Here’s another thing either the government and its Centers for Disease Control don’t yet know about the Ebola virus or aren’t telling us:

According to experts at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: “We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.”

Which also means either that the CDC is ignorant or lying when it repeatedly tells the public to dial down the worry because you supposedly can’t catch Ebola without coming into direct contact with a victim’s bodily fluids.

When the CIDRP uses the term “infectious aerosol particles,” that means Ebola virus dispersed in tiny droplets of moisture in the air, capable of being inhaled. Caused, for instance, by a cough, sneeze or even the flushing of an open toilet.

If you care to, you can find a detailed and scientifically researched explanation here at the CIDRP’s website.

On its own website, the CDC still is maintaining that Ebola can’t be spread through the air. It’s pretty clear this assertion is at best unproven and at worst a lie.

In a national medical emergency, a competent set of government medical officials can create an atmosphere of calm confidence in the citizenry through frank discussion and disclosure of the situation at hand, and through timely, decisive actions.

Unfortunately, the way our government officials have handled this Ebola emergency is nearly the opposite of the above, forcing the public to weigh and question every statement and suggestion that comes from the CDC and state health people, because of the series of missteps and misstatements witnessed to date.

It’s as if the CDC is your fire extinguisher, and you only find out it doesn’t work when your kitchen erupts in flames. It would be great to have another fire extinguisher in another room somewhere.

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The bad news is that a second nurse, who had cared for deceased Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, has herself been diagnosed with the deadly virus. Even worse news is that the woman, who was diagnosed with Ebola on Tuesday, had been on a commercial flight from Cleveland, reportedly with a 99.5-degree fever, just the day before.

This latter of course raises questions about the worth of “active monitoring” by the Centers for Disease Control of everyone who has been in contact with an Ebola patient on American soil. Where was the CDC when this woman bought her plane ticket and took off on Friday? Now the CDC is left to “actively monitor” more than 100 people unlucky enough to also have been on the flight from Cleveland to Dallas.

But there’s a sliver of good news, and it is this: CDC Director Thomas Frieden at last has acknowledged that his agency bears some responsibility for the fact that two nurses from the Texas hospital caught Ebola from Duncan while caring for him. Previously, as noted here, Frieden seemed to blame the nurses for not following protocol, when it turns out that the garb provided by their hospital left their necks exposed.

After nurses and nurse associations across the country verbally lambasted the CDC (and many of the hospitals they work for) for failing to provide clear, accurate safety guidelines for caring for Ebola patients, and failing to provide adequate safety gear, Frieden seems to have seen the light.

“I think we could, in retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight, have sent a more robust hospital infection control team and been more hands-on with the hospital from day one about exactly how this should be managed,” Frieden said at a press conference yesterday. “I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection. But we will do that from today onward with any case anywhere in the U.S.”

The other glimmer of hope is the news that the second nurse infected with Ebola is or has been transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta – a medical institution with a demonstrated ability to properly deal with Ebola patients. This is a step in the right direction, although in my opinion Frieden needs to put his agency in charge of an effort in which those few hospitals now able to adequately deal with this plague immediately train health-care teams from several other large hospitals, in order to set up a regional hospital network where all Ebola patients would receive care.

It makes no sense to expect tiny hospitals across the country to be able to provide isolation rooms and a dedicated staff with hazmat suits and all the other gear and equipment needed for an Ebola treatment center. Similarly, it makes no sense for a country with such awesome medical resources as the United States to have no ability on the federal level to coordinate and implement a strategy to deal with a national medical emergency.

According to RoseAnn DeMoro of the National Nurses United nurses union:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidelines but has no authority to enforce them. Hospitals have wide latitude to pick and choose what protocols they will follow; too often in a corporate medical system, those decisions are based on budget priorities, not what is best for the health and safety of patients and caregivers. Congress and state lawmakers put few mandates on what hospitals must do in the face of pandemics or other emergencies, and local health officials do not have the authority to direct procedures and protocols at hospitals.

Where other countries — notably Canada, which took action after its vulnerabilities were exposed by the 2003 SARS epidemic — have empowered their public health agencies to coordinate local, state and federal detection and response efforts for pandemics, the United States cut funding for its already weak system. Federal funding for public health preparedness and response activities was $1 billion less in fiscal 2013 than 2002…

We know what works: a federal agency with the authority to ensure local, state and national coordination in response to outbreaks. In such an empowered public health system, local health officials are assured of having the resources to identify the source of an outbreak, isolate and treat the sick, and follow up with those who have had close contact with the sick. Only greater integration and the authority of a public health system with national, uniform standards can protect Americans.

If it takes an epidemic in America to change this, then maybe, in a perverse way, there’s a silver lining even to the Ebola virus.

