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New Ebola Czar; Excess Ebola Coverage?; Ebola: A Top Campaign Issue; What's the Mission for U.S. Troops in Liberia?

Aired October 18, 2014 - 09:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Hey, hello and welcome to the program. You know this week we've all been hit with a flood of breaking developments in this terrifying Ebola story. I want you to stay with me because I'm going to spend the entire hour really honing in on the most important and troubling questions and I'm going to try to get some real information that you haven't heard anywhere else. So let's get to it.

So here's what I want to drill down on today. The key questions about Ebola. And I think they are as follows. Number one, is our new Ebola czar Ron Klain the right guy for the job? Who is he? What's his background?

Two, is it time for the U.S. to impose a travel ban? And would it work? Number three, it's probably not possible for all U.S. hospitals to treat Ebola patients shouldn't they only be treated at specially equipped hospitals? Number four, has the media overblown Ebola, scaring Americans needlessly? Number five, has Ebola already decided the midterm elections? Has this October surprise cost the Democrats the Senate?

Number six, we have to stop this where it started. So what's the mission of the U.S. troops on the ground in Liberia? And finally, number seven, what if airplanes are exposed to the virus? Can they ever be properly cleaned and decontaminated?

So let's begin with the biggest question of the week - who's in charge of the crisis? Now we know. It's this guy, Ron Klain. But now the big question is, is he the right guy? Joining me is Dr. Alexander Garza of the St. Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice. He's the former assistant secretary of health affairs and chief medical officer in the Department of Homeland Security.

Doctor, of what level of concern is the fact that Ron Klain doesn't have a medical background? Are you worried about that?

DR. ALEXANDER GARZA, ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SOCIAL JUSTICE: I don't know if I'm so much worried about it. It's certainly an interesting choice, Michael. And so he brings to the table a wealth of policy and political know-how. I think he knows how to work the bureaucratic angles.

I think the challenge that he is going to have is that public health is an interaction between the federal government and the state government and if he's going to be working on the mission over in West Africa as well, it's going to bring in that international component as well. And so you have to be comfortable operating in all of those spaces. You have to have some degree of credibility in a lot of those spaces and you have to be able to build coalitions and coordinate those issues between all of those different moving functions.

So I think that's what separates the issues of whether you're a good manager or whether you're a good operations person. Because really what I think this position needs is somebody who understands operations.

SMERCONISH: Let me show you, doctor, an example of the type of criticisms that has already come to the administration and to Ron Klain. If we could just put that tweet up from a Republican member of the House. Andy Harris who says, "worst Ebola epidemic in world history and President Obama puts a government bureaucrat with no health care experience in charge. Is he serious?"

I guess a response might be that Congressman Harris that was really necessary here was not so much a medical doctor but a manager who is an insider and who can coordinate among the vast bureaucratic arms that are involved in the fight against Ebola.

GARZA: Correct. And if that is his primary role, I think he'll be very successful at it. He clearly understands the policy and the political angles. So I think if his right and left fence is contained within that, then he'll be successful. I think he's going to have a little bit of a learning curve to understand how public health, foreign policy, all come together and so I think he has some challenges but then, again, a lot of people put in these positions have faced similar challenges and some have been very successful.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Garza, are we putting too much emphasis on the federal response and not enough on the state response? I noted that on Friday there were restrictions that were imposed on health care workers in Texas who had interactions with Mr. Duncan but they were imposed by the Texas health agency and the Dallas County Health Department as well. All of a sudden it occurred to me that all of the conversation thus far has been on the feds. What if Texas - I'm not saying they are - but what if Texas were deficient? What if another state is deficient in handling Ebola?

GARZA: Right. And so this is an interesting case study in the division of powers between the federal government and the state government, especially as it applies to public health. And so from the concept of federalism, it's installed in the Constitution. The federal government has certain authorities and certain legislative issues that it deals with.

The CDC, by and large, collects, distributes information and advice. But the police powers to execute and to protect the people and to do things like isolation and quarantine is really a state power. And the state designates that power down to the city and county level through its authority. So the CDC, by and large, does not have the power that people think they do at the state level. The states inherently have that power. That's their legislative authority, is to issue quarantine orders.

SMERCONISH: Well, I'm glad I asked because it sounds to me like the nation needs 50, 51 actually different responses. Dr. Alexander Garza, thank you so much for your time.

