When it comes to Ebola, who is the appropriate authority to quote?

The Washington Post published an extensive article on October 5th entitled Dallas Ebola patient ‘fighting for his life,’ CDC head says, regarding the United States citizen, in Dallas Texas, who has contracted the disease; the lead alone indicates that the writer, Sean Sullivan, intends to offer official statements regarding the outbreak throughout the article.

A top federal health official said Sunday that a man being treated for Ebola in a Dallas hospital is “fighting for his life,” and he expressed confidence that the infection would not spread broadly to others through people with whom the patient has been in contact.

The next paragraph identifies the “top federal health official” as Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (the CDC). Sullivan adequately justifies his use of Frieden’s quote by mentioning:

The CDC head made his remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union” and in a briefing with reporters.

When it comes to Ebola, this is obviously the guy you want to hear from.


Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking on the issue of the spread of Ebola.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking on the issue of the spread of Ebola.

Throughout the article, Sullivan continues to quote Frieden, who claims:

‘We understand that his situation has a taken a turn for the worse,’ he said of Duncan. ‘We know that Ebola is a very serious disease, and we are hoping for his recovery.’

He added, ‘There’s no doubt that we can stop Ebola in this country.’

When it comes to Ebola, obviously, Americans become more and more aware of this issue, and reassurance of safety is paramount for Sullivan’s readers. Without having lead with Frieden’s expert advice and reassuring comment, the quotations Sullivan uses later in the article from multiple sources may have been regarded as less credible.

Specifically, Frieden’s rationale for the Dallas hospital’s choice to not  use experimental drugs to treat Duncan:

He said such drugs ‘can be quite difficult for patients to take and may transiently worsen their condition.’

This assertion offers a segue to a quotation from Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Sullivan quotes Fauci as saying, on CBS’s Face The Nation, that the experimental drug used to treat Ebola, ZMapp:

 ‘is difficult to produce’ and that ‘a lot is being produced right now. It should be ready in a month and a half to two months.’

This is a pertinent quotation to include –in my opinion– seeing as Sullivan’s article progresses to discuss the fifty people being monitored, after having come in contact with the individual in Dallas with Ebola.

When it comes to Ebola’s presence — in the United States of America– the general public needs to know how it is being treated, if there is a possibility of an outbreak, and if there is medication available.

Another issue brought up in the article is the search in Dallas for a missing homeless man, Michael Lively, thought to have been exposed to the Ebola patient.

Perhaps Sullivan’s most innovative use of a quotation comes in the form of a link to a Twitter post, announcing the discovery of Lively, from Sana Syed, a spokeswoman for the city of Dallas:

When it comes to #Ebola, Twitter is one of the first media sources people turn to in 2014; as a Twitter-junkie myself, this link made my day.

Sullivan then quotes David Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services as well as the Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings; quoting these two individuals add the dimension of locality to the article –for Texans at least.

Lakey’s quotation:

This is a low-contact individual that had been identified, that was seen yesterday and did not have any fever yesterday,

provides a sense of security for Texans, as it is an official statement explaining that the only individual who may have potentially spread Ebola is showing knowing signs of the disease.

Mayor Rawlings’ quote from ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulosexplaining:

his city is “calm” but not taking the threat posed by Ebola lightly. Officials are vigilantly monitoring those who came into contact with Duncan,

and his oh-so-Texan statement:

We are playing man-to-man defense, if you will, in a compassionate way,

are integral parts of Sullivan’s article; when it comes to Ebola in Dallas, this is the guy Texans look to for official statements and plans of action.

Lastly, when it comes to Ebola, Sullivan knows that Americans’ thoughts immediately gravitate to the patient

halfway across the country in Massachusetts, Richard Sacra, a doctor who was recently successfully treated for Ebola.

Sullivan integrates quotes from a member of Dr. Sacra’s medical team, Robert Finberg:

Dr. Sacra remains in isolation until we can confirm with the CDC that he has no Ebola virus,

in order to demonstrate just how seriously this issue is being taken.

Though the treatment was successful for Dr. Sacra, he is still being monitored in the hospital, this lends additional space in the article to cite our Ebola authority, Frieden:

On ABC, Frieden said a recurring case of Ebola would be ‘extraordinarily unlikely.’

‘We’ve never seen that,’ Frieden said on “This Week.” ‘But we’re not going to take chances. So we’ll test and — and we’ll see. Time will tell.’

When it comes to Ebola, not many people actually know what is going on. Yet, there have been two confirmed cases in the United States. Sullivan was wise in choosing to incorporate Sr. Sacra and his doctor’s quotation; he appropriately showed the actions being taken somewhere else in the country to supplement his coverage of the outbreak in Dallas.