Hello, my name is Dr. Francis Collins, and I am the director of the National Institutes of Health. Thank you for joining us for this live-blogging session. I am here to answer all your questions about Ebola or any other health issue. Let’s get started.
Q: Good morning Dr. Collins. President Obama in September said it was “unlikely” that Ebola would ever reach our shores. The Administration has been accused of underestimating the threat. What is your opinion? — Jake from Oklahoma City, OK
A: Thank you, Jake. We have taken critical steps to address this minor threat. We have elevated the issue from “situation” to “challenge.” We have begun spelling Ebola with a capital “E.” And we are now using express mail to notify hospital workers on procedures to avoid the spread of this disease, which is highly unlikely.
Q: Hello, I am a wife and mother who works in hospice care. I would like to know the risk factors for contracting Ebola. — Brenda from Lansing, MI
A: Thank you Brenda. The CDC has developed clear risk guidelines. There are four levels: NO RISK, LOW RISK, SOME RISK, and HIGH RISK. Most people fall under the category of NO RISK. This includes people who have made contact with an Ebola patient before they were showing symptoms and people who traveled to a country with an Ebola outbreak more than 21 days ago. You are NO RISK.
Q: Hello, I am a critical-care nurse who has just returned from Liberia, where I was vomited on by a Senegalese soldier while watching a female circumcision ritual. What is my risk status? — Suzanne from Alexandria, VA
A: Thank you for your life-saving work, Suzanne. You are LOW RISK.
Q: President Obama named political operative Ron Klain as his “Ebola Czar.” Klain was criticized by Republicans for not being available to testify before Congress. What is his current status? — Paul from Boise, ID
A: Thank you, Paul. It is unrealistic to expect Mr. Klain to testify in his first week on the job. After all, he has not even gotten his laminated ID card. He has yet to meet with HR and take his drug test, and he is on the waiting list for an employee parking space. They’re putting up his cubicle walls right now, so it shouldn’t take much longer.
Q: Hello Dr. Collins, longtime listener, first-time caller. President Obama said “we cannot hermetically seal ourselves off” from the world. He continues to argue against a travel ban from the “hot zones.” Is this wise? Thanks — Rob from Mobile, AL
A: The President is right, Rob. We cannot prevent our caregivers from doing their important work overseas, where they are being greeted as liberators. Remember, the world is watching us. This is a disease of mass destruction. We are fighting a pre-emptive war against it. We do not want the ticking time bomb to be a mushrooming virus.
Q: I live in Maine, next door to Kaci Hickox. I must admit, I’m concerned. I was told there was a 21-day waiting period before you can be completely sure you do not have Ebola. Am I wrong to feel scared? — Isabel from Fort Kent, ME
A: Yes Isabel, you are wrong. We have nothing to fear from Kaci Hickox. This brave woman should be allowed to live her life without being monitored by police 24 hours a day, which is the job of the NSA.
Q: Dr. Collins, I’m confused about the concept of “voluntary quarantining.” Can you go bowling or have soup at a restaurant? — Steven from Louisville, KY
A: Let me alleviate your confusion, Steven. A voluntary quarantine is just that, voluntary. You can go bowling or go out for soup or fly to a bridal shower. In fact, you can have your bridal shower at a bowling alley that serves soup. This is America. We must always base our public policy decisions on science, not fear. We will never surrender to fear. You will not die from Ebola, Steven. Climate change will kill us all first.
Q: Hey Doc, I’ve got a problem with all you’s in Washington there telling us what to do. You think you’re so smart. I’m a Republican, and we’re a big tent party, so I’ve set up hundreds of big tents for people flying in from West Africa. You can’t stop me. I’d like to see you try. Fuhgeddaboutit. — Chris from Trenton, NJ
A: Thank you Chris, we will have to agree to disagree.
Q: The President said he would treat the military differently from medical aid workers because they have to do what they’re told by their officers. But we have an all-volunteer Army. Shouldn’t the same rules apply to them during an outbreak? — Jill from Houston, TX
A: Science science science science science. Science.
Q: Dr. Collins, you claimed that without budget cuts, we would have a vaccine for Ebola by now. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the CDC, said that wasn’t the case. Are you playing politics with this issue? — Ben from Baltimore, MD
A: Not at all, Ben. In fact, it goes well beyond that. Budget cuts have kept us from finding a cure for cancer. Sequestration stopped us from solving muscular dystrophy. And President Ronald Reagan’s election caused AIDS. This is not politics, this is science.
Q: Hello Dr. Collins, I am planning to go to a Halloween party this weekend dressed as a sexy Ebola nurse. Is this okay? — Kaci from Fort Kent, ME
A: Well, the costume is in bad taste, but you should be perfectly fine. President Obama sends his hugs and kisses.