NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Zika In Florida: A Case Study in Government Failure

January 10, 2017

Senior Fellow John R. Graham writes at NCPA's Health blog:

As readers know from a previous post, I was in Florida for Christmas, trying to unwind. Do you know who else was in Florida? Mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus! How did the U.S. government fail in its fundamental duty to protect us from this invader?

Most agree that government has a role to play in preventing and suppressing epidemics, a classic public-health problem. Viral or bacterial infections are not passed from animal to person, or person to person, by voluntary exchange. Instead, proximity to another's infection can lead to an individual\'s becoming infected, notwithstanding any market interaction.

So, even the most freedom-oriented individuals accept government spending and restrictions on individual choice when the threat of epidemic increases. In 2014, the arrival at Dallas-Fort Worth airport of a man carrying the Ebola virus caused some lawmakers to seek a ban on air travel from countries where Ebola had broken out.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain twenty quarantine stations at ports of entry, where public-health officials have the power to detain arriving passengers suspected of carrying communicable diseases.

Fortunately, we do not have to worry too much about these risks today. People in the United States no longer worry about contracting malaria or polio when walking near or swimming in still water. So, it is remarkable that the American people are not outraged that the U.S. government has let mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus enter Florida, where they continue to infect people. This has happened while the federal government\'s energy has focused on controlling people's private health choices, such as forcing Catholic nuns to pay for artificial contraceptives.

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