Ebola

Rich Galen
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Posted: Oct 13, 2014 12:01 AM
Ebola

I have no interest in adding to the rising level of fear-mongering and finger-pointing that we're reading, hearing, and seeing about Ebola. It is scary enough without a bunch of people running around like a character in an Edvard Munch painting.

I just looked this up. According to webmd.com an outbreak"happens when a disease occurs in greater numbers than expected in a community or region or during a season."

An epidemic "occurs when an infectious disease spreads rapidly to many people. In 2003, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic took the lives of nearly 800 people worldwide."

A pandemic "is a global disease outbreak. HIV/AIDS is an example of one of the most destructive global pandemics in history."

Health officials have had a number of problems in dealing with the Ebola (according to the webmd.com definition) epidemic both in its earliest stages and as the disease has progressed.

In Africa, the three major host nations for this Ebola outbreak - Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone - even before this epidemic, had very limited healthcare capabilities.

When Ebola cases started showing up, they overwhelmed their health care systems almost immediately.

The first cases were reported on March 22, 2014, according to a white paper published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By August 31 there were 3,685 cases. Factoring in the likely underreporting the CDC "estimates that approximately 21,000 total cases will have occurred in Liberia and Sierra Leone by September 30, 2014."

The CDC released a study last month that, according to Reuters "projected there could be as many as 1.4 million cases of Ebola in West Africa by mid January."

On March 30 - shortly after the first reports of Ebola, the World Health Organization - a unit of the United Nations - issued a report calling for (among other things) "training [caregivers] in safe practices and the community in safe burials." Local customs often call for direct contact between family members and the deceased before burial.

The WHO has, to no one's surprise, been moving at United Nation's speed.

You already know that a healthcare worker in Dallas who worked on the patient that died last week has been diagnosed with Ebola. Officials are looking for a "breach of protocol" that might have involved a mistake in how she removed her protective gear.

Although we have been assured since the beginning of the epidemic that because of our excellent healthcare system in the United States ?

If our healthcare system is so great, why have we been bombarded for years with statistics showing that it badly trails other developed nations in almost every area except cost?

and the simple fact that the average American is better fed, has access to better hygiene, and is otherwise lots healthier than the average citizen in west Africa we have little to fear.

But, the reality of an Ebola case in an American hospital is different that reading the pamphlets in a staff meeting.

Yesterday, a patient at a clinic in the Boston area was transferred to a major medical center after he presented with Ebola-like symptoms. The clinic was evacuated, according the The (UK) Daily Mail and an official said:

"We are working closely with the Department of Public Health who will determine next steps."

One might have hoped that between March and now those "next steps" might have already been decided.

Two confirmed and one suspected case of Ebola in the U.S. does not an epidemic make. And the breathless reporting that has surrounded these cases isn't helpful.

What would be helpful would be the Administration putting together a senior team of experts - health, management, military and anyone else who can be helpful - to help calm the fears of those Americans who believe that we really don't have a clear understanding of what we're facing or how to cope with it.

Count me among them.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link that explains that Edvard Munch reference, the webmd.com explanation of epidemics and outbreaks, and to a very well done page by PBS.com on "what is Ebola and how can you get it?"

Also a Mullfoto from Scottsdale last week.