With the 2014 general elections just around the corner, many are thinking about important public issues such as healthcare and taxes. Yet, as many have feared, the threat of an Ebola outbreak has become all too real. Recently, two nurses who came in contact with an Ebola patient in Texas were infected. One of the women, Amber Vinson, treated Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Duncan and was allowed to travel on an airliner with more than a hundred passengers and crew. She could have spread the virus to any number of passengers on her flight to Cleveland.
It was a major failure of the Center for Disease Control to allow a contaminated nurse with known contact with an Ebola patient to travel on a commercial airline. CDC director Tom Frieden recently made an announcement saying that the CDC will not allow anyone giving or receiving care for Ebola to travel.
In addition to frightening potential health hazards, this outbreak could also have political effects at the state and federal levels. Whenever fear and political choices are combined, the outcome is never easy to predict. These events may have effects on the decisions of voters in the next few weeks. Will voters choose to side with representatives endorsing better healthcare? Will this make citizens feel safer? Or will it simply fuel uneducated decisions in our state?
In a Washington ABC News poll, 43 percent of people stated they were fearful a member of their family would contract Ebola and another 20 percent said they were “very worried”. In another poll featured on KOMO news, more than 70 percent of nurses in Washington state said they have not received the training necessary to handle this deadly virus. The Washington State Nurses Association even stated that they are concerned about the lack of preparedness regarding Ebola.
Clearly, Ebola frightens many people, and it should. According to the CDC, no cases of air or water transmission have occurred as of yet. However, some scientists don’t agree on this. Researchers from the University of Manitoba say that the disease may have the potential to go airborne. It’s our duty as voters to side with candidates that are addressing this issue.
As the November election nears, consider the agendas of our potential new representatives. With the Obama administration losing favor over the healthcare issue, the Democratic party may be defending his initiatives in states like Washington. Ebola will likely put more pressure on new candidates to find a solution, even in states unlikely to be affected, such as ours.
A former surgeon general spoke on the Ebola issue earlier this week, saying that the possibility of cutting off travel to and from West Africa should be considered. But do our representatives support this idea?
None of the Washington candidates have had a serious debate over this issue, while Senators in other states have already started the discussion. Debates have begun in Virginia, Iowa, and many others. Perhaps it is time we bring this issue to the table. Our nurses don’t feel that they are prepared to handle Ebola. We need to know what our future representatives will do before our nurses and doctors are forced to deal with an outbreak here in Washington.