CDC faced a nearly impossible balancing act with Ebola, and failed

| October 15, 2014
ebola infographic
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The Ebola situation is testing the world’s best infectious disease team, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at its ability to perform crisis management. While the immediate threat in the United States appears to be receding, it is far from clear that we’re up to facing a stronger test.

The CDC is one of the great institutions of our federal government. Microbiologists, such as myself, idolize the scientists who have dedicated their careers and lives to making the planet safer. But the CDC has made some major missteps. Some understandable mistakes are clearly from inexperience in dealing with Ebola, but others are harder to explain. For instance, effective communication is a vital part of all crisis management, which should be a core function at the agency.

The CDC chose the worst possible action: In an effort to keep the public calm, the CDC pretended to know more about Ebola than it actually does.

The CDC is not clueless. It is definitely capable of containing Ebola. But the agency, specifically its chief, Tom Frieden, has conveyed a sense of confidence that is not completely convincing.

The solution for the CDC is straightforward. It needs to find a spokesperson who can properly spell out exactly what scientists do and do not know about Ebola.

Alex Berezow, founding editor of RealClearScience, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and co-author of Science Left Behind. He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology.

Read full, original articleCDC lost its Ebola gamble

The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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