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Death By Moronic Leadership

by bdunn on October 13, 2014

in Be Afraid, Government, Health Care

I have been forced to think about the Ebola plague more than I want to, now that it’s in Dallas. When it was half a world away in West Africa, you could hope for the best – a new drug and a major concerted world effort to eradicate the virus. When it lands in your home state, hope becomes not enough.

Especially if your hopes lie with the Centers for Disease Control. The head of the CDC implied that a Dallas nurse (who has contracted Ebola after treating a now-dead Liberian patient) must have slipped up and somehow not followed protocol. But it turns out that experts with experience in dealing with Ebola consider what the nurse was wearing to be the minimum gear necessary to safely work around Ebola. In other words, health care workers at the Dallas hospital should have worn and been trained to work in heavier gear if they were to be safe themselves from the virus.

CDC leaders have issued some sort of semi-official guidelines to hospitals involving the necessary protocols for dealing with and treating Ebola patients. But according to one survey, 85% of nurses nationally say their hospitals have not trained them on these procedures. And as seems clear from Dallas, all hospitals aren’t equipping their employees with proper gear for their own safety when dealing with Ebola.

Which begs a rather urgent question: Why has the CDC or some federal government entity not designated a regional network of hospitals to be the official treatment centers for Ebola patients? Institutions in Atlanta and Nebraska apparently are well-equipped to handle Ebola patients. Most hospitals aren’t. The gear and training necessary for proper treatment are obviously beyond the means and/or the will of some medical institutions. The government should require Ebola patients only be treated at designated regional hospitals with the demonstrated expertise and equipment. This should have been done a month ago. Not only has it not been done, apparently no one at the CDC yet has felt it necessary.

Then there’s the handling of travelers to the U.S. from West African countries. While many countries have erected an air travel ban, America has not. But the Obama Administration announced that passengers coming into this country at five large airports would be screened to make sure they didn’t have Ebola. What exactly is this supposed to accomplish?

The Liberian man who came to Dallas and later was found to be infected with Ebola reportedly lied to Liberian screeners about whether he’d been in close contact to anyone with Ebola. He exhibited no signs of fever until he got to Texas. Now he is dead, and in the meantime he had contact with more than 100 people before he was hospitalized. Plus he infected at least one nurse.

So screeners at the five U.S. airports may well see no signs of Ebola on any number of passengers from West Africa, who later start running a fever and spread the disease all over America.

Meanwhile, no Ebola screeners will be present at Houston’s Bush International Airport. Yet you can book a flight from Liberia to Brussels to London’s Heathrow Airport and then right into Houston. No medical screeners will greet you when you get off the plane and, if you later feel feverish, you may be free to spread Ebola all over America’s fourth-largest city for many days before anyone is the wiser.

Here is what CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in announcing the discovery of Ebola in Dallas: “I have no doubt that we will control or contain this case of Ebola so it does not spread throughout the country. We are stopping it in its tracks in this country.”

So far it looks to me like Frieden is full of shit and the people running the federal government have no rational plan for dealing with a major epidemic. I really hope I am wrong.

Update: Apparently not. This USA Today report suggests that because of constitutional issues, medical procedures and policies are up to the individual state governments, and the feds can only make suggestions.

“In Texas, they really were slow to the plate,” Robert Murphy, director of the Center for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told the newspaper. “Texas is going to be the example of what not to do.”

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We Don’t Need No Edumacation

October 1, 2014 Education

How a government prioritizes spending of the tax money it collects from its citizenry says a lot about the values of the people controlling that government. Beginning next week in Germany, for instance, all universities will be free of charge, as the last German state charging tuition abandoned those fees. “Tuition fees are socially unjust,” […]

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Take This Cart And Shove It…

September 30, 2014 Grumpy Old Man Does Retail

…I ain’t shopping here no more. Yes, the Grumpy Old Man was out in full force at the aging, dirty Wal-Mart just down from the Richmond post office. I’d pushed my cart through the grocery portion of the store as usual and, as usual, found nothing worth buying in the meat section, mediocre but acceptable […]

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Let The Good Times Roll

September 30, 2014 Be Afraid

Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow, Why man, this is war au-go-go! There’s plenty good money to be made, By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade. But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb, They drop it on the Viet Cong! – Country Joe & The Fish, “Vietnam […]

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Harvesting The Fruits of Slave Labor

September 24, 2014 Be Afraid

On Aug. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced something that has become routine in the United States – in this case, the recall of 8,316 pounds of pre-cooked breaded chicken meat called Mom’s Chicken Extra Thin Cutlets. It’s possible the meat is infected with Listeria bacteria. Listeria can cause […]

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