Tags: Ebola Outbreak | Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | Mike Leavitt | pandemics | preparedness | relearn

Ex-HHS Chief: Easy to See How Ebola Caught US Off Guard

By    |   Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 08:28 PM

Even advanced healthcare systems tend to lower their defenses against the threat of pandemics after enough time goes by without one, and the spread of Ebola to the United States is another lesson in disease preparedness that societies keep having to be relearn, says a former top U.S. health official.

Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner  on Newsmax TV on Tuesday that pandemics such as the Ebola crisis "are a function of history," but "happen infrequently enough that one generation tends to forget about it and inadequately prepares."

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Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah who now runs a consulting firm on healthcare systems and infrastructure, said the United States is better prepared to manage an epidemic or pandemic today than it was a decade ago.

But the lapses that led to an Ebola death in Dallas this month, and another infection at the same hospital, prove the system and the people it is intended to protect remain vulnerable, he said.

"We're vulnerable because we are part of a global world, and we're only as safe as the weakest link in that chain," Leavitt said.

The latest Ebola outbreak began this year in three west African countries — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — and has killed more than 4,000 people.

"Liberia ends up getting out of control because they have poor infrastructure, and suddenly the United States is at risk," said Leavitt. "So, this is the nature of pandemics, and it's the reason that we all have to be part of the response.

"When I say all of us, I mean all of us . . . We have to be prepared in our homes and in our businesses and in our churches to deal with this if and when it occurs," he said.

Everyday readiness at the individual level also means recognizing that governments can do only so much, said Leavitt.

"There are some unique things that government can and must do," he said. "For example, government has to define what this disease is, how dangerous it is, how it spread.

"Government is the best one to have disease detectives who are working to contain this as it occurs. Our government has to be involved in the creation of a vaccine, etc. The general public can't do that.

"But to expect that the federal government, the state government, or the local government is going to be able to take care of everyone in a situation like this just goes beyond description," said Leavitt, "because by its nature, a pandemic is everywhere at the same time, and no government has that capacity."

Leavitt added that "trying to assign blame here is probably not the most productive thing. The most important thing we can do is figure out how we can prepare and contain it and stop it."

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Even advanced healthcare systems tend to lower their defenses against the threat of pandemics after enough time goes by without one, and the spread of Ebola to the United States is another lesson in disease preparedness that societies keep having to . . .
Mike Leavitt, pandemics, preparedness, relearn
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2014-28-14
Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 08:28 PM
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