Playlist: Policy Points

Carl Simon: Ebola and the power of quarantine

August 26, 2014 0:02:04
Kaltura Video

Carl Simon is a Professor of Mathematics and Economics; Professor of Public Policy, and Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program.


Carl Simon, professor at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

The first Ebola outbreak was noted about 40 years ago in small villages. It affected small groups, because these villages were very isolated. Now the world has gotten smaller, villages are more interconnected. Diseases get around more easily. 

Ebola is a virus. It especially affects cells in the blood system and especially cells related to clotting, so blood flows more freely. And that?s the main reason it gets transmitted is through this blood that gets carried out of the body. 

To reduce Ebola, it is a very straightforward process. You have to find the contacts of everyone the infected person has had recently and quarantine them so they can?t contact anyone else. That is how we beat SARS. We beat SARS very effectively and very quickly through exactly this process but there is no other way. 

The police, the government, the World Health Organization, has no choice but to quarantine, to close the villages, and make sure they have adequate food and supplies for residents in the West Point area. For the good of the community we are going to have to close it down and make sure no one leaves. 

Now that we know what is happening, we know how serious it is, it has reached a World Health Organization threat level getting them and quarantining, finding contacts, making sure that hospitals have adequate equipment, adequate protective equipment for hospital personnel, as soon as these things are in place we will get the upper hand. 

I think with some confidence that by the end of the year, without any surprises, it should be contained, maybe even and disappear as all past Ebola outbreaks have disappeared.