Tag Archives: Ebola

The Good, The Bad, and the Strange

There’s been a lot going on in the US lately, and so I wanted to touch on a few things and update some others. The governor of Indiana (Mike Pence) has signed a revision of the “religious freedom law” I wrote about last week.  According to CBS News…

…the law does not, “Authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.” (“Indiana Governor Signs Updated Religious Freedom Law”, Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News website, 4/2/2015).

But, while it states someone cannot refuse or provide services, it is still legal to fire someone in Indiana because of their sexual orientation if they work in, say, a Catholic school as a teacher. That’s wrong.  Substitute the word for any protected class (women, Latinos, etc) and you can see how wrong it is.

The law needs to be repealed, in my opinion.  And, really, the only reason the governor did this was because businesses were objecting – Apple, Angie’s List, and the NCAA, to name 3.  As usual, money is the key (Ibid).

Regarding Ebola, the cases were diminishing, but have picked up again, unfortunately. It’s not in the news in the US much – if at all – because there are no more stories about people coming back from 3rd world countries infected. According to The Independent (UK newspaper)…

Dr David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on Ebola, told The Independent the world should prepare for more major outbreaks of zoonotic diseases – those which can pass from animals to humans – which he said were a “local and global threat to humanity”.

“There will be more: one, because people are moving around more; two, because the contact between humans and the wild is on the increase; and maybe because of climate change. The worry we always have is that there will be a really infectious and beastly bug that comes along.”  (“World Warned: Prepare for More Ebola Outbreaks”, Charlie Cooper, The Independent UK, 4/5/2015).

Deforestation is the reason there is more contact between humans and wild animals.  The thing about climate change isn’t necessarily relevant to Ebola, but it is for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.  Climate change has expanded the range of mosquitoes.

So, I am sorry to say, that’s the bad news.

The other bad news, this time closer to home, is the frighteningly increasing numbers of people being shot and killed by police – usually African-American males, and often in the back, and when they aren’t doing a thing to provoke it.

As if provocation is any excuse for a police officer shooting someone – it’s not.  But so many times, the reason the police use for shooting is “wrestling over a gun”, or “going for a weapon”, and a lot of people used to believe that.

The last incident was not a shooting, but a death of someone who was in police custody at the time.  No one is saying how this man got his injuries, and the police are denying they did anything to injure him (though they are supposedly investigating it).

The man, Freddie Gray, was walking down the street when the police made eye contact with him.  He took off running.

Let me stop here.  If the police were, for some extremely weird reason, killing older white women on a frequent basis, I reckon I would run from them, too.  And mind you, this killing of AA males has been going on for a long time, it’s just with smartphones/cameras we are hearing about it more.

They arrested him, and it’s not clear why.  Something about him having a switchblade, which by the way isn’t a crime.  He didn’t resist arrest (by the police’s own admission), and he was limping.  His leg was hurt, and he had just been recently released from the hospital after being treated for three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voicebox (from a car accident).

He was put in a transport van and not seat-belted, and by the time he arrived (half an hour later) at the police station, he wasn’t breathing.  The police admit they did not get medical attention for him when he asked, nor did they call an ambulance. (“The Mysterious Death of Freddie Grey”, David A. Graham, The Atlantic website, 4/22/2015; “A Freddie Grey Primer: Who Was He, How Did He Die, Why is There So Much Anger?”, Peter Hermann and John Woodrow Cox, The Washington Post website, 4/28/2015)

Now he’s dead.  He was 25.

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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.

The Ebola Outbreak of 2014, Part 2

…and possibly the last of it.

According to the October 19 online issue of Time (“Nigeria is Ebola-Free: Here’s What They Did Right” ), Nigeria has had no cases of Ebola for 42 days. That time limit is important because 42 days is twice as long as the normal incubation period. Everyone who had contracted Ebola is either recovered, or dead. Of course, this doesn’t mean there can’t be another outbreak, as the disease is still active in neighboring places like Sierra Leone.

To put things in perspective, Nigeria has only had 20 cases of Ebola, and 8 deaths (Ibid). Contrast that with 4500 total deaths in west Africa, and it’s clear that Nigeria was able to contain and deal with the outbreak pretty quickly.

As soon as gov’t officials became aware of the outbreak in Guinea, they began training healthcare workers; declared a state of emergency, screened all travelers coming into or leaving Nigeria by land, sea, and air; had their doctors trained by Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization; and even went door-to-door to educate people about the disease.

What they didn’t do, interestingly enough, was close their borders, because, according to Dr. Faisal Shuaib of the Emergency Ebola Operation Center

“Closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness. When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem.” (Ibid)

Now I am seeing a few articles online basically saying things like “Nigeria got it right, US got it wrong”, but that’s not really fair. Yes, Nigeria acted quickly, but they had a head’s-up because of the cases in nearby countries, and Nigeria is small – only twice the size of California. So when Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who landed in Lagos, collapsed in the Lagos Airport, the gov’t responded quickly and quarantined him.

His wife stated he had been caring for his sister, who later died from Ebola. He didn’t know what she was sick from at the time, according to his wife (“Ebola Fears Hit Close to Home”, CNN Online, 7/29/2014). So the Nigerians got lucky, in a way, because this man very well could have still had mild symptoms and gone on to attend a conference there. And then infected a lot of people.