally is able to draw — if only through the fool’s prism of self-delusion — to justify the cynicism of its subsequent intended course.

I’m not going to diverge into a discussion of Islamic State, save to say that both of these things represent serious challenges. But the fact even the hint that a fight against terror is somehow a moral abrogation in the face of a virulent disease the world doesn’t even know how safe it is to confront head on, within the confines of current medical protocols, is grotesque to the point of obscenity.

As Shanahan notes, Labor is keen to appeal to “growing domestic fears” about Ebola — read, keen to exploit those fears — for purely political reasons emanating from internal ructions over the party’s (correct) decision to support military deployments to the Middle East.

But the most telling sentence in Shanahan’s article is the penultimate one: “Ebola provides Labor with a chance to criticise the government for not doing enough to help West Africans and to accuse Abbott of not being prepared to handle an emergency in Australia.”

As he notes, Labor’s attack on Katter — and its assurances that Australians shouldn’t be “unduly worried” — have been abandoned.

Why? Because voices of reason, like Katter’s last week, do not fit the new ALP Ebola posture. And it goes without saying that when trying to harness people’s fears, the last thing you want to do is to stop them from panicking.

Boiled down, Labor’s position is this.

Using a false “moral” premise to draw public sympathy away from the fight against Islamic State and onto the Ebola crisis in Africa, Labor wants large numbers of Australian medical personnel deployed to West Africa quickly to help fight that instead.

It has been adequately appraised of the risks to these personnel — and that the best available protective measures may not in fact shield them from the virus at all, and that adequate medical treatment may not be readily available to them if they succumb to it — but it wants to send them anyway.

Concurrently, there is growing evidence that returning aid workers (at the very minimum, indirectly) do in fact pose precisely the kind of risk to populations in Western countries Katter alluded to, as has now been documented in detail in the United States — which has itself followed the WHO guidelines laid down by the best medical authorities in the field of infectious diseases.

Labor has now declined to continue to criticise those who warn of the consequences of Ebola arriving in Australia, and it is operating with a vested interest in the ongoing concern (or even the emergence of panic) about the potential arrival of the virus in Australia.

And all of this is framed from the perspective of ripping into Tony Abbott for not sending doctors and nurses into the Ebola zone — with the live and intended option of ripping into him again if there is an outbreak of Ebola in this country, for whatever reason, and presumably including as a result of the very deployment it now insists must be made.

If Australian medical personnel sent to Africa fall ill and die, that will be Tony Abbott’s fault.

If they return to Australia and the Ebola virus breaks out, that will be Tony Abbott’s fault.

If no-one is sent and Africans continue to die, that will be Tony Abbott’s fault.

People shouldn’t panic now, because the political value to Labor of public panic will be maximised by deferring it until Ebola breaks out on Australian soil.

It is oxymoronic that an outfit that has spent much of the year rattling on vacuously about “fairness” and “cruelty” and “inhumanity” has now apparently chosen to actively champion a course of action in which people who get sick and die as a consequence are viewed as political ammunition with which to target swinging Liberal voters in marginal seats.

It might play well with the chardonnay drunks and the compassion babbling bullshit lobby and it might take some internal heat off the ALP leadership, providing as it does a multilateral new strategy of ensnaring the detested Tony Abbott.

But ordinary Australians are entitled to be disgusted.

This filthy little agenda — carefully enough briefed out to the press not to be readily apparent at first blush — shows just how morally bankrupt the Australian Labor Party has become. It is so far beneath contempt as to confound belief. And it seems that there is nothing it will not do in its quest to destroy Abbott at literally any cost, and nothing that is too low for it to be prepared to stoop to.



Western Governments Must Get Real On Ebola Threat

WITH SUSPECTED AND/OR actual Ebola cases appearing in the US, the UK, Spain, and now in Australia, a belated zero-tolerance approach to this disease must be urgently adopted in the interests of public safety; despite assurances of the difficulty in catching the Ebola virus, new infections continue to occur — and current practices guarantee they will occur in Australia. A failure of governance could cause a catastrophe that kills millions.

About five years ago I recall reading an article in a magazine in London that told the story of an Ebola outbreak, somewhere in Africa, from the biographical perspective of a Portuguese doctor who had travelled to the affected country as a volunteer medic.

At the end of a sixteen hour shift in a makeshift hospital, this doctor’s last act for the day was to help carry a sick patient between wards; ready to go home for the night he had removed his protective mask, and the Ebola-infected patient sneezed on him. A fortnight later, the doctor was dead. He had contracted the virus from his patient, and it killed him.

Try as I might, I can’t find a copy of that article online, nor remember the magazine it was published in, but it doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. Remember this anecdote. Its importance will become clear soon enough.

Likeable as I find him, it’s not often I agree with the pronouncements of Independent MP Bob Katter Jr that are roundly condemned and dismissed as “outrageous” or “hysterical;” even so, I can’t disagree with his assertion — if not, perhaps, some of the florid rhetoric used in making it — that Western medical volunteers returning from treating Ebola patients in Africa are placing whole populations at risk from the disease.

