Obama’s Speech a Logical and Public Health Travesty

The following question was put to President Obama after he delivered his Ebola statement on October 28:

Are you concerned, sir, that there might be some confusion between the quarantine rules used by the military and used by health care workers and by some states?

The question was asked because the administration still refuses to require 21-day quarantines for anyone entering the U.S. who had contact with Ebola patients or had been in Ebola-ravaged countries – in other words, high-risk individuals – whereas the Pentagon has ordered anyone serving in the hot zone to undergo mandatory 21-day quarantines as they rotate out of the region, and governors in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, and Virginia now require in their states, to varying degrees, mandatory 21-day quarantines and mandatory monitoring of symptoms.

Obama responded that the military is in a different situation from that of civilian volunteers because (1) they are not treating patients, and (2) they are not there voluntarily.  Does this make any sense?  While our soldiers might not be treating patients, they are still in the hot zone and have the potential to be exposed to individuals who might be infected.  The Pentagon understandably doesn’t want its soldiers to hop on a plane when finished and return to wherever they are stationed with the potential to spread a deadly disease to co-workers and families.  But here’s where this gets really convoluted:  those who are treating patients – the civilian volunteers –  are at an even higher risk of contracting Ebola than anyone else (over 200 health care workers, including doctors and nurses, have died treating Ebola), yet Obama doesn’t see the need to quarantine them upon their return, even though logic dictates otherwise.