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Ebola, shame and confusion

 

I can't figure out whether our country is on the verge of a viral catastrophe, or whether it is much ado about very little.  However, the way in which our leaders are dealing with this is absurd and dangerous. 

 

 

First some facts.  For some reason a Liberian named Thomas Duncan entered the US a few weeks ago infected with the Ebola virus.  He knew he had the disease, yet when questioned at the airport, he denied it.  Because the federal government loathes denying entry into our country of anyone for any reason, particularly anyone from a third world country, he was admitted into the country.  He went directly to the hospital and was not initially diagnosed with Ebola, was given some medication and released.  A few days later he checked back into a Dallas hospital and was then admitted and treated.  I'd love to know exactly what sort of health insurance he had.  Who actually paid for his treatment?  It was the rest of us. 

We were all assured by Tom Frieden (Director of the CDC), that the probability of anyone catching the disease from him was very remote.  The CDC has established "protocols" for treating Ebola patients that would make it safe for those treating the patient, and virtually assure that the disease would not spread.  We have been told that only through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is outwardly symptomatic could the disease be spread.

Then one of the nurses attending to him contracted the disease despite her full knowledge of what she was facing.  She followed the "protocols" made available to her at the time.  She was placed in a group of 48 people who came in contact with Duncan for observation and monitoring; seems like an odd step for an agency that is so certain the spread of the disease was highly unlikely.  Now we find out that a second nurse also contracted Ebola from Duncan.  We also find out that she was placed in a second group of 76 people who were to "self monitor" their condition.  Somehow she went from Dallas to her hometown of Akron.  When it was time for her to return, she was coming down with a fever (i.e. symptoms).  She checked with the CDC to see if it was OK to travel back to Dallas.  Someone at the CDC told her “no problem.  Go ahead and fly on a commercial flight to Dallas from Cleveland".   And so she did, exposing more than 100 people to the disease confined in a plane for several hours, and who knows how many more people in the airports and other places.  So, what is to become of those people?  The disease takes 21 days to incubate.

The head of the CDC, Tom Frieden, was educated at Oberlin College and Columbia University.  These are two of the most liberal colleges in the country.  He is smug, arrogant and condescending to the American people.  Yet what he has to say is totally illogical.  He said that the reason that we cannot ban flights from West Africa is because it would inhibit our ability to help the people in West Africa and it would cause the disease to spread more rapidly.  When it was pointed out that we could fly in aid and health professionals on charter planes, his retort was that charters somehow would not do the job and are not the same as allowing people to leave the country on commercial flights.  The American public would be safe because we would train airport personnel to recognize the disease, and they would ask each passenger if he had Ebola.  And he wasn't kidding when he said this!  This makes no sense, whatsoever.  The man's job as the Director of the CDC is to protect the American public from infectious diseases.  How is inviting an infected populace to board commercial flights and come to America to get free state-of-the-art health care protecting the public?  Is this really what he thinks will work?  Does it really make some kind of sense to him that none of us lay people can understand?  Is this what they teach at Columbia about public health?  Or is there someone in the administration forcing this down his throat because it plays better politically?  If this is some political move, I'd say it has backfired spectacularly right on the eve of the midterm elections.

He assures us that he knows how the disease is spread, and he knows how to control it.  The CDC is putting "protocols" in place that will protect us all.  Really?  Is one of the protocols to tell an infected person to get on a commercial flight and fly across the country?  Do they really know how this disease spreads? Are we supposed to believe that these two nurses who are decked out in hazmat uniforms, went ahead and swapped bodily fluids with this man?  I do not believe they do understand nearly enough about this disease and how it is spread.  To come out and assure us and re-assure us that all is well, when there is so much they simply do not know is criminal.  I’ve noticed that when these CDC people are around infected people, they all have hazmat uniforms on.  I presume they wear these because that is the proper precaution.  Yet, I seriously doubt that the people on the street and in the airplane were all wearing hazmat clothing.  So are they safe?  Are we really supposed to believe that because there are protocols, we are all safe?  Nonsense.  These guys are so arrogant.  They think they know it all and they don't know squat.  Problem is, people will die because of this arrogance.

Enter the liberal politicians.  They go on the Sunday talk shows and say this is only happening because there is not enough funding.  Congress (read Republicans in the House) should have never allowed sequestration to go forward.  It was a bad idea.  Of course, these guys would never let facts get in the way of blaming the Republicans for causing this disaster.  Here are a couple facts:  1) Sequestration was President Obama's idea, not the Republicans.  2) Sequestration mainly affected the military.  The HHS budget was largely untouched. 3) The HHS budget grew 4.8 percent from 2013 to 2014 and has grown steadily since 2009, the beginning of the Obama presidency.  The HHS budget for 2014 was $896 billion - nearly 1 Trillion dollars!  If the CDC is such a crucial agency, surely the Director of the HHS could have properly funded it with that kind of money at her disposal.

Now the President releases a press release saying that he is canceling campaign visits so he can stay in Washington, and “roll up his sleeves” and address the Ebola problem.  First of all, what exactly is the President going to do?  Appoint a new czar?  Reallocate some funding?  I think that is about it.  Next and more to the point, the Democrats running for Congress would rather have Ebola in their districts than this President.  It is hard enough for them to run away from his record without him coming around to underscore it.

Finally, the catastrophe scenario:  So far there has been only 1 person who has died of Ebola in the US.  That person was only in the country for a few weeks.  From our experience with him, we see that it has placed literally hundreds of people at risk.  Let's suppose that this disease spreads to Central America.  Now let's suppose that it becomes a real problem in these countries.  What are the people in these countries going to do?  They don't have free healthcare for everyone, so if you get it, it is a death sentence.  Further, there will be no quarantining infected people, so it could easily spread and cause panic in these countries.  So, what will all these people do?  Why just go north to the US.  Open borders.  Free healthcare.  Best healthcare in the world.  Our hospitals would be flooded with uninsured sick people.  Who is going to treat these people when we have already seen what has happened to 2 nurses in a single highly visible case?  This would simply be the ruination of our healthcare system, not to mention the potential carnage of the rampant spread of this dread disease.

So, after all this - how could it possibly be much ado over very little?  Lots of time these sorts of things come up and are used by the healthcare profession to squeeze more money from the government, and the government takes money from the public and bestows upon itself powers that further eat away at our freedoms.  Remember the bird flue?  How about West Nile Virus?  Dioxin that causes cancer?  Freon in the atmosphere causing wide spread skin cancer?  And so on.  Each of these spawned millions upon millions of spending.  Could this be the next one of those?  Perhaps; only time and how we act will tell.  So far, it is not promising.

 

By Tad Shields

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