Ebola

Ebola and the CDC's Dangerous Mission Drift

Controlling contagious diseases is just one of many items on the agency's to-do list.

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Before Tom Frieden became director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, his two main nemeses were tuberculosis and smoking. Although both are commonly described as threats to "public health," they differ in ways that may help explain the CDC's stumbling, alarmingly amateurish response to Ebola in the United States.

Tuberculosis, which Frieden helped control in New York City and India as a CDC epidemiologist, is a contagious, potentially lethal disease. Smoking, which Frieden targeted as New York City's health commissioner, is a pattern of behavior that increases the risk of disease.

That distinction matters to people who reject paternalism as a justification for government action. We believe the use of force can be justified to protect the general public from recalcitrant TB carriers but cannot be justified to protect smokers from their own choices.  

Frieden rejects that distinction. He sees the goal of public health as minimizing morbidity and mortality, even when they arise from voluntarily assumed risks, and does not hesitate to rely on state power in pursuing that mission. For him, public health means quarantining and treating disease carriers, but it also means imposing heavy taxes on cigarettes, banning trans fats, and forcing restaurants to post calorie counts.

This understanding of public health is an open-ended license for government meddling. It is also a recipe for mission drift, as reflected in the CDC's ever-widening agenda.

"As the scope of CDC's activities expanded far beyond communicable diseases," explains CDC historian Elizabeth Etheridge, "its name had to be changed." The agency, which began as a branch of the Public Health Service charged with malaria control in Southern states during World War II, became the Center for Disease Control in 1970, the Centers for Disease Control in 1981, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1992.

Nowadays the CDC's mission includes pretty much anything associated with disease or injury. Last year The New York Times mentioned the agency more than 200 times. In addition to communicable diseases, which accounted for 54 of those references, the topics included smoking, drinking, electronic cigarettes, obesity, diet, suicide, addiction, driving, sports injuries, contraception, economic inequality, domestic violence, and gun control (which was mentioned in connection with the CDC 19 times).

If you visit the CDC's website, you will see that the agency is very interested in your life: what you eat, how much exercise you get, whether you smoke, how much you drink, whether you wear a bicycle helmet, whether you brush after meals, whether you get enough sleep. Lately Frieden and his subordinates even have found time to repeatedly warn us about the menace supposedly posed by e-cigarettes, an innovation that should be welcomed by anyone seeking to reduce tobacco-related disease.

So maybe it's not budgetary constraints so much as a lack of focus that explains the CDC's recent Ebola-related missteps. Frieden has conceded that the CDC should have acted faster in response to the first case diagnosed in the U.S., that it should not have greenlighted air travel by a nurse with an elevated temperature who turned out to be infected, and that its initial protocols for preventing transmission to health care workers, two of whom have been diagnosed with Ebola so far, were inadequate.

Last week an Ebola expert told The New York Times the original guidelines were "absolutely irresponsible and dead wrong." He added that when he suggested as much to the CDC, "they kind of blew me off."

A few weeks ago, Frieden was confident that the country was Ebola-ready. "I have no doubt that we will stop it in its tracks in the U.S.," he declared. Last week he began a press briefing on a different note. "Stopping Ebola is hard," he said.

That was four days before President Obama appointed a political hack as his "Ebola czar," charged with coordinating control of the deadly virus. You may wonder: Isn't that Frieden's job? Yes, but he has a lot of other things on his plate.

©Copyright 2014 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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66 responses to “Ebola and the CDC's Dangerous Mission Drift

  1. I dunno. I just thought it was no more complicated than “these are incompetent bureaucrats”. Incompetence that gets exposed more as mission creep occurs.

    So I think mission creep isn’t the cause – it’s what unveils the real cause – basic, simple incompetence.

    Fuck ’em sideways regardless.

  2. Great article. One can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently if the CDC was focused on infectious diseases, rather than social engineering.

    1. But if the CDC doesn’t study lesbian obesity, who will?! WHO WILL?!?

      1. Viewers of Youporn.com?

        1. YES, VERY NICE…BUT IS THERE ANY GRANT MONEY IN THAT?

          (if so, plz let me know)

          1. Would have to be an awful lot of grant money.

      2. Your mother?

    2. “Great article. One can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently ”

      So, you really think solving this “crisis”, other than the fuckups of a Red State el-cheapo behind the curve hospital, is not going pretty well?

      Is yours and other judgement based on a standard of perfection – that is, ZERO cases, ZERO accidents on the roads, ZERO unwarranted deaths from guns, medicines, swimming pools, etc.

      Please explain how our likely low death and infection rate is “terrible failure”?

      1. Shit birds headinass.
        Flocks of dirty little shit birds.
        Flying out of your shit state.
        Shitting on people.
        Gathering up all the shit twigs to make their little shit nests.