GARZA: Absolutely. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: My next guest does not think that Ron Klain should be the Ebola czar, and he's got some strong ideas about how to stop any more Ebola patients from coming into this country. He's Congressman Ed Royce, Republican of California chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, explain to me the beef that you have with Ron Klain as the Ebola czar.

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, as I explained, I think it is a wise step to appoint a czar. The question I have is why not appoint someone with a background in public health or an understanding of infectious diseases because it seems to me that many of the mistakes have happened here because we haven't been focused on the expertise from those who really understand pathogens and can put together a plan that has everyone on the same page. That's my (INAUDIBLE).

SMERCONISH: What of the argument that what we really need is a manager, not a medical doctor. We need someone who is wired, who knows the bureaucracy and can get elements of the bureaucracy working in tandem?

ROYCE: Well, think for a minute. I mean what we really need is a manager who is a medical doctor and there are many of them. There are many with a background, they came out of the military and understood pathogens or who are experts in this field who also have this experience in managing health care systems. I know some personally and it would seem to me that that would be the logical inference from that, you would select someone with that expertise. As I say, I hope he's successful in this. I think it's a step in the right direction. But I just question picking someone without any background in public health (INAUDIBLE).

SMERCONISH: Congressman, you've asked Secretary Kerry to suspend the issuance of visas to residents of three west African nations. Why?

ROYCE: Well, visas basically a ticker - you know, to the United States. It's - issuing those visas in the past - and I can think of a situation in 2009 when we had the H1N1 flu. We had the influenza and so the decision was made to suspend the issuing of those visas for a while, for three weeks in one of the consulates. Why? Because we wanted to wait until that got under control.

And so you've got a similar situation today where Ebola is a problem, you have people taking flights and the question is, what can we do to contain the problem to West Africa and treat it there? This seems to compound the problem in terms of containment.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, if we were to do that and if others were then to follow in our footsteps, what about the argument that says we're going to bring about the economic crippling of those nations, they won't be able to engage in congress the way that they do now and consequently will put ourselves in a worst position because Ebola will spiral even further out of control there?

ROYCE: I don't know that that's necessarily the case because it seems to me that if you're talking about travel visas, tourism and so forth, people from West Africa, putting a hold on that for these three countries at this point in time, I don't think it's as crippling an impact as would be allowing this to continue and to have the spread of Ebola into - on to planes potentially.

It's because we don't - the gestation period of this, frankly, is a longer period of time than can be easily screened for. So we have to develop some type of solution to these problems and screening and everything else and what I'm suggesting, since 100 people a day are coming in and asking for these visas and most of them are receiving these visas, put a temporary hold on that. Put a stay on that.

SMERCONISH: Chairman Royce, thank you so much for your time.

ROYCE: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: A lot of ground to cover on today's program. Texas Health Presbyterian now sits two-thirds empty due to its mishandling of an Ebola case but should we expect every hospital in America to be prepared to treat Ebola patients. Two health professionals join me next.

Also ahead, is media coverage of the Ebola scare over the top? Or are news organizations just doing their jobs? We'll have answers coming up.


SMERCONISH: Are U.S. hospitals ready to treat Ebola? That question has been asked a lot this week but maybe that's not necessary. Sure, they should each be prepared to diagnose Ebola but why can't we then treat Ebola patients at specialized care centers? Maybe because there's only four specially designed hospitals in the U.S. with bio containment units and they have less than a dozen beds among them. So what if there were a major Ebola outbreak?

I'm joined by Debra Burger, co-president of National Nurses United and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent. Debra, let me ask you this, where two nurses caring for an Ebola patient in Texas, both contracted Ebola, where and was the breakdown? Among the nurses and the care they afforded or in the hospital administration?

DEBRA BURGER, CO-PRESIDENT NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: It was actually in the hands of the hospital administration for the breakdown and it wasn't communication. It was actually lack of preparation, lack of training and lack of practice with all of the protective equipment that would be needed to provide care for Mr. Duncan.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Gupta, that doesn't bode well, then, for caring for other Ebola patients should there be other Ebola patients at hospitals across the country. What of my idea that the model instead should be one of instead of instilling the skills to be able to diagnose Ebola but then treat those Ebola patients only at a handful of select facilities.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I can see where that especially appealing given what happened in Dallas and I completely agree with Debra Burger as well in terms of what happened in Dallas. But Michael, a couple things to keep in mind.

