Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel on Ebola: 'Panic is something we can't afford'

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By Eun Kyung Kim

Americans worried about an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. need to stay calm, lest they risk more errors like the ones made at the Texas hospital that treated a patient who died from the disease, a former White House health adviser said Monday.

“Panic is something we can’t afford in this, because that also can lead to a lot of mistakes of people, and we do have to keep people more rational about this,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy. “We’ve had two cases in this country. We have not had a big outbreak, and we need to be very clear about that.”

Emanuel spoke to TODAY’s Matt Lauer after news emerged about a Dallas nurse who tested positive for the Ebola virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week following a battle with the disease. The nurse is the first known transmission of the virus within in the United States.

Emanuel also spoke about the influence that Ebola has had on: 

  • Crews disinfecting the sidewalk of the infected nurse’s home: Emanuel stressed he is not a decontamination expert, but that “the sidewalk does not seem to be the right place” to emphasize. "A lot of that is about fears. Checking temperatures when people come into the country is probably not going to be our best use, but it does reassure people.”
  • The hospitals being used to treat patients: “It’s not the facility, it’s the training — and it’s not anything special about the rooms.”
  • The training health care workers must receive before working with patients: “It’s really about how the health care workers gown, de-gown. It’s about the standard processes of care. “
  • On whether there is a need to set up regional facilities to handle cases: “Given the fact that we’re not going to have a big outbreak here, that these are going to be isolated cases, the idea of specializing in a few places is right."

Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter at @eunkim