If you live or work in Galveston, turn off all the channels selling Ebola hysteria. Turn off the politicians who are insinuating that they are saving their districts from danger by making sure that medical waste from Ebola cases ends up in Galveston, not in their hometowns. Turn all those channels of hysteria off. You’ll lose your sense of proportion if you don’t.
It’s true that Ebola is deadly. It’s also true that the Galveston National Laboratory has been handling deadly pathogens for 10 years without any infections. The people who work in the lab deal with those viruses daily. They do that routinely.
Every day, people do jobs that entail risks: police officers, firefighters, refinery workers. Think of the people in the armed forces who handle nuclear weapons. We have confidence in their ability to do that because they are trained, equipped and well led.
A similar investment in people and facilities has been made in Galveston to handle public health threats related to infectious diseases. That’s why it makes sense to bring medical waste associated with Ebola cases to Galveston to be destroyed. Who could do that job better?
The University of Texas Medical Branch’s role in fighting Ebola and similar diseases is going to expand. The governor’s task force on diseases with pandemic potential is expected to make a recommendation today to designate sites for the treatment of patients who have been infected with Ebola.
The medical branch is expected to be one of those sites. What institution is better equipped? Which has better people with better training?
The campus is the home of the National Biocontainment Training Center. It’s where people across the nation are trained in safety procedures. It’s the place that trains the trainers.
There are no patients waiting to be taken to such sites. There were no proposals on Thursday to transfer patients to the island. But the decision about naming the best sites in Texas to handle Ebola cases will come down to facilities and expertise, and it would be a shock if the medical branch in Galveston is not at the top of the list.
In addition, the medical branch has an official request to render aid from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to dispose of medical wastes from Dallas. The waste has been treated under protocols set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The medical branch handles such waste routinely. It’s hard to see the medical branch — which has the capability of doing something constructive — rejecting a request for help.
One of the reasons that the state’s oldest medical school is in Galveston was the city’s history with infectious diseases. The city endured yellow fever epidemics throughout the 19th century.
Our ancestors argued then that it’s better to study those infectious diseases, to learn how to handle them, rather than to stick our heads in the sand.
People in Galveston should hold to that legacy.