The Ebola Outbreak of 2014, Part 3

Well, got some good news…

“Obama Hugs Nina Pham, Nurse Who is Now Ebola-Free” (Washington Post, 10/24/2014).  So glad she has recovered.  And nurse Amber Vinson has recovered, too (“Nurse Amber Vinson Free of Ebola, Released from Hospital”, NBC Dallas-Ft. Worth website, 10/28/2014).  Wonderful news for both women and their families.

And some troubling news…

Meanwhile, in NYC, a doctor has gone into hospital because he had been overseas treating people with Ebola, and has now come down with symptoms.  Authorities are trying to track down anyone that may have had contact with him (“Doctor in New York City is Sick with Ebola”, New York Times, 10/23/2014).

What they know so far is the doctor traveled by subway, went bowling, then took a taxi home.  He went to the hospital the next day because he had a 100.3 degree fever. His fiancee has been quarantined, and a couple of his friends have been asked to stay in their homes.

Health officials have been seen at the doctor’s apartment, which has been sealed off, and at the bowling alley and subway cars/stops (“For Crew in New York, Ebola Virus is Fought with Scrub Brushes and Cleanser”, New York Times, 10/27/2014).

I’m not sure if sealing off places reassures the public.  I think it just scares them more.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie challenged a nurse to sue him over that nurse being quarantined last weekend.  She had just returned from west Africa after working with Ebola patients and was taken from the airport to a Newark hospital, where she spent the weekend in an isolation tent.

She was released after she threatened to sue (“NY Gov Chris Christie to Ebola Quarantine Nurse: Go Ahead, Sue Me”, NBC News website, 10/28/2014).

Speaking of lawsuits, Amber Vinson has hired an attorney (“Family of Ebola Patient Seeks Out Legal Counsel”, CBS News website, 10/19/2014.).

We Americans are a litigious bunch.

And more quarantine news…

In New York, Florida, and Illinois, Ebola quarantines have been implemented (“Ebola Quarantines in N.Y., N.J., Ill., Fla.: What’s Required?”  FindLaw website, 10/28/2014).

In N.Y. and N.J., anyone who is screened at airports and found to have been in direct contact with a person infected with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea will be quarantined for 21 days; and anyone found to have traveled from those regions (not necessarily having been in contact with an infected person) is to be monitored by public health officials and, “if necessary, quarantined” (“Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie Announce Additional Screening Protocols for Ebola at JFK and Newark Liberty International Airports”, NY Governor’s Press Office, 10/24/2014).

Florida “requires anyone returning from an area designated by the CDC as ‘Ebola-affected’ to undergo twice-daily health monitoring for 21 days.”  “High-risk” travelers can be quarantined by the Florida Health Dept, also. (FindLaw website article previously mentioned)

And in Illinois, anyone who has returned from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and who has had contact with an Ebola-infected person, must be quarantined for 21 days (Ibid).

Since Thomas Duncan – the man who died in Texas from Ebola – didn’t fly there straight from Liberia (his trip was as follows: Liberia – Brussels – Washngton, DC – Dallas), Pennsylvania is taking precautions to monitor people coming into PA from west Africa by relying on a CDC list of people arriving at 5 airports from that area of the world.

The article didn’t name the airports, except it did say that none were in PA (no airports here fly to west Africa).  My guess would be they are Dulles International,  Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington International, Newark Liberty, and JFK.

The article stated that PA officials are going to check a list compiled by the CDC of at-risk travelers – all of whom are apparently given a CDC CARE kit comprised of a thermometer, fact sheets, a log to record temperatures and symptoms, and a list of health department 24 hour phone numbers.  They are “asked” to report twice a day in some manner (in person, by video chat, or phone) for 3 weeks (“Pa Using CDC Data to Track West African Travelers”, CBSPhilly website, 10/24/2014).

How are PA officials going to check the list? Are they going to monitor AMTRAK, which has trains coming to PA from those areas?

One AMTRAK line goes right from the BMI Airport to the 30th St Station in Philadelphia (which someone can then take directly to Altoona, by the way), and other AMTRAK lines go indirectly (via city train systems and buses) to and from NY, NJ, and Philadelphia all day long.

What about buses?  Cars?  Even taxis?  What’s to stop someone from flying into Pittsburgh Int’l or Philadelphia Int’l from some other airport that carries international flights but is not on this list (like Atlanta or Chicago, for example)?

It’s not like we microchip people when they get the kit from the CDC – how are we supposed to keep track of them?

Additionally, anyone who has worked for any length of time in the healthcare profession knows that it is very unlikely people will monitor their symptoms and temperature, let alone log them. I have tried for years to get patients to just make a simple check-mark on a calendar on any days when they felt depressed.

Not one has ever done it.  Even when I gave them the calendars and pencils.

The most often used excuse for why they didn’t?  “I forgot.”

So I have no faith that this ‘honor system’ is going to work.

And how, exactly, are county health departments going to check on people once they leave public transportation? How will they know where they live?  The answer to both these questions is “who knows?”

Pennsylvania is unprepared to handle all this, I think.


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