Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Lucky to Be in México!" and The Really Important Question

I feel very fortunate to be in México … but not for the reason suggested recently. Learning Spanish is a dream I’ve had for decades and I now have the time, resources and good health to follow that dream. For all of that I am incredibly grateful.

However, the reason I was given recently related to the Ebola situation going on in the states. The conversation was straight out of Steven King’s The Stand where a plague is unleashed on the world and the slightest exposure is fatal. The person I was talking with spoke of the health care worker who boarded a plane, thus exposing 132 people who are now wandering through the world exposing others.The apocalypse unleashed.

Watching what little news I’m exposed to (talk about a plague!), it’s clear that there is a lot of fear around this issue.  And it is scary … with all of our know-how and high-tech equipment designed to control contagion, how could a health care worker contract the disease. Is it that powerful? Does it fly through the air? Should we stop flying? Should we hunker down in our homes?

Perhaps it’s time to step back a bit. Things go wrong and it looks like a lot of things have gone wrong in this situation and we now have more questions than answers …
- How did Thomas Eric Duncan contract Ebola? His nephew says he was a cautious man and didn’t “help a pregnant woman with Ebola.” He lived in Liberia so he could have been exposed in many ways.
Why did Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas send Duncan home with aspirin and antibiotics when he was running a 103 degree temperature and had just arrived from Liberia? Could the facts that he was black, poor and had no healthcare coverage have anything to do with it?How did Amber Vinson contract the virus? AP reports are now showing that hospital staff did not wear the proper protective gear when first treating Duncan.- Why did Amber Vinson get on a plane when she knew she was sick? There are conflicting stories but apparently Vinson had a temperature of 99.5 and didn’t feel well so she contacted CDC and was told it was all right to fly, that a temperature that low was not symptomatic.- Exactly how does the Ebola virus spread? According to the World Health Organization, Ebola spreads "in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.” 
In other words, not by sitting on a plane breathing the same air as someone who “might” be carrying the virus. 
Given my druthers, I’d rather not be sitting on a plane with Amber Vinson but I think fear is the most dangerous plague we’re dealing with right now. We need to focus on controlling the disease at its source and not panic in the US where one person has died. 

The truly big question: From my perspective, the really important question is … how many people have died in the time we’ve been talking about Thomas Eric Duncan because they’ve been turned away from hospitals because they had no healthcare coverage. 

I’m not sure I’d want to know the answer but I would like to see this issue become part of the discussion.

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