And as a conservative, I must remind readers that advocacy of limited government should not be confused with the advocacy of no government; there are clear circumstances in which the role of the state ought to be unquestioned, and the obligation of government to protect its people from a very real and potentially cataclysmic biosecurity risk is one instance in which libertarians and do-gooders need to be shut down in the interests of the greater good.

With 11 Australians having been tested for suspicious symptoms in recent weeks, Cairns nurse Sue Ellen Kovack — the latest suspected case that “everyone is watching” — is awaiting test results to learn whether or not she contracted the virus whilst working in West Africa, and whilst that outcome will show whether or not Australia has dodged yet another bullet in the growing international Ebola crisis, her unfortunate case highlights the shocking inadequacy of existing measures to insulate Australia — and Australians — from the threat of the disease.

(UPDATE: Happily, Kovack has tested negative to Ebola. Nevertheless, her case should still sound as a clarion call for government to clamp down on people movements from Africa).

I have resisted the impulse, until now, to post on the growing threat Ebola poses to Western populations; my intention is not to be alarmist, or fuel panic, or sound heartless, or propagate a view that this evil scourge should be confined to and left in the wilds of Africa where it can’t hurt anyone in the comfortable first world society I live in — out of sight and out of mind — although no doubt I will be accused of some or all of these things by those who disagree.

But whilst reassurances about the low risk of an epidemic (or even infection) to the general population are welcome, they lack the kind of rigid, inflexible protocols that go as close as humanly possible to ensuring these things are not merely unlikely, but become virtually impossible.

There are five strains of Ebola viruses; the one responsible for the present (and historically, most widespread) outbreak is the most potent, killing between 50% and 90% of its victims, with an average of 83% of those infected with it dying since it first appeared in 1976. As such, it is arguably more lethal than smallpox was at the peak of its terrible power. Even though Ebola is far less transmissible than smallpox, it is obvious that it represents a threat that could, if allowed to spread, kill hundreds of millions of people. This is not a disease that any chances or levity ought to be taken with.

I was absolutely mortified when US doctor Kent Brantly and his colleague, Nancy Writebol — both volunteers who had travelled to Africa to help treat Ebola cases, only to become infected themselves — were repatriated to the US whilst infectious to receive treatment in American hospitals, and whilst it’s fantastic that both recovered from the virus after receiving an experimental drug, the risks of importing live cases from Africa into Western populations outweigh, in my mind, the assurances provided to the public around infection control protocols, the effective disinfection of vehicles and equipment used in transportation and treatment, and so forth.

In Spain, nurse Teresa Romero Ramos contracted Ebola and has since died after treating two missionaries who returned from treating patients in Africa; not only did the pair spread the virus from Africa to Spain, but the nurse is on the record as attributing her own infection with the virus to a mistake, probably by touching the exterior surface of her biohazard clothing.

The recently documented case in America of Thomas Duncan — who had travelled to the US from Liberia — told the story of a man who had lied on a declaration form, stating he had not been exposed to populations within Africa in which Ebola was present, when in fact he had helped care for friends and family members stricken with the virus before taking his flight to America.

And as I write, a law enforcement officer who had face-to-face contact with Duncan after his arrival in the US has been hospitalised with suspected Ebola symptoms and is awaiting the results of tests for the disease.

The point is that despite the public assurances by healthcare bureaucrats about how unlikely it is anyone would be at risk if cases are confirmed in Australia, new cases are occurring already in other countries the Ebola virus has already travelled from Africa to reach — and despite the very protocols these bureaucrats are brandishing.

I fully support anything that mitigates or eliminates the risk of public panic, but not when the realities of Ebola and its spread appear completely at odds with the semantics of the assurances being given.

I know I’m talking about America when I say this, but the desire of American doctors to receive treatment in American hospitals should have been immediately vetoed when weighed against the risks of transporting them into an Ebola-free country; it seems an act of utter idiocy to knowingly import such a scourge in the knowledge of the potential consequences, no matter how much was done to mitigate those consequences.

The US got lucky the first time; the case of Duncan (and possibly the Police officer he potentially infected) came after a terrifyingly short interval that should rightly alarm anyone inclined to listen to the “highly unlikely consequences of confirmed cases in our country” spiel that is being disseminated.

The spiralling Ebola outbreak in Africa is being worsened, in part, by traditional customs that involve people touching, caressing and even kissing the bodies of their dead relatives and friends, and with Ebola spread by contact with any bodily secretions from infected persons — blood, urine, faeces, vomit, semen, saliva, sweat — it’s clear that this is a primary infection route.

Apparently, education efforts to alert local populations to the threat have proven fruitless, as the adherence to custom transcends any sense of fear, so much so that reports of folk hiding sick people suspected of having Ebola and refusing to allow them to be treated — even to the extent of hiding dead bodies from authorities so traditional practices can be carried out — are widespread.

But what traditional African custom exacerbates on the one hand is ameliorated to a degree on the other by the comparatively low population densities in many of the areas of West Africa this Ebola outbreak has originated in.

