Friday, October 24, 2014

My Thoughts on Ebola . . .

I wouldn't make a very good medical technologist.

I know we are all sick of hearing about Ebola, but I am preserving my thoughts for posterity. Since Ebola broke out in Texas, I have been doing a lot of reading and questioning about the disease. I am not a doctor, nor do I have a medical background of any kind. I do, however, have a pretty good understanding of medical conditions when they are explained to me. So, I do understand that Ebola is not highly contagious, but at the same time there is no question that it is a deadly disease for which we have no vaccine or real treatment.

Here are the facts as I understand them. When Ebola broke out in Texas, there had been no preparation or real protocols in place there or anywhere in the United States. This lack of preparation was a huge mistake because we knew it was just a matter of time before someone would enter the country carrying the disease. Because of that, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) put lives at risk. When the Texas hospital called for protocols, they were told to look online on their website. They had no training. The healthcare workers caring for patient Duncan had no protective gear to wear for two days. They were told to cover their exposed necks with medical tape. Even though they were highly exposed to the virus, none of them were quarantined for the full 21 days. Instead they were told to self-monitor until they had symptoms, while going about their daily routine. The first nurse, Nina Pham, notified health officials when she started running a fever. She was diagnosed with Ebola and hospitalized. The other healthcare workers were still not quarantined. The second nurse, Amber Vinson, managed to take two flights to and from Ohio and go to a bridal shop for three hours before showing symptoms. The response was to hospitalize her and try and track down everyone who was exposed on those flights, retracing her steps to all other places she happened to go. Common sense tells me if she had been quarantined from the beginning, no one would have been exposed and no resources would have had to be spent tracking down people, but what do I know?

Next thing I hear is that they are going to exercise precautions at certain airports in the US by taking the temperature of everyone who comes off the plane from affected countries. Seriously. My first thought was, why aren’t they taking the temperature of everyone before they board the plane? What happens if they develop a fever two days after getting off the plane? Again, I am not a medical expert. I would love to know why they didn’t just quarantine all passengers arriving from the affected countries in Africa for the full 21 days? After all, that would seem like the best precaution to me to avoid risking other people’s lives here. I questioned these things based on common sense. I think the CDC may be finally coming around to my way of thinking on this.

I know Ebola can only be spread by contact with the bodily fluids of a living or deceased person who has the disease. The CDC says it’s not airborne. Not airborne, means the droplets don’t dry in the air and remain there, like the flu. However, if a person with Ebola sneezes or coughs due to allergies or a cold, and you happen to be nearby, there is a chance you can be infected from the propelled droplets. The CDC says the Ebola virus can live on surfaces for hours, but I read a study that it can survive on glass and plastic for days under the right conditions. The CDC doesn’t mention that. The CDC cleverly says there have been no reports of people getting Ebola from dogs. Yet Nina Pham’s dog was quarantined and the dog of patient in Germany was euthanized. I ask myself why? So I researched and found a study that says dogs can be infected with and carry the Ebola virus and potentially infect humans. Now it makes sense. Maybe no one has gotten the virus from a dog in the US, but the potential is there. I don’t trust the CDC to tell us all the facts, just the facts they want us to know. I don’t trust most media organizations to do responsible reporting and give us the facts without sensationalizing every story for increased ratings. We have to educate ourselves in these matters if we want to get to the truth, everyone else has an agenda. My agenda is to know all I can to try and keep my family from being exposed to even the slightest risk of getting Ebola.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the head of the CDC since 2009 and is tweeting all kinds of facts about Ebola and the care of patients. He may be a highly qualified medical doctor, I don’t know. What I do know is that from 2002 to 2009 he was the Commission of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The only other thing I remember about his tenure is that he seemed overly concerned about “supersized sodas.” I wish he had been as concerned about Ebola and our country’s preparedness for it. Instead, it “sounded” to me like he was blaming the Texas nurses for not following protocols; the protocols that he never put in place. He finally had to admit he underestimated the need for healthcare workers having intensive training in handling patients with infectious diseases, effective protocols, and a closer monitoring of those people potentially exposed and at risk for developing the disease. Finally, it seems he is taking action that makes sense.

The risk of getting Ebola may be very small, but when it comes to my loved ones, it’s a risk I’m not willing to take. So, in my opinion, we should be erring on the side of caution. Those exposed to Ebola should be quarantined immediately for 21 days, not allowed to go about their business until symptoms develop. Healthcare workers should be protected by the strictest of protocols and the best protective suits. They shouldn’t have to risk their lives and those of their families because the CDC was not ready for an outbreak. If we aren’t going to stop flights from the afflicted countries, then all those arriving from there should be quarantined for 21 days, fever or no fever. Maybe my ideas are extreme, but I believe in better safe than sorry.

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