Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy

Document Type

Symposium Article


Three key facts about Ebola Transmission should drive policy designed to control the risk of transmission during a crisis.

  • Ebola—like HIV—is not easily transmissible human-to-human.
  • Ebola has “dry” and “wet” symptoms, and only the wet symptoms threaten public health.
  • A fever is Ebola’s canary in a coal mine; it provides timely warning of a coming threat.

Yet, during the U.S. Ebola scare in 2014, these three facts were lost. Unnecessary quarantine, stigma, and burden on those exposed to Ebola resulted, including especially for those who volunteered to fight the disease at its source abroad. Tragically, the law permitted these injustices because lawyers, judges, and legal rules also lost track of these key Ebola facts. Thus, public health legal preparedness demands that we do more than clarify relevant legal standards; we must also prepare lawyers and judges to better account for key infectious disease facts during the next emergency.