WITH EBOLA CRISIS LOOMING, WHERE IS THE SURGEON GENERAL?

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Oct. 13 (GIN) – Almost forgotten in the panic sparked by a new Ebola infection – this time of the Dallas nurse apparently suited up properly to care for the Liberian patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, in isolation - some media houses are asking the question: “Where is the nation’s Surgeon General?”

Although primarily a ceremonial post, the Surgeon General has the power of a bully pulpit and could provide much needed reassurance that plans are coming together to stop the further spread of the virus and counteract rumor.

“Americans need to know that someone with authority is drawing information from disparate agencies tracking and countering Ebola within our borders,” wrote Jerry Lanson, professor of journalism at Emerson College.

But a candidate proposed by President Obama has been sidelined by the Republican Congress because the nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, apparently offended the powerful gun lobby by supporting an assault weapons ban and writing that “Guns are a health care issue.”

Kentucky Sen. Ran Paul retorted: “As a physician, I am deeply concerned that Murthy has advocated that doctors ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home… Dr. Murthy has disqualified himself from being Surgeon General because of his intent to launch an attack on Americans’ right to own a firearm under the guise of a public health and safety campaign.”

But an op-ed by News One Now host Roland Martin countered: “Murthy has no business sitting around waiting to be confirmed. The Obama administration should be raising holy hell, demanding that a pre-eminent doctor get his vote on the Senate floor.”

Two MSNBC producers weighed in with a joint editorial: “Thanks to NRA power and Senate cowardice, we are left with no surgeon general during a time when we not only have Ebola arriving on our shores but are also dealing with the mysterious Enterovirus, which is contributing to the deaths of children in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, a top U.S. health official has riled some health care experts and nurses by blaming a “protocol breach” for the new virus infection on a Dallas nurse. Hospital staff, said the experts, need better coaching on treating an Ebola patient, making sure they have the right safety equipment and know how to use it properly to prevent infection.”

"You don't scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak," said Bonnie Castillo, a disaster relief expert at National Nurses United. "We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct."   

More than 4,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that began in West Africa in March. w/pix of V. Murthy

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