This becomes a question, first of all, if you're sending patients from wherever they may arrive in the United States, they could arrive at some hospital really anywhere, the question is, if you send that patient, then, to one of these four centers, what is the goal? What are you really trying to achieve there? Are you doing it for the patient or are you doing it for the hospital?

And I say that in the context of this. There is no specific treatment for Ebola, right? There's no sort of magic wand or magic potion that these four places can offer. What they can offer is their training in being able to contain the Ebola, contain the Ebola virus from leaving that patient and infecting other patients. So you're really doing it to protect the hospital, the initial hospital where the patient arrived.

So can those hospitals come up to snuff and be able to isolate patients just as the Doctors Without Borders have been able to do in really rural and remote areas of central and west Africa for nearly 40 years. They've been able to do it in tent, sort of tent field hospitals in really tough spots. I've been there myself. And if what you're saying is true, that means big hospitals in the United States can't do what they did over there.

I hear why that's become sort of the mantra and I hear what happened in Dallas, this is a crisis of faith. But I just don't know going forward that we have to immediately surrender and say that all of these patients can only be treated at one of these four places. As you mentioned, they may not have enough beds anyways in these places.

SMERCONISH: Debra Burger, with your nursing expertise, go ahead and react to Dr. Gupta.

BURGER: Well, I agree with him . The reality is, patients don't know that there's a center of excellence in Emory or in Nebraska. These patients are going to be presenting in our hospitals and maybe in our other health care facilities. So we actually need the education, training and proper equipment to be able to handle those patients and handle them safely because we can do that if we're given the proper drills and practice and confidence to be able to implement those safety measures.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Gupta, can we talk transparency or lack thereof? At what point does the public right to know, sort of take control of these situations to the exclusion or to the detriment of a patient's right to privacy? I'm concerned about what went on in Texas and whether we know frankly, all what we should know at this stage?

GUPTA: It's a great question. And I think, you know, the public health is obviously, one of the primary drivers, I think there's this notion that they're mutually exclusive. I think you can still release enough information to protect the public without completely violating the patient's privacy. There are lessons to be learned from what happened in Dallas and you know, some of those lessons are going to be released I think as well. Some of them already have been released.

So, yes, I think that - look, what Debra is saying, the missteps in Dallas with, you know, not just the guidelines being difficult to follow because the protective gear was not available to these nurses, it's crazy some of the stories that I've heard. But frankly, and I don't know if Debra would agree, even some of the guidelines that were provided by the CDC, when I looked at some of those guidelines, even if you followed them to a T, they still wouldn't protected the health care workers, the nurses that were taking care of these patients so intensively.

I think that there's a lot to be learned there and you have to be transferred. You have to release that information. You have to be honest about your mistakes otherwise other hospitals in this country are going to be in the same boat that Dallas was.

SMERCONISH: Debra Burger, the issues the Dr. Gupta points out with regard to the CDC guidelines, has that been fixed?

BURGER: I don't think they have been. But what we're calling in is for President Obama to use his executive order authority to give authority to the new Ebola czar and to the CDC to make these guidelines mandatory. Because what we've seen in Dallas, Texas, and we continue to see in all of our hospitals, they are merely guidelines. And there is no mandatory mechanism. We need to be able to handle that so we can handle these patients safely. We know we can if we're given the support and the mandate with penalties to be able to fine these hospitals if they don't do what they need.

SMERCONISH: Debra Burger, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you both.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BURGER: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: I need to take a quick break. But when we come back, are you scared about Ebola? Most people are and the question is, is that our fault? Meaning, CNN's fault, the media's fault? We'll take a look at that issue when we come back.


SMERCONISH: When a big news story breaks, the media has a job to do. Report the story, tell you information you need to know. But what happens when it's a scary story, even terrifying, full of conflicting information that confuses people? That's the moment when the media really needs to step up to the plate.

But have we? Joining me to talk now about this issue, Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University and Frank Bruni, "The New York Times" opinion columnist.

Frank Sesno, I feel conflicted because in my day job hosting a radio program on Serius XM, I've been very critical of the massive coverage of this issue and now I find myself devoting a whole hour to it. And I guess my point is, it's hard to strike the right balance.

FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It's hard to strike the right balance but it's not impossible. First of all and the first thing you know is this is a real story and people are really wondering about it, scared about it, asking a lot of questions. I had somebody actually ask me today whether they thought they should send their kid to school here in the suburbs of Virginia because there's so many diplomats around here, are they wondering whether there's a child who has come into contact with somebody who has recently been in an infected part of Africa.

So people are asking these questions and the role of the media is to answer them. This is a global story, it's a medical story, it's a political story, as we know. The problem is where we hyperventilate. It's so easy to hyperventilate on this story. That's when we lose our way when we lose proportionality, we lose perspective on this.

SMERCONISH: Frank Bruni, you wrote, I thought, a terrific piece under the headlines "Scarier than Ebola." And just one line if I might quote it back to you, you said "on matters exotic we're rapt. On matters quotidian, which were nonetheless matters of life and death, we're cavalier," explain.

FRANK BRUNI, "NEW YORK TIMES" OP-ED COLUMNIST": What I meant by that is we're talking so much about Ebola and people are very concerned about their personal safety and we have more questions than answers when it comes to this virus and this disease. We have many things in our health we can control. We have many answers about things that we ignore all the time.

We don't wear seatbelts when we should. We don't - we still have people who are smoking. We drink more than we should. We don't wear sunscreens and there are 10,000 skin cancer deaths each year. My point is just with Ebola, we don't know exactly what we're dealing with but we do know pretty well at this point that most people are not in imminent danger. So if we want to be really concerned about our health, why don't we focus for the moment until we get answers on those things that we can control.

SMERCONISH: Frank Sesno, respond to that thought. It makes a lot of sense.

SESNO: It makes a lot of sense. I mean, yes, you should get your kid vaccinated and we that more people die, tens of thousands, more people die from the flu every year than they are going to die from this disease here. But here's the big difference. What is news? News is that which is unusual, unexpected, significant and different.

We've been living with the flu for forever. Seatbelts had been a story since we've been driving cars and they put the first seatbelts in them. This is something new and unexpected. It also seems to be, to some extent, uncontrollable, at least certainly in Africa and that's where a lot more focus should be actually, in my view.

And so until and unless some of these questions are answered and until and unless the fear that's out there widely in the public is addressed, it remains a big story and the media has a big responsibility to address it.

SMERCONISH: Frank Bruni, I know that many interpreted your piece as an indictment of the media. That's not the way I read it. I saw it more as an assessment of the American people. I thought of you on Friday because a woman called my radio show and she said "I think we should all begin wearing surgical masks and gloves when we use mass transit" and my response was to say, but then everybody is going to do it. She didn't get my point, she said, "Well, yes, wouldn't that be an appropriate response"?

BRUNI: I'm not indicting the media. I do think in certain corners, in certain medical, there's been an excess of attention. I think you used the word incessant earlier in the show or I heard it somewhere. I think sometimes it has been unnecessarily incessant. This is a big story, it's a new story, the media has a vital role to play right now in terms of educating people about the risks of transmission, about where the cases have emerged and where there have been no cases and there's another big story here that I think the media is doing a terrific job of covering, which is sort of the institutional error that has crept in.

The CDC has made and is now admitting some pretty profound mistakes. The Texas hospital made some pretty profound mistakes, I do think to be all over that because moving forward, whether we're talking about this disease or whether we're talking about something else, we need to learn from those mistakes and we need to kind of develop a confidence in this country that seems to have gone missing.

SMERCONISH: Frank Sesno, you did this for 21 years, you were on this side of the camera. If you were doing it today, approaching this subject, your mantra, your approach would be what?

SESNO: It would be to do what just Frank is talking about, to use this as a teachable moment, to come with the different facets of a very complex story but to do it I would hope with a degree of perspective and a degree of caution as to what this is really all about. People need to put this into perspective.

Look, I think - Frank, I think your column is brilliant because I think we can't have a grown-up conversation in this country about things we know the risks about, whether it's, as you say, seat belts or safe sex or guns and so what we in the media and what we in the country need to do - and I would try to incorporate that into the coverage, too - would be to be a little better about how do we assess risk? How do we decide where we're going to pay attention and where we're going to learn and focus our energies?

Right now it's all on this. There's a lot of blame to go around on these other issues that steal a lot of lives every year in this country and around the world.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you. Frank Bruni, Frank Sesno, thank you both.

SESNO: Thank you.

BRUNI: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: After a quick break, I want to talk about politics, Ebola politics. Is it possible that this terrible virus will affect who controls the Senate for the next two years? You bet it is and you want to hear what a couple of smart political insiders have to say about that.