Here in the West, we’ve been told that you can’t catch Ebola from an infected person on an aeroplane, and that carriers don’t become infectious until symptoms appear. But this is no guarantee; and the onset of symptoms at all — whilst said by doctors to be rapid — could very well begin near the end of a flight, or as the carrier walks out of the airport, past hundreds of people.

It only takes a sneeze or a cough at the right stage of the incubation of the virus — perhaps before a full onset of symptoms is suspected or even apparent — and this is why I mentioned the case of the Portuguese doctor I’d read about at the beginning of this morning’s article.

Now, many Western countries are announcing inbound Ebola screening at airports, at the same time the incubation period (which ranges from 2 to 21 days) means Ebola-infected travellers could simply walk out of airports and into population centres exposing hundreds, or thousands, to the virus as a consequence.

The point is that much of the public information being relayed to the general public is based on probability, but is not total, cannot anticipate human error, and cannot hope to account for exceptional cases.

Repatriating Western citizens to provide them treatment in their own countries is an exceptionally desirable course that should simply not be taken when the potential death toll of any consequent proliferation of the Ebola virus is considered.

The service of doctors in volunteering to travel to Africa to help the sick is an almost inexpressible example of compassion and human decency by those who choose to undertake it. It is literally embarked upon at considerable mortal risk to those who do so. But just as those risks are known upfront, they should not be transferred — however remote the prospect of doing so — to their own countries at the end of their service.

Infection control protocols, as any doctor will admit off the record, can break down, and in any case are no a guarantee: nothing, where human intervention and human imperfection are involved, ever is.

And no safeguard can be taken against the utter selfishness or the contempt for human life that the case of Thomas Duncan represents, who held his personal agenda in higher regard than the welfare of potentially millions of Americans, despite the probability that he was a carrier of the virus when he boarded a plane to the States.

Regrettably — and at the risk of being accused of a very cynical world view — there are plenty of “Thomas Duncans” in this world who don’t give a rat’s arse about anyone except themselves. When it comes to something like Ebola, that cavalier disregard for others is a potentially deadly sleight.

The nurse Kovack did the right thing, handing herself over to authorities the instant she suspected she was ill. But had she been infectious, her return journey from Africa to Cairns was via Perth and Melbourne. Kovack is to be commended for doing everything she could to ensure she posed no risk, but the fact she was allowed to travel through two Australian ports to reach a third whilst potentially carrying such a lethal virus is unforgivable where the country’s border control agencies are concerned.

Exception, exception, exception, exception…for all the harmlessness and absence of risk governments in Australia and elsewhere in the West are selling their people, cases of Ebola are now materialising across the world with increasing frequency.

And it is the responsibility of those governments to protect their people.

What would happen if an Ebola-infected individual, thinking they were off to see their doctor with a case of ‘flu, hopped on a suburban train carriage during peak hour one morning — coughing and sneezing and sweating in a packed carriage with standing room only — with up to 200 people in a confined space?

There is nothing “hysterical” — for once — about Katter’s warning about the risk posed by those who have travelled to Ebola-ravaged locales returning to Australia.

The libertarians really won’t like this, but in the face of an exploding global health threat with the potential to rival the smallpox epidemics that are thankfully a relic of history, no tolerance can be shown, nor exceptions made, in seeking to eliminate the threat of Ebola infection in our midst.

There can be no repatriation of virulently ill people; the risks are too great. Medicines and expertise, where volunteers are willing and resources can be provided by our governments, should instead be taken to the people where they are.

Scanning at airports is well and good, but anyone from Ebola-certified countries should be prevented from travelling to Australia at all until they have undergone a period of quarantine, in facilities that meet Australian specifications, for 21 days prior to commencing their journey here.

That must include volunteer medics and others who have been in Africa to help with the Ebola menace. Unfair it might sound, but these people should be the top priority for quarantine before they come back to Australia.

Passports should be scrutinised to weed out any country jumpers — for example, someone who had been in an Ebola-affected country and fled to, say, South Africa to evade pre-flight quarantine — and to isolate them before they are permitted to enter this country.

Quarantine facilities should be readied at major points of international entry to isolate persons who somehow slip through preventative measures at the other end.

And some kind of protocol must be quickly established to proactively, efficiently and regularly follow up anyone who, for whatever reason and on whatever level, may have been exposed to the Ebola virus for three weeks after they enter Australia: even if it’s a drastic overreaction (which we hope it would be), it would create telemarketing and other support jobs that didn’t exist before the current Ebola outbreak began.

In the end, and in contrast to accusations Bob Katter is a frenzied panic merchant fomenting fear and hysteria, the Editorial in this morning’s edition of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph has it about right: the threat of Ebola in Australia is real. It should not be dumbed down or downplayed. And the fact conversations like this one are being had at all highlights the failure of the rhetoric of government to date to match the reality. Much tougher measures are required to deal with it.

Ebola is not harmless. Its spread is not some latent phenomenon that poses so little risk that we should dismiss it without a care. Far from being complacent, people should be vigilant. And government — whilst justified in preventing panic — has a responsibility to do far, far more in preventing the threat of this insidious virus gaining traction in Australia, or entering the country at all.

This is one door that will be impossible to nail closed if the horse, God forbid, should ever bolt through it.