Tracking major screw-ups around the Ebola crisis is almost as difficult as tracking the virus itself. The deadly disease spreading throughout West Africa dominated headlines around the world again this week, and every day seems to bring a new mea culpa, as public health officials admit to botching various aspects of the response to outbreak. With hospitals in the U.S. now bracing for what could potentially become a widespread health crisis, here are the four biggest Ebola-related failures that got us to this point.
Texas Presbyterian Hospital Messed Up
When Thomas Eric Duncan contracted the first confirmed case of Ebola in the United States, health workers at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas sent him home with a fever and antibiotics, despite his having told them that he came from West Africa. Duncan succumbed to the virus last week. On Thursday, Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, admitted that mistakes were made in Duncan’s treatment at the hospital.
The CDC Messed Up
For several weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assured the American public that the national healthcare system was prepared for an Ebola outbreak, even as many health officials said otherwise. This week, however, the agency reversed that stance, admitting mistakes in its Ebola protocol and conceding that it did not respond fast enough to the situation in Dallas. On Tuesday, the CDC vowed to do better.
The Airlines Allegedly Messed Up
The distance between sensible precaution and rampant panic is about 925 miles. American Airlines proved that on Thursday when flight attendants were accused of telling a sick passenger to stay in the bathroom on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago. According to one eyewitness account, the passenger, a black woman, was kept in the bathroom for 45 minutes until the plane landed. The airline later denied that the incident had anything to do with Ebola fears, but according to some reports, concerns over the virus has led to racial profiling incidents against black passengers who appear ill on flights.
The World Health Organization Messed Up
Finally, in a startling revelation Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) admitted in an internal document that “nearly everyone” involved in the initial response to Ebola failed to anticipate the virus’ potential to spread. The draft document was obtained by the Associated Press and reportedly featured a timeline of the Ebola outbreak. In it, the United Nations health agency blamed “incompetent staff and a lack of information.” The WHO has been monitoring the spread of Ebola in West Africa since March, when only about 350 people had died from the disease. As of this week, that number was almost 4,500.