Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer left the National Security Council on the day the outbreak was reported and John Bolton dissolved the global health security team.
The exact same day a new outbreak of Ebola was reported, the highest ranking global health security official suddenly announced he was quitting. Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer resigned his post with the National Security Council on Tuesday. His supervisor, John Bolton, told the remaining staff of Ziemer’s global health security team to prepare for new assignments, dissolving what was left of the already shrunken unit.
This morning, the first officially confirmed recent Ebola death in the Democratic Republic of Congo was announced as the number of cases doubled overnight. Eighteen suspected deaths have so far occurred. The case count went from 14 known or suspected Ebola cases yesterday to 32 today. Three of those cases are health workers and a nurse was one of the ones who died.
Nothing can be worse than the “stick your head in the sand” strategy used by the Obama administration the last time an Ebola plague happened. Now is a perfect opportunity to overhaul the badly flawed system and rebuild the U.S. response strategy from the ground up. But, we have to do it quickly.
John Bolton served as an Ambassador to the United Nations and generally worked in conservative politics. He was recently appointed by President Trump as national security adviser to replace laterally shuffled H.R. McMaster.
As soon as he started the new position, Bolton “purged” his department, planning to reorganize things to run better. That included the removal of Tom Bossert for incompetence. Bossert fell for a “spear-phishing” attack, tricked into thinking the hacker was Jared Kushner.
One of Bolton’s plans is to consolidate the NSC with the Homeland Security Council (HSC) to avoid duplication of effort. He didn’t see Ebola immediately on the horizon in his crystal ball, so the timing of the shakeup is rather inconvenient.
The latest developments this week mean that there aren’t any officials specifically in charge of directing a global health security response to the hemorrhagic fever flare up.
The Trump administration “remains committed to global health, global health security and biodefense, and will continue to address these issues with the same resolve under the new structure,” NSC spokesman Robert Palladino insists.
For now, the virus is contained in the Congo and help is on the way. There is still time to get it under control before it gets to the U.S. again.
Starting in 2014, it became frighteningly apparent that medical staff and government agencies were equally incompetent at identifying and isolating Ebola cases, and dealing with the repercussions. By 2015, the sheer number of screw-ups had the public panicking. Obama’s media minions simply stopped covering the whole subject.
Referring to the way that coverage suddenly fell off dramatically, one writer notes, “that is especially true in the United States… one mainstream news channel – CNN – may actually be covering up some important details.”
Nina Pham and Amber Vinson both treated Thomas Eric Duncan. Their patient had not been immediately isolated and neither nurse had any hands-on training. The hazardous waste continued to pile up in the hospital because nobody had the permits necessary to transport the contaminated waste. There wasn’t anywhere to take it if they did.
Medical Staff weren’t even prepared to spot the symptoms of Ebola. Duncan was sent home from the hospital fully contagious long before the blood tests came back. By then, an entire apartment building had to be quarantined and decontaminated.
Nina Pham left the state to attend a wedding. She had the disease as she boarded the plane for Ohio. The bridal shop who served the party went out of business from simply not being able to decontaminate what she carelessly spread into their store. Hundreds could have been infected.
When an American doctor treating Liberian patients succumbed to the disease, he was airlifted, along with his equally ill nurse, to Atlanta, Georgia for treatment. Even with three days notice, the staff was unprepared for their arrival.
“With two Ebola patients on the way, it quickly became clear that Emory’s specially trained team was too small,” the hospital’s chief of nursing Nancye Feistritzer relates.
All of the most recent illnesses are confined for now to an isolated area in DRC’s Equateur province. The affected Bikoro health zone has a population of around 163,000 people with 3 hospitals and 19 poorly funded clinics with limited services.
The biggest concern for health officials right now is restricting travel along the Congo River. The disease “hot spot” is connected by the waterway to capital cities in the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
The World Health Organization’s head of emergency response, Peter Salama, explains that WHO is “especially concerned” about the spread of the disease to Mbandaka, the nearest large city, only a few hours away. “If we see a town of that size infected with Ebola, then we are going to have a major urban outbreak,” he warned.
WHO is ramping up for “the worst case scenario,” just in case. “Access is extremely difficult,” Salama notes. The organization already has a team on the ground “and is preparing to send up to 40 more specialists in epidemiology, logistics, contact tracing and other areas to the region in the coming week or so.”
The United Nations will also be setting up a mobile lab over the weekend. The response “is going to be extremely challenging, and very costly,” Salama warns.
One thing different this time from the 2014 outbreak. “The WHO is also awaiting a green light from DRC authorities to begin a vaccination campaign in the area, using an available stockpile of an experimental vaccine.”