The portions of this post that cite quotes from Ron Paul and purport to paraphrase his beliefs about DDT and Ebola came from a press release sent by Paul's organization, Voices for Liberty. A transcript later sent by the same organization show that the initial press release mischaracterized some of Paul's words and positions, leading to several errors in the article. More specifically, while Paul said that he believed the threat posed by Ebola was overstated, he also acknowledged in his speech that "it's a very, very serious illness" that is "quite deadly." In addition, the article quoted Paul describing DDT "as a viable alternative for treatment" of Ebola. Those words came from his organization's press release, not from the former congressman. The errors led to the article being overly dismissive of the former congressman's beliefs.
Once-and-future libertarian champion,
self-declared "former" physician, and former veteran lawmaker Ron Paul has weighed in on Ebola. The good news: the virus poses no risk to America, as he
announced in a video on voicesofliberty.com (or his "digital bully
pulpit," as the Texan calls it). Then again, "governments deceive us and sometimes they hype things,"
Paul warns. Fair enough.
So Paul proposes his own "viable alternative for
treatment": the controversial insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, more
commonly known as DDT, regarded as a legitimate means of controlling
mosquito-born diseases such as malaria. But for decades there's also been a heated
debate over just how bad DDT is for humans and the environment, sparked by the
1962 publication of Rachel Carson's Silent
Spring. The U.S. banned DDT for agricultural use in 1972; in 2004, the
Stockholm Convention restricted its
use to disease control.
Dr. Paul pooh-poohs such science. "The absolute proof of the
danger of DDT was never -- as far as I'm concerned -- proven," the father of
Sen. Rand Paul says. Instead, our treatment of choice for Ebola is "very
expensive organic phosphates," that kill people, he claims. "If DDT isn't quite
as dangerous as they said, and if you could save a million people from this
illness ... then we could think about it." Paul has a theory for why the
global health community would be pushing these organic phosphates. "Could
there be a possibility ... there's a profit in this[?] Maybe that is the
reason that we end up doing this."
How do Paul's Ebola claims stack up to Ebola science?
"As far as I
can make out he's wrong about everything," Fordham University's Dr.
Alexander van Tulleken told Foreign Policy. No licensed or approved
treatment for Ebola exists. Yes, the experimental ZMapp drug seems to have
effectively treated two American aid workers transported from Liberia to Atlanta,
and more such untested drugs are in development. But those patients have also
benefited from expert care, van Tulleken notes, so the jury's still out. "The
only treatments for Ebola really are supportive care" such as ventilation
to support lung failure, dialysis for kidney failure or fluid replacement via
Paul's claims about DDT and organic phosphates, neither is an actual treatment nor
control mechanism for Ebola. While some in the public health community view DDT
as a legitimate solution for slowing malaria, there's no science that says it
would cure or control Ebola.
Paul has done is confuse Ebola with malaria," van Tulleken says. "If you hose
DDT around, you get rid of the mosquitoes, and maybe get rid of malaria. But
Ebola is transmitted by bodily fluid. He's really fucked it up."
-- the actual term -- can be very toxic and are used to kill insects and weeds
and as poisons. But there are no known organo-phosphate drugs for fighting
Ebola, as Paul alleged.
implication that a nefarious medical-industrial plutocratic cabal is pushing an
organo-phosphate cure to profit from Ebola doesn't withstand scrutiny. "The
reason we have no treatment for this virus and no vaccine is there's absolutely
no money to be made at all," van Tulleken says, affirming what the World Health Organization decried and journalists reported this week. It's a disease that kills poor, non-white people, after
all. So far, the current outbreak has killed approximately a thousand people.
"If you were to compare that to malaria, malaria has killed more people than
anything else in human history. And even malaria, we don't care about that much.... If there was a profit motive, like there is in treating heartburn,
baldness, erectile dysfunction, we'd have a drug."
it's left to that other Paulian bogeyman to tackle the gravest public-health
threats: the federal government. Indeed, much of the funding for the
now-expedited development of experimental vaccines such as ZMapp is coming from
the National Health Institutes and Defense Department. That's not the most
reassuring news to people wary of government intrusion like Ron Paul.
political figure, government skeptic, presidential aspirant, and son of Paul,
Sen. Rand Paul (an opthamologist and not a general physician like his father, so no expert on Ebola), has not yet commented on his father's remarks. If he does,
we'll update accordingly.
Meanwhile, also on Thursday: "out of an abundance of caution" surrounding the Ebola outbreak, the State Department also ordered all eligible family members to evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Cure or no cure, the situation grows more dire by the day.
Joe Raedle / Staff