Is Our Ebola Quarantine Too Short? Expert Sounds the Alarm!

The United States’ defense against Ebola heavily depends on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But could these guidelines be leaving the door open for a potential health disaster? As the U.S. healthcare system struggles to manage the first cases of Ebola, researchers are growing increasingly concerned about the effectiveness of the CDC’s methods.

One of the primary concerns revolves around the 21-day isolation period used to quarantine people exposed to the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that, based on previous outbreaks of Ebola, individuals who didn’t display symptoms within 21 days were unlikely to have the disease or spread it. However, is that timeframe still suitable today?

Rethinking the 21-Day Isolation Period

Charles Haas, an engineering professor at Drexel University, has raised important questions about the current quarantine period. His study argues that the 21-day period may not be long enough to protect people exposed to the virus. Haas analyzed Ebola outbreaks in the Congo in 1995 and in West Africa during the past year, discovering a 12 percent chance that people could still be infected even if they didn’t develop symptoms within 21 days.

“While the 21-day quarantine value, currently used, may have arisen from reasonable interpretation of early outbreak data, this work suggests reconsideration is in order and that 21 days might not be sufficiently protective of public health,” warns Haas.

Haas’ concerns don’t stand alone – a report by the World Health Organization also exposes the potential weaknesses of the 21-day isolation period.

“Recent studies conducted in West Africa have demonstrated that 95% of confirmed cases have an incubation period in the range of 1 to 21 days; 98% have an incubation period that falls within the 1 to 42 day interval. WHO is therefore confident that detection of no new cases, with active surveillance in place, throughout this 42-day period means that an Ebola outbreak is indeed over,” the WHO report states. Unfortunately, it doesn’t identify what happens in the other 2 percent of cases.

A Vital Conversation to Be Had

With growing concerns about Ebola and its potential impacts on the nation’s health, it’s critical to address the possible shortcomings of the US Ebola strategy. By carefully examining the guidelines and initiating a conversation about the 21-day isolation period, the U.S. can begin to take the necessary steps to secure its public health.

With a 12 percent chance of residual infection risk even after the 21-day period, it’s time for the CDC to reevaluate this timeframe and ensure that the nation has a robust defense in place against any potential health crisis.

Whether or not the CDC changes their current policies, it’s crucial to consider how these guidelines might be contributing to the problem and leaving gaps in our protection against Ebola. It’s a conversation that must happen now to prevent a potentially disastrous outbreak in the future.