- Politics and Social Issues
Four Ways That The United States is Blowing it in Terms of Ebola
What is Ebola?
The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
The current outbreak in west Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air (1 traveller only) to Nigeria, and by land (1 traveller) to Senegal.
Symptoms of Ebola virus disease
The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
United States Mistake #1 - The United States Didn't Close Borders
This has to be the most obvious and biggest criticism of the government. There was a deadly outbreak of an infectious disease spreading across West Africa. Instead of limiting access to our country for people coming from that area, the United States allowed them to come and go freely.
With nearly 9,000 suspected cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) world-wide, it had to be fairly obvious that the disease was not quite under control yet. And yet, Thomas Eric Duncan was able to fly into the United States on September 20th from Liberia, one of the nations with infected patients.
Other nations that have had reported cases include Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, and Guinea. The outbreak is believed to have begun in Guinea as early as December of 2013.
Senegal closed it's Southern border to Guinea in March of 2014 when it became apparent that there was an outbreak. Smart move Senegal. Care to come run the United States?
United States Mistake #2 - Unprepared and Untrained Medical Professionals
With close to a year of warning about the outbreak in Africa, it appears that hospitals in the United States were completely unprepared for the virus.
Case in point, Duncan came to the hospital in Dallas on September 26th, reported he had recently flown in from Liberia, was showing symptoms of the disease, and yet, was given antibiotics and sent home. No Quarantine. No special handling of his case. No notification to the CDC about this potential disease carrying patient.
According to reports, the front line medical workers handling Duncan were doing so in just basic scrubs. That level of unpreparedness is a big reason for two Dallas medical care professionals contracting the disease.
For four more days, Duncan was free to roam the Dallas area with infectious symptoms.
United States Mistake #3 - Did Not Quarantine Those Exposed to Infected Patient
It seems like a no-brainer. Once Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola on September 30th when he came back to the hospital, you would think that any one who had been in contact with him during his first visit to the hospital would be put under quarantine.
Not in our country. In our country, the CDC merely put the 48 people who had direct contact with Duncan under monitoring (source).
According to reports, over seventy-six people treated Duncan during his time in the hospital. He passed away on October 8th. With an incubation period of two to twenty-one days, there's no telling how many people could be infected who had contact with him.
Do we quarantine them? Nope, just monitor them for symptoms.
United States Mistake #4 - Exposed Medical Workers Allowed to Travel
The latest report was extremely troubling. Not only were medical staff not quarantined, they were allowed to travel across the country. One of whom went to visit family in Ohio to prepare for her wedding.
As it turns out, this second medical worker was in fact infected with Ebola and started showing symptoms of the disease. She called the CDC to report this and was not immediately put into quarantine, but allowed to travel back to Dallas.
She went onto a flight with 132 other people, not to mention the hundreds of others she must have come in contact with in the airport, traveling to other points in the country.
How long until there are cases in different parts of the country then? It shouldn't be very long. But with up to twenty-one days of an incubation period, this could draw out for some time.
And we have not heard anything about the family of the second medical worker. Are they under quarantine or just being monitored as they continue their day-to-day lives, interacting with other people?
Any way you look at it, the handling of the Ebola virus has been mishandled by the government of the United States. We, the people, hope for so much more from our leaders. We look to them for protection and in this case, they have seriously dropped the ball and exposed many people to a disease that has a 40-90% mortality rate.
Let's hope they get a handle on the upcoming crisis. Perhaps they can watch the movie Outbreak and see how things were handled in that piece of fiction. I'd trust Dustin Hoffman, Renee Russo, and Cuba Gooding, Jr. a little more than our current leaders right about now.