        1. EBAMA is doing such a POOR JOB on this disease that EVERY hospital is now sending their patients to BIG GUBMENT facilities for PROPER TREATMENT.

          Seems the “private sector” can’t do right when it comes to stuff where there is no profit in it!

          1. Shit Birds.

  3. In addition to communicable diseases, which accounted for 54 of those references, the topics included smoking, drinking, electronic cigarettes, obesity, diet, suicide, addiction, driving, sports injuries, contraception, economic inequality, domestic violence, and gun control

    So… suicide is a risk factor for disease? I know that signs of mental illness include shrieking about economic inequality, gun control and contraception, so… hold on a second, we need to start institutionalizing CDC policymakers – they’re clearly insane, and their willingness to use force makes them a danger to others.

  4. Hey,every one knows that second,third and fourth hand smoke kills millions.

    1. In fact, everyone who has ever died was exposed to such smoke!

      1. correct,and what’s a silly little virus compared to smoke?Did you know every one who has eaten beets are dead or will die?That’s why I hate beets.

        1. Did you know that everyone who has ever breathed has died or will die? Clearly the most dangerous public health menace of all time is breathing. We must defeat the scourge of respiration now!

          1. 100% of those who read Koch sites and take Koch money will DIE. EBOLA. Remember?

    2. Yeah, apparently smoke is the most deadly substance in the universe. Surely we all remember the millions upon millions of dead bodies in public places we all had to step around 20 years ago because they got a whiff of smoke?

  5. “I have no doubt that we will stop it in its tracks in the U.S.,”

    …and get back to the real matter of banning sugary thingy drinks.

  6. The problem is that you think the key word in the name Centers For Disease Control is “disease” when it’s obviously “control”. Look at the fact that they’re sending the military to Africa to fight Ebola – that’s how you control people, not viruses.

  7. Slightly OT: One of our stupider Senators asked the vice-chief of the Australian Defence Force today about our preparedness for Ebola-infected suicide bombers

    She followed this up on TV saying that Ebola in Australia would be catastraphobic

    1. “catastraphobic”
      Sic?
      As in “57 states”?

      1. Sic?

        Oh yes. She also said she wouldn’t go to a mosque open day as she was raised Catholic, is an Australian, and it wasn’t in her “moral upbringing”. All this in one day. English is allegedly her first language, BTW.

        1. ‘The US Congress Critters; at least they’re not Ozzies!’
          But I’m afraid one of turd’s faves would out-stupid the woman in a minute.

    2. Wait, Antipodian Senators read my comments on H&R and make policy based upon them?

      I brought up the effectiveness of the human bioweapon as a suicide bomber a few weeks back.

      1. She can’t read, but there is a libertarian senator who might have read it to her as a tease.

  8. “CDC’s stumbling, alarmingly amateurish response to Ebola in the United States”?

    A grand total of one person has died of Ebola. As I understand it, two have been infected. I’d say the response has been “stunningly effective.” It is this sort of “zero tolerance” thinking that leads to kids being suspended for having aspirin and two hour waits for airport “security”.

    1. A grand total of one person has died of Ebola. As I understand it, two have been infected. I’d say the response has been “stunningly effective.”

      Not nearly as effective as this anti-tiger rock! There hasn’t even been a single tiger!

      Science you are an imbecile. And someone spelled your name wrong.

    2. Only in Alan’s world does allowing an obviously infected person to board a plane qualify as competent. Oh, and nice logical fallacy, buddy.

      1. “Only in Alan’s world”

        Only in your world is a fuck-up by a Red State Hospital with the Hunt (like the Kochs – right wing oil family) on the BOARD, reflective on how bad our Gubment is.

        News Flash! The Hospital apologized many times and in many ways. That makes them, even with their right wing connections and ideals, 100X the men you guys are!

        1. “Frieden has conceded that the CDC should have acted faster in response to the first case diagnosed in the U.S., that it should not have greenlighted air travel by a nurse with an elevated temperature who turned out to be infected, and that its initial protocols for preventing transmission to health care workers, two of whom have been diagnosed with Ebola so far, were inadequate.”

          It’s OK, Craig. We know it hurts.

    3. So having a still infectious reserve of thousands of people (of whom 4,000 have died) and taking anaemic steps to do anything to prevent their entry is ‘stunningly effective’ simply because only one managed to make it over and infect two people?

      1. NOW you’re going to try to expose Alan to logic? TOO LATE!

        “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.” … Carl Sagan

    4. Shorter Anal Van Man:

      “The response wasn’t incompetent and bumbling, because *waves hands, mentions nothing about the response* the result ended up being not that bad!

      Anal is stupider than Tony. By that logic, if (spoiler alert) the doomsday device hadn’t gone off in Dr. Strangelove, the politicians in the war room would have been the picture of competence.

