Mainly my thoughts are hopes that they survive their ordeal.
As do I, who wouldn't? Even those of us who have hearts ten times smaller then the enormous muscle that pounds in max's chest, wish them well.
What would we have to study? I think we already understand the disease.
Well, you're wrong there. Living, breathing patients infected with the virus are significantly different than lab rats, and American infectious disease experts have not had the opportunity to study the disease in progress with the best technology in the world. This is not to suggest that the two healthcare workers weren't brought here with the intention of trying to save their lives. I don't question that at all. I just know that researchers live to do research, and that conducting research on a human "specimen" is vastly superior to doing so with a mammalian analog, like a rat. I'm almost certain that the research will not interfere with the treatment of these two individuals, but they will be attended by more than the doctors charged with saving their lives.
In any case, health officials themselves are suggesting that caring for the two patients here in the US may provide beneficial information for dealing with outbreaks of the disease whether here or in Africa and that clearly implies research will be done.
If I am correct about osso's professional background she should be able to provide an insider's view of medical research operations, and as roger noted, the CDC doesn't have a sterling record of following its own safety procedures.
CDC Safety Lapsesl
These "lapses" should concern everyone. We tend to have the very trusting belief that the CDC is 100% tight when it comes to safety procedures.
"These guys know better than anyone else how dangerous this stuff is, and they have triple redundant safety checks in place."
Outbreaks of deadly viruses caused by CDC safety lapses are thought to be the stuff of disaster movies and post-apocalyptic novels like The Stand. They could never happen in real life.
Like max, there are a host of people who find any concern in this area to be ludicrous. Often it is a reflexive response to what they perceive to be criticism of the government they so adore, for others it is simply a desire to be seen as oh-so rational and unafraid while the less sanguine and informed scurry about like a disturbed nest of ants.
As with the underwear bomber and the fellow with the car bomb in Times Square, we have been lucky as opposed to perfectly secure, when it comes to bio-hazards.
The Hot Zone by Robert Preston was published in 1995 and is a terrifying true story about our first encounter on US soil with ebola. The book is clear that luck played a big part in avoiding a full scale outbreak.
As previously indicated we have recently learned of shoddy practices at the CDC, and there is no reason to believe private labs or any more ironclad with their safety procedures, and the recent revelations were not the first:
Biohazard lab supervision an issue says US investigation
and it happens even when safety precautions are followed. There hasn't been a major bio-hazard...yet, but again, this is as much to do with luck as precautions. That the consequences of accident can be catastrophic may assure that stringent safety precautions are put in place but not that they will always be followed or always work. Most people would agree that three areas subject to catastrophic accidents and consequently an intense focus on safety are nuclear energy, air travel and space travel.
We all know that there have been a multitude of aviation accidents since the beginning of commercial passenger flights despite a strict safety regime. Statistically, aviation remains the safest form of travel. The odds of your dying in a plane are about 1 in 8000 (It's 1 in 400 in a car and 1 in 750 walking), but obviously the risk is not "zero." It's worth noting as well that more than 50% of all aviation accidents are attributed to pilot error, not mechanical failure. People improperly handling pathogens, not old and broken down equipment is what caused the recent CDC scandal.
Similarly, nuclear power is the safest form of energy production. Most of us have heard of Fukishima and Chernobyl but there have been close to 30 nuclear accidents worldwide. Thus far the human toll has been relatively low (although there are projections that at least 4,000 people will eventually die due to radiation exposure resulting from the Chernobyl disaster) while property damage totals are in the billions of dollars. Again, the risk while relatively low is not "zero."
Of the three, safety precautions are probably the most intense in space travel, but it remains a very hazardous operation and there have been in total 13 incidents in which there were fatalities. The risk of space flight is obviously not "zero."
Like bio-hazards nuclear energy and air travel generate more fear in the public than is supported by accident statistics, in large measure due to the potential for truly catastrophic outcomes. Our risk of being eaten by a shark while swimming in the ocean is monumentally less than our dying in our car while driving to the beach, but one invokes terror while the other is taken in stride. We're just not very good, as individuals, with dispassionate risk assessment.
However, as I have repeatedly noted, low risk is not no risk
despite what experts like Doctor Adalja foolishly suggest, and the potentially catastrophic results of these "low risk" endeavors that lead to strict safety protocols means that it's not enough for the protocols to be in place, they have to be followed, and religiously. Listening to the head of the CDC tell us that his organization “...missed a critical pattern,”
and the pattern is an insufficient culture of safety,”
should trouble us deeply.
Millions of people will never die in a plane crash or even a nuclear powerplant accident, and while it's also unlikely that an ebola outbreak would result in such a high number of fatalities, we all know about mutated viruses and there are plenty of bugs that can cause a devastating world wide plague.
I don't think the risk is high enough not to have brought these two healthcare workers here, but it could be. The silly notion that we somehow have to open our hearts to them despite there being a risk is absurd. There is a level of risk which would require us to harden our hearts and leave Americans to die somewhere. It's not in this case, but if the worse happens and there is an accident due to an insufficient culture of safety
the calculus of having a big heart will be grim. So, no, don't leave them in Africa, but also don't be flip about the risk and make damned sure its as low as you say it is.