Legal, policy issues surround Ebola discussion

Aug 20, 2014

An Ebola outbreak in four west African nations has killed more than 1,300 people.

Douglas County health officials talked at Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting about preparedness, should Ebola patients be brought to Nebraska for treatment. Earlier this month, a State Department official visited the 10 bed biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical Center to assess its capabilities.

Carol Allensworth, Chief of the Health Data and Emergency Preparedness Division for the Douglas County Health Department, says there are important legal and policy issues surrounding the virus.

"When you’re talking about testing and screening, can we require people to be tested? Can we require people to be screened when they come in to the country? Should we be using treatments that have never been tested before? Are there ethical issues associated with that? Can we tell people they can’t go on an airplane, they can’t go on a bus, they can’t go in a taxi?"

No cases of Ebola have been contracted in the U.S. Two health care workers were brought to an Atlanta hospital from west Africa after contracting Ebola there. Both received an experimental treatment for Ebola and continue to recover.

Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit is one of four in the U.S. equipped to handle Ebola patients.