SMERCONISH: Will Ebola cost the Democrats the Senate? The midterm elections are just two-and-a-half weeks away, so candidates desperate to gain an edge have seized on the issue.

Democratic campaigns ads are trying to blame the Ebola crisis on Republican spending cuts. Look at this one from the progressive group Agenda Project Action Fund.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Washington actually can cut spending.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CDC says its discretionary funding has been cut by $585 million since 2010.


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Less government.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIH: Our budget has been flat since 2003 responding to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging.



FAUCI: That was the left hook.



FAUCI: The right hook was the sequestration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The NIH saw its budget slashed by $446 million.




THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: There are outbreaks happening today that we're not able to recognize, stop, or prevent as effectively as we should be able to.

















SMERCONISH: They got a freebie from us.

Using a frightening and deadly virus to win a race? Well, welcome to modern American politics.

Let's talk about this with Democratic strategist Ellis Henican, Republican strategist Tara Setmayer of "The Blaze".

OK, Tara, you get to respond, because after all, it was just a freebie for the other side.

(LAUGHTER) TARA SETMAYER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, Republicans can't cut anything when there's a Democrat in the White House. President Obama signed every single one of those budgets that they allegedly think cut and they are referring to sequestration which the president suggested, to begin with, and that was what effectively cut what they are calling here.

So, they can thank President Obama for that, but then they also don't tell you that the CDC's budget increased 8.2 percent and actually went to $6.6 to $6.9 billion, more than the White House actually asked for. So, that is a complete lie, completely disingenuous and shame on them.

SMERCONISH: Ellis, is this the death knell of the control of the Senate by the Democrats because it's all unfolding on the president's watch? Democratic control of the Senate. We know we hold accountable he who sits in the White House at a time like this.

ELLIS HENICAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That part is right. But hold on, it's a death knell is way overstated.

First of all, let's take a look. This is such a delicate election and such a close race that truly anything could tip it. I mean, a wisp of Karl Rove's hair could throw this in one direction or the other. And so, yes, anything could matter when things are as divided as they are. That said, that's a very effective ad.

I mean, most people understand --

SETMAYER: But it's a lie.

HENICAN: Most people understand that Republicans are the ones who want to shut down the government, want to keep cutting, and do you really trust those people to run these agencies, right? That's an effective argument.

SETMAYER: It's a lie.

SMERCONISH: Doesn't the appointment on Friday of a czar to control the Ebola outbreak --

HENICAN: Good step.

SMERCONISH: OK, good step.

HENICAN: Good step.

SMERCONISH: But is it an acknowledgement of sorts that, hey, man, it's not going well so far. I mean, we don't have a surgeon general. We have an acting surgeon general. Where's the secretary of HHS? Where the presidential leadership? Isn't that an admission?

HENICAN: Presidents get unfair credit when things go well, and they get unfair blame when things don't. But in the end, I think this is the case that Democrats need to make, in the end, who do you really trust to deal with this, right? I mean, you want those people who are creating panic, who are trying to turn a smaller situation into a larger? Or do you want to have the grownups? Which frankly, they may not be perfect, but the grownups here were the CDC.

SETMAYER: I actually -- the CDC? I think if Democrats run on that, they will lose for sure. They are not in good shape anyway. I mean, "The New York Times" even said there was 74 percent chance that the Republicans will take over the Senate. So, they don't need any more help that will push them over the edge, the Ebola issue may.

If you're going to examine the government's response to this, the American people are not stupid. They look at this response and see that not having a travel restriction right away, the way the CDC director has given information inconsistently throughout this whole thing is not commonsense and the American people are saying, who is in charge here? It's certainly not the president or anyone else.

And nominating a czar to something that we already have positions for, there's a whole department that the Health and Human Services has dedicated to this, and appoint a political hack lawyer who has no experience whatsoever in the infectious diseases to be a Ebola czar is not going to quiet the fears of the American people.

SMERCONISH: I'm going to give you the final word, I'll give you the final word, but I want to just say this. I feel like a knuckle head because a year ago, I opined that this would be a referendum on the Affordable Care Act.

Holy smokes, man, I think that's fourth or fifth. Yes, there really isn't a dominant issue. But this plays into the general feeling, I think, that Americans have, many Americans that it's not going well. Whatever it is, it's not going well.

