Saturday, November 01, 2014

Ebola Wars

The war of fear and fact continues in the US.  Fear is apparently winning on the streets.  The New York Times reports that health care workers who simply work for the same institutions that are treating Ebola patients are being stigmatized, in Atlanta, Omaha, Dallas--and New York City.

There hundreds of health care workers at Bellvue are being materially stigmatized, including nurses losing their second jobs, one lost a teaching position and one nurse's child has been thrown out of daycare--all for simply working at the same hospital where an Ebola patient is treated.

It doesn't help that early symptoms of Ebola are reportedly similar to the flu that is in fact the epidemic that is spreading in America, as it often does at this time of year.  Here in far northern California, people reporting those symptoms are being told to get a flu shot.

One major victory over fear: a Maine judge rejected the governor's request for a court order to force Kaci Hickox, the Doctors Without Borders nurse and epidemologist, to continue her house arrest, otherwise known as quarantine.  He did so in no uncertain terms, basing his decision on science.

But no one is taking Ebola lightly in all of this.  Hickox is monitored daily for symptoms, such as fever.  Ebola victims are only contagious when they show symptoms, and only through direct contact with bodily fluids.

The irrational fear, fed for political gain and money by politicians and media, is only obscuring the real dangers of Ebola, which are considerable.  Stupid efforts need to be stopped, and more smart efforts begun and maintained.  Not nearly enough is known about the disease or how to stop it spreading and mutating in the parts of the world with poor medical care where it thrives.  If it is not controlled there it could become a much larger and more potent threat in the rest of the world.

Two recent articles in the New Yorker summarize the problems and the state of medical knowledge.   The real Ebola Wars are being fought in laboratories and on the front lines in Africa, with contributions from what is being learned in treating the few patients in US hospitals.

 The heroes of this war, who are putting themselves in harms way to save people and to accumulate knowledge that can save many more, are precisely these medical workers who are being stigmatized, and injured financially, socially and psychologically.  It's time to grow up.  And to revolt against the politicians and media institutions feeding this self-destructive hysteria.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Congratulations San Francisco Giants!

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, who won the seventh game of the World Series behind five innings of scoreless relief by--who else?--Madison Bumgarner to become the 2014 World Champions.  Tonight the city of San Francisco began celebrating, with the big parade likely later in the week--on Halloween.  It's the Giants third championship in five seasons.  More photos and links at American Dash.  (These photos from San Francisco Chronicle.)


More Ebola Facts, More Fear

On Wednesday, the furor over quarantines in the US continues, as the Governor of Maine requests a court order to force Doctors Without Borders nurse Kaci Hickox to remain under house arrest, and California announced its own quarantine guidelines that would seem to apply to others like her who return from the front lines battling Ebola.  Having issued its own guidelines, the federal government is opposing piecemeal state quarantine orders

Providing a factual overview, President Obama spoke forthrightly about the current situation, the danger of discouraging health workers from battling Ebola in Africa where it is truly dangerous, and about reacting based on facts, not fear.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ebola Hysterics in High Places

Between Friday and Monday, two major East Coast governors panicked, and it wasn't a pretty sight.  The governors of New York (D) and New Jersey (R) made this a bipartisan hysteria.

They both declared they would quarantine health workers returning from West Africa.  They did so without consulting health officials on any level (including federal), and without consulting or even informing the local governments and hospitals that would be expected to enforce the quarantines.

Thanks to a doubly courageous nurse, the whole thing unraveled.

Courageous because Kaci Hickox, a nurse and epidemiologist was out on the front lines with Doctors Without Borders, which may well be the most effective organization in dealing with the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  She returned from Sierra Leone Friday, was detained at Newark International Airport and incarcerated at University Hospital.

She was doubly courageous because (despite Christie's belief she would "understand") she let the world know what was done to her.

She showed no symptoms, contrary to what Governor Christie stated publicly. Christie has continued to lie about this.  She was confined in a situation that pretty much describes a small town lockup, only maybe worse.  It's not clear if as this LA Times story says she was lodged in a tent essentially outdoors--other stories suggest it was indoors.  But basically it tells the story.

Federal officials immediately criticized the quarantines as medically unnecessary, and sending the wrong messages. Medical experts including the New England Journal of Medicine called them "more destructive than beneficial."  The new CDC guidelines don't recommend quarantines except in closely defined high risk cases.

Whatever case could be made for quarantine, these were so rushed and unconsidered on any basis other than political, that they were clearly the result of panic.  Not what you want to see in leaders.

Now the "quarantines" are officially to be served at home.  House arrest, essentially. Kaci Hickox returned to her home in Maine.

As usual the definitive words come from the Borowitz Report which "reported": "Saying that he was “sick and tired of having my medical credentials questioned,” Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) had himself sworn in as a medical doctor on Sunday night.

Dr. Christie acknowledged that becoming a doctor generally requires pre-med classes, four years of medical school, plus additional years of residency, but he said that the Ebola epidemic compelled him to take “extraordinary measures, as we say in the medical profession.”

A few days earlier Borowitz also reported:

"Amid concerns that the spreading fear of Ebola has become a greater threat than the virus itself, a new poll shows that a majority of Americans favor a quarantine of the CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer.

While poll respondents supported quarantining more than a dozen cable-news personalities, including the entire cast of “Fox & Friends,” a full seventy-two per cent gave the nod to a quarantine of Blitzer.

At the Centers for Disease Control, a spokesman said that a Blitzer quarantine was “very much on the table,” and that the C.D.C. had come up with a workable plan.

“Essentially, we would do a lockdown of ‘The Situation Room’ and provide Wolf with food and water until the crisis passes,” he said.

Perhaps they'll find room for the governors of New York and New Jersey, and their egos.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Top of the World Series

Congratulations to Madison Bumgarner for a commanding performance on Sunday, pitching the first shutout in a World Series game in over a decade, and to the San Francisco Giants for their 5-0 victory in the fifth game and their last appearance in the home park for the year.  They're up in the Series 3 wins to 2.  Follow the World Series at American Dash.  Photo: San Francisco Chronicle.

Catching Up with the Dalai Lama and other matters

Over the past week or so I've bookmarked some items that caught my eye:

Speaking of eyes, fans using powerful laser pointers to distract opposing quarterbacks risk causing blindness--a problem that would seem to transcend this particular use.

The latest alternative weekly to bite the dust: the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

This is from a few weeks ago but it got little attention: South Africa denied a visa to the Dalai Lama for a peace meeting by Nobel Laureates--and the other laureates rebelled, causing cancellation of the event.  Stories suggest it was to mollify China--which may seem surprising, except that China is investing heavily in Africa, which is beginning to attract notice in the West.

Apparently, certain problems within the Secret Service are not at all new, but have long been part of its culture.  A very troubling report of the impact on the JFK assassination.