You would have to be dead, deaf, dumb and blind to have missed coverage on Ebola, whether you are looking at reports on West Africa or closer to home in Spain or the United States. If you have ever watched a film, such as Outbreak, or any other, the perception of what a population will do when confronted by the terror of a disease that kills without warning would have you convinced that people panic, stamped hospitals, break out of quarantines, etc. The facts do not support this. Hollywood does. It makes for a good movie. The media does – it makes for good sound bites that lead to bigger audiences.
Perception is everything. If you do not trust your government and public officials to tell you the truth or believe that they will move heaven and earth to protect you, then, yes, there will be problems. That said, there is a learning curve in getting everybody on the same page and moving in the same direction. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola victim from Liberia to enter the United States without symptoms, come down with Ebola, and who died yesterday, is now thought to have been misdiagnosed and sent home, not because it was our first off the street case, but because the gentleman spoke with a thick accent and was black, thus not deserving of proper medical care and attention. STOP!
This is bullshit. Pure and simple. This is race baiting at its most destructive. Enough! Everybody just stop and take a deep breath. It is okay to breath because currently Ebola is not an air transmitted pathogen. It is transmitted by coming into contact with bodily fluids, such as vomit, blood, feces that the Ebola victim expels as the disease advances. So, don’t touch those. Do not allow anyone you know to touch those.
What happened to Thomas Eric Duncan being initially misdiagnosed and sent home is because the first symptoms of Ebola re remarkably similar to flu-like symptoms. Fever, stomach pain, throwing up. The poor nurse at the Dallas Hospital who did the initial intake on Duncan may not have understood the significance of a man from Liberia complaining of flu-like symptoms. You think you would have been all on top of that? And, if the nurse had rung the bell on “Possible Ebola patient!” just how much support would she have gotten from the other members of her team? Remember, this was the first walking in off the street case ever in the United States.
Next: What are we doing about making sure that doesn’t happen again? Lots. Read about it and be prepared to wade through the hysteria generated by people with their own agendas and agencies with their own agendas. The information coming from our highest health public officials sounds contradictory and it is. Many of these people are scientists, not public speakers, not media experts. Depending on their specialty, they have a very BIG picture or a very MICRO picture of what a disease like Ebola can do. It does not fit in a 30 second soundbite. One of the best examples is the issue of allowing air travel into the United States from West Africa. That seems like a minimal no brainer. And yet, the head of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Thomas Freiden, insists that would be a very bad idea to isolate West Africa. Instead, he says we need to ramp up assistance to West Africa, get a lot more help in there and shut it down at its source.
The likelihood that Ebola will continue to expand across West Africa is because it got into highly populated centers – cities, not little towns or villages in some back water rain forest. Lack of knowledge, fear, and burial traditions escalated and spread the disease. Doctors and nursing staff with masks and full protective gear had to scare the hell out of these people. Can you educate a population to understand what they must and can do? Yes. You can do it really fast here in the United States. Not so much in West Africa. The very people you need to reach have no reason to trust you. You are isolating their family members from a killer disease, horrific in its final moments, and then disposing of the bodies, how? Not as tradition and custom demands. Even with your protective gear, your people are dying, so why would I trust you?
Meantime, the United States is sending in the military, as well as scientists, doctors, volunteers to help with setting up quarantines, building facilities to house the sick, ramping up every supply of possible vaccines on a disease that kills between 50%-90% of its victims.
On the surface, this seems like a good idea, and other countries are coming around to joining in the fight in West Africa. However, other cases are surfacing outside West Africa, for instance in Spain. Once upon a time, just under a 100 years ago, there was something called The Spanish Flu. Highly contagious and wherever it arrived, it killed huge swaths of the population. To this day, official records can only estimate how many millions died from this disease. People would get up in the morning and go off to work, only to be dead by nightfall. It is thought to have started here in the United States, right about the time we were entering into World War I. It spread through the military like wildfire – close, densely populated groups, who then were sent to Europe and the contagion spread out through there. It was dubbed the Spanish Flu because the only newspapers that spoke of the Flu were in Spain. All others were told to not say a word, to not print a word so as to avoid panicked populations…. Once again, we are not dealing with an airborne pathogen – yet. You absolutely have to come in contact with someone already showing signs of it. West Africa is in a bad, precarious state. We are not at this time. Use common sense when listening to these reports.