HENICAN: There are a lot of challenges around the globe. Here's a couple of facts.

SMERCONISH: OK, real quick, this is the final word.

HENICAN: This was a private hospital with nonunion nurses, a government that has done squat on this issue. If you're being looking for blame, whoever is the czar of the CDC ought to be 17th on the list. This is our failed health system that has caused the biggest issues here, and the only that we have -- the best hope that we have, Tara, is the grownups at the CDC.

SETMAYER: That's insane.

HENICAN: At least you have to agree.

SETMAYER: No, I don't agree.

HENICAN: That wasn't a public hospital that kill this guy.

SETMAYER: No, it's the U.S. embassy giving this guy a travel visa to come to this country.

SMERCONISH: Hey, take it outside, all right?

(LAUGHTER) SMERCONISH: Ellis Henican, Tara Setmayer, thank you both so much.

HENICAN: Good to see you.

SMERCONISH: After the break, what is the situation on the ground in Liberia? I'll talk to a retired commanding general of the Army.

And if airliners are infected with the Ebola virus, are there protocols in place to properly clean those jets? We'll get answers from one of the top experts in aviation.


SMERCONISH: You know, the Ebola crisis in this country could be stopped a world away in Liberia where the virus rages out of control, which is why we have 500 troops on the ground there and several more thousand preparing to go. But what exactly is our mission there? What do we need to do to stop Ebola at the source?

I'm joined by Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN military analyst and former commanding general U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army.

General, what's the mission?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Michael, the mission is primarily to set up facilities. This is a war-torn country. They just ended a civil war in 2003. They have almost zero medical capability. They probably have one or two doctors per 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 people. They have no medical facilities, no labs.

So, I think General Williams, who is the commander of U.S. Army Africa, part of the AfriCom mission, is going to help build the facilities, not engage with the patients. So, he's contributing to trying to stamp out this disease by helping the Republic of Liberia.

SMERCONISH: Some might think we're sending physicians but that's not what this is about.

HERTLING: No, not at all. These are some engineers, medical testing soldiers who can do medical testing, some logisticians, and actually aviators to help move around the country. So, this is primarily support operations and construction operations to help the Liberian government.

SMERCONISH: And how, General, do we keep our men and women safe so that when they come home, not only for their own wellbeing, for the wellbeing of the country, they're not themselves infected?

HERTLING: Well, Michael, I haven't -- having been on several humanitarian missions myself, soldiers are the best people to train in order to do any mission. They are very adaptable. They can do things.

Seeing a report from General Williams the other day, he had his temperature taken eight times in a day, soldiers can take orders very well, they're very disciplined in their approach to things. So, when we set out procedures and a training model to help them do things to avoid contact with stricken patients, they are the best ones to do it.

But there are going to be medical personnel, uniformed services from HHS are going to be there contributing to some of these hospitals.

SMERCONISH: General, independent of this relief effort, the humanitarian work that you're describing, what presence do we have in these infected nations in West Africa?

HERTLING: Well, a few years ago, Michael, AfriCom, African Command was established. General David Rodriguez commands that now. General Williams, who is the Army component of AfriCom is part of that command.

And they partner with all of the nations of Africa, helping them to establish their own militaries, helping them to establish good government. That is part of the engagement method that we have in the United States military and it's so critically important to building coalitions and alliances and helping keep security in various regions in the world.

SMERCONISH: General Mark Hertling, thank you, as always, for being here.

HERTLING: Thank you, Mike.

SMERCONISH: When we come back, what are the rules for cleaning airplanes or in the case of possible Ebola contamination? What needs to be done to make jets safe again for passengers? We're back in a moment.


SMERCONISH: The CDC is reaching out to up to 800 passengers onboard a flight that Amber Vinson traveled on, plus, five other trips taken by the plane before the airline removed it from service. CDC believes that Vinson may have developed Ebola symptoms earlier than first believed. And although they call the risk to other passengers extremely low, the CDC wants to check on them, nonetheless.

So what happens if there's a potential Ebola exposure aboard airliners? Can those planes be properly cleaned?

Mary Schiavo is a CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general of the Department of Transportation.

Does that sound like an appropriate response, to reach out for all 800 potentially of those passengers?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I think it sounds like the response that they have to do. I mean, they have to let it know what has occurred and this is one of the reasons why the travel ban for persons exposed makes sense because this is only going to multiply the more that we get.