    5. “I’d say the response has been “stunningly effective.”

      By ANY “reason”able measurements, we are headed toward a great success at containment.

      But the libertarian and right-wing worlds are Bizzarro-Backwards….so the easiest way to understand it is to simply take their “logic” and reverse it.

      After many years of study, that’s the only way I can make sense of it.

      As anyone with 1/2 a brain knows, if we followed the Libertarian view on this disease, we’d be dying by the millions….of course, John Galt – and other famous fictional characters who have no need for public health – would be ensconced in their Mansions behind gates with machine guns guarding.

      1. Why yes, what would a libertarian response look like?

        Ouch. Maybe the pain will go away if you squeeze your Krugman plushie harder.

  9. Ebola is the new Benghazi. Conservatives gotta freak out about nothing to find a campaign issue.

    1. If it’s a phony issue, go help out in a Liberian Hospital.

      1. Get Trey Howdy to form a special House committee!

        1. Get lost, turd.

      2. It’s so phony Dems are falling like dominoes for a travel ban.

    2. What’s up, Weigel? How is that letters drenched in your Tears of Sorrow begging forgiveness of from WaPo writing campaign going?

    3. Seek help, Shrike. Despite what the voices in your tiny head are telling you, this is not a conservative website or forum. You seriously need help from a mental health professional. Seek help before you hurt yourself or others.

      1. Most mental health professionals are raging leftists who would agree that libertarians are nothing but conservatives who smoke pot.

        1. And bang hookers! Don’t forget the banging of the hookers!

          1. I never do.

        2. “libertarians are nothing but conservatives who smoke pot.”

          I’ve expanded my definition to those who hate women, play violent video games, are very self-centered and just plain disaffected with the regular politics of the GOP.

          That covers 95% plus.

    4. Does Ambassador Stevens agree with you about the ‘nothing’?

      When you urinate in the soup like this, do you truly feel it improves the flavor?

    5. I’ll give you that the GOP doesn’t really have a campaign approach other than the other guys suck. Unfortunately for you, they kind of do suck.

      1. They DO suck.

        I hate that the main choices are Massively Suck, and Suck Beyond Belief.

  10. “For him, public health means quarantining and treating disease carriers…”

    It is? Could have fooled me. Treating yes. But I’ll believe “quarantining” when I see flight bans and more than the current “take their temperature and ask them” policy.

  11. ” Frieden rejects that distinction. He sees the goal of public health as minimizing morbidity and mortality,…”

    Shorter, he sees his job as peasant controller. For their own good of course.

    What an utterly useless human being.

  12. The agency, which began as a branch of the Public Health Service charged with malaria control in Southern states during World War II,

    IIRC, the malaria control org was a Rockefeller Foundation-funded private entity. They weren’t gov employees or taxpayer funded until 1946.

  13. As has been noted in Reason and other places, CDC’s work in “guns as a public health crisis” has produced “research” that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school science fair.

    1. “As has been noted in Reason and other places, CDC’s work in “guns as a public health crisis” has produced “research” that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school science fair.”

      Simple yes or no. Do thousands of more people become dead and injured ACCIDENTALLY by guns in the USA annually?

      I say YES. By any standards and any statistics other than a cover-up.

      How many have been hurt by EBOLA?

      1. http://www.smartparentshealthykids.com/blog/?p=11

        Goddammit! It’s a CRISIS!!! We need pool control NOW!

  14. Last week an Ebola expert told The New York Times the original guidelines were “absolutely irresponsible and dead wrong.” He added that when he suggested as much to the CDC, “they kind of blew me off.”

    TOP. MEN.

  15. Last week an Ebola expert told The New York Times the original guidelines were “absolutely irresponsible and dead wrong.” He added that when he suggested as much to the CDC, “they kind of blew me off.”

    “I have got a smoking meeting, a bike helmet meeting and an obesity meeting… back to back. I don’t have time for whatever it is you’re trying to tell me!

    1. Invite the fat guys to smoke with helmets on in the meeting room, and then you have time.

  16. That was four days before President Obama appointed a political hack as his “Ebola czar,” charged with coordinating control of the deadly virus. You may wonder: Isn’t that Frieden’s job? Yes, but he has a lot of other things on his plate.

    If I were Frieden, I’d be so embarrassed I wouldn’t be able to show my face to my own family. Seriously.

    1. That would require him to be capable of feeling of shame. He’s a public health bureaucrat, so no chance of that.

      1. Right, as if guys like Richard Carmona aren’t woth 10,000 of guys like you!

        http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/…..rmona.html

  17. t action. We believe the use of force can be justified to protect

  18. my neighbor’s step-sister makes $69 /hr on the internet . She has been laid off for 9 months but last month her paycheck was $15765 just working on the internet for a few hours. over here…

    ======== http://www.netjob70.com

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