Friday, October 31, 2014
I nominate Louisiana health officials for a Darwin Award. In what has to be one of the most insanely stupid, anti-science and fear driven decisions ever made, Louisiana health officials have decided to sabotage the world’s best hope for the discovery of a cure for Ebola and other hemorrhagic and tropical diseases as well as the development and implementation of practical and effective policies for dealing with outbreaks of those diseases.
Yes, I kid you not. The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is scheduled to have its annual conference at the Sheraton New Orleans this weekend, but the researchers who have spent time in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone studying the outbreak recently will not be attending the conference because, if they do, the Louisiana health officials are going to quarantine them in their rooms for 21 days.
Dr. Piero Olliaro had big plans for the conference.
“This is the place to be,” says Olliaro, a researcher at Oxford University who specializes in setting up clinical trials to test drugs in the developing world. “It’s once a year. This is where you get to meet all the others.”
Olliaro was going to present several papers on his recent work involving treatments for malaria and river blindness. But two weeks ago he was in Guinea for the World Health Organization scouting a site to test an experimental Ebola medication.
Yesterday Olliaro got a letter from the Louisiana health department saying that anyone who’d been in Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea in the past 21 days would be quarantined.
The letter goes on to say, “We see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans simply to be confined to your room.”
Fear is the mind killer.
We will never know, but the inspiration for a cure to Ebola that might have come from the cross-fertilization of ideas that occurs at meetings like this one will not happen for another year.
Meanwhile, the catastrophic suffering and loss of life will continue to increase exponentially.