But I think people have to be notified. And it also makes sense in the long run because if those people don't monitor themselves and become ill then we've only exacerbated the problem, even more people to track.

SMERCONISH: Are you supportive of a travel ban being imposed on those West African nations?

SCHIAVO: Absolutely. You know, the numbers and disruption -- you know, there are two parts to a travel ban. Everybody says low risk of getting sick but it is also highly disruptive to the United States and the functioning of the United States of America.

As we have seen with just one person, how many people they are now trying to track down. I mean, it's getting close to a thousand for one person on a plane. If we leave our borders and don't have any restrictions on non-essential travel from Ebola countries to the United States, obviously, we will be a country of choice for that, and if one person causes us to hunt for a thousand, just think of those numbers, as they multiply.

We absolutely must have travel ban. Medical supplies and medical equipment and personnel can still get there because U.S. has already announced that we're going to do transport with military flights.

SMERCONISH: Mary, I flew cross-country and back this week. So, I was paying particular attention to on going activities of passengers and crew aboard the flight in a way that I otherwise wouldn't if we didn't have the Ebola scare.

And what occurred to me it seems we are no longer in the era where you'd be ready to board and you no longer have to wait for the crew and the clean it. Now, it seems like that's been outsourced to us, the passengers. We're expected to pick up all our belongings before we got off. And the minute passengers get off that plane, the new passengers get on the plane.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm worried generally about the cleanliness of aircraft. And now comes this.

What's your thought?

SCHIAVO: Well, we have a right to be worried about the cleanliness of aircraft, because there are no federal aviation regulations about cleaning a plane. People are surprised by that. Not one regulation says you have to disinfect the tray tables and, by the way, they never are, and there just isn't anything that covers that because the federal aviation regulations cover air safety and security. They have health issues to the local health departments and, of course, they don't really touch the airlines so it is a huge gap and they leave it to the discretion of the airlines how they're going to clean their planes.

SMERCONISH: The final question: I'm concerned about the airline industry generally. Not just Frontier Airlines, but I worry all this conversation is going to cause people who can make a choice as to whether to fly not to fly and there in harm the industry. Your thought?

SCHIAVO: Exactly. I think you are exactly right. And that's why of all things, the travel restrictions on persons exposed to Ebola and from those countries would help the business of American and the travel industry, because people would have more confidence that they would not be seated near someone who has been exposed who had come from those countries.

And I think the travel ban is restrictions are essential to keep America working as the United States does. And without them I think the system will simply shut down. And I think it already has. People are making other choices.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Mary Schiavo. We appreciate you.

SCHIAVO: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Up next, my position on media coverage of the Ebola scare.


SMERCONISH: Here is one last thought. People in the United States are worried about Ebola at a level not supported by the facts. This week, an ABC/"Washington Post" poll found that 65 percent of respondents said they were concerned there would be an Ebola outbreak in the United States, and 43 percent were worried that they or someone in their family would exposed to the virus.

Those numbers are best explained by incessant media coverage. Not current reality. Ebola is a very serous disease. It is highly infectious. Exposure to only a very small amount of the virus leads to a full infection.

However, it is not highly transmissible. Meaning, the exposure has to be with a direct contact of the bodily fluids of a sick person with Ebola, and those two facts are being conflated, leading people to feel like they are getting mixed messages on the dangers of the disease.

Ebola is a caregivers' disease, and the only people that have contracted it on U.S. soil were caregivers for a very sick patient with Ebola. In fact, Thomas Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. who died last week, had taken care of someone with Ebola in Liberia prior to entering the United States.

So, what needs to be done to stop the spread but also hold off a wave of panic? Public health experts on both sides of the aisle agree the top priority is stopping the spread in West Africa. There, those with symptoms often run away from hospitals, they're afraid to have people know. They get ostracized and they're subject to violence.

Here, we run towards hospitals because it's ingrain in our culture. Second, we have the public health infrastructure to stop the spread of Ebola, but we need to match that capability with proper messaging, communication and preparedness of the American people.

But given the lack of understandable information that's been disseminated to the public about the virus, this growing concern from Americans doesn't come as surprise. That takes leadership. And so far, we haven't seen it.

Now, we have an Ebola czar, Ron Klain. Let's hope he can stop the epidemic of fear.

Thank you so much for joining me. Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter as long as you can spell Smerconish.

See you next week.