Category Archives: Viruses

The White House Response to Ebola

I certainly hope I’m the only one being paranoid here but I will be watching the U.S. response to the latest Ebola outbreak in Africa with special interest. I fully understand the need to stop the spread of this horrid virus especially considering it’s reported to be the worst outbreak in history with more “than 4,700 cases…being… reported since December…and…more than 2,400 of them ending in fatalities.  So I get the fact that something needs to be done before this disease makes its way around the world. Even so, I’m very concerned about the White House’s response to this.

Let me say up front that I am no doctor, nor am I even a mediocre nurse. I’m familiar with band aids, antibiotic cream, a thermometer, and a blood pressure cup. That, unfortunately, is pretty much the extent of my medical knowledge, so I speak with a definite disadvantage here. The one trait I am familiar with, that would be of use in this situation, is common sense. I try to employ this common sense stuff as much as possible, but especially when my countrymen/women will be in an extremely risky and potentially deadly situation.

As most everyone knows by now, this particular strain of Ebola may have started about eight months ago “… with a 2-year-old patient in a village in Guinea.”  Scientists aren’t sure exactly how the toddler contracted the virus in the first place but Ebola is usually spread from animals to humans through infected fluids or tissue. “In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines,” WHO says.  In this particular case “…researchers think fruit bats are what they call the virus’s “natural host.” With this strain of Ebola, you’ve got like a ninety percent chance of dying. That’s spectacular by any standard – one of the most lethal viruses that exist.”

Already two Americans, one an aid worker and the other a doctor, have contracted the virus. Thankfully they recovered with the help of a new experimental drug. This new drug is not plentiful though and has its potential risks, hence the word “experimental”. So the fact that we’ve had two Americans contract the virus and lived to tell the story doesn’t mean our luck will hold out forever, especially considering we are sending our people right into the hot zone so to speak.

The two Americans who contracted the Ebola virus knew the risks they faced if all precautionary control and containment measures were not adhered to with the greatest of diligence. So yes they knew all about full containment and yet these two Americans caught the disease anyway. For me that sends up major red flags about the virus having possibly evolved or being in the process of evolving into something even more communicable.  The two Americans were Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol who were flown separately from Liberia to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital — the first human patients with Ebola to ever come to the United States. Writebol was released from the hospital Tuesday. On Thursday morning, Brantly walked out of that same hospital with no signs of the virus in his system, doctors say.

Please don’t anyone take what I’m saying to imply that I don’t think we should be doing all we can to help stop this disease. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s to everyone’s advantage that we step in and help keep this Ebola virus from becoming a worldwide epidemic. We especially need to do all we can to keep it from getting to our shores in even greater numbers. So I get the fact that something definitely needs to be done and quickly.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the United States will send troops, material to build field hospitals, additional health care workers and community care kits to affected nations. The United States will also create a facility to help train thousands of health care workers to identify and care for Ebola patients. According to the President, not one bed is available for Ebola patients and people are just waiting to die. Hospitals in affected nations are overwhelmed, and the WHO has described the outbreak as a “dire emergency with … unprecedented dimensions” of human suffering. “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us,” Obama said.  The concern with Ebola is that Ebola currently transmits only though contact with bodily fluids; a mutation that allows the virus to spread through the air would pose a catastrophic threat to people worldwide, experts say.

An experimental drug called ZMapp has shown “very positive signs of recovery” but the drug is in very short supply and has not been through the usual human trials. It was given to Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol and, thankfully both recovered after being flown to Altanta’s Emory University Hospital for treatment. The drug was also given to a Spanish priest Miguel Pajares who died of the disease on August 12 of this year. So the drug has promise but is not 100% effective.

So yes it is obvious that the world needs to do all it can to eradicate this disease before it starts spreading worldwide. Whatever happened to massive air drops of any and all needed equipment though? Instructions could be written in whatever language is predominate in the area. If instructions can’t be written in enough detail or further instructions would be helpful there are possible solutions for that as well. There are radios, videos, walkie-talkies and any number of other communication devices that could be employed. There is also a little thing called Skye, which is a device used quite often in business and personal life. Ask any of our Military families about Skype, I understand they are familiar with it. A person can set on one side of the world and instruct someone else, in live time on the other side of the world, as to the proper use of each piece of equipment sent over there. Any or all of these communication devices could be used to instruct local medical workers about the proper use of every piece of equipment we drop. Why isn’t any one or all these communication methods at least being tried before sending in even one American??

Oh, and by the way, if this virus is so deadly, and it is indeed very deadly with an almost 90% death rate, where is the rest of the world?? Why aren’t we hearing about the help every other country in the world is chipping in to combat this disease?? After all, a virus like this knows no boundary or border. Let’s spread some of this risk around, let’s not put the majority of this effort on the backs of just one percent of the American population. If that sounds cold-hearted I apologize, but my concern is not the rest of the world, except where it affects my country. My main concern is Americans and what’s best for America. Did I miss the White House News Conference when the President asked the world to help provide medical equipment, food, as well as personnel?? Or did that new conference just never happen??

In a recent CNN episode Dr. Sanjay Gupta tried to explain why Ebola isn’t something we Americans should fear. Sorry, with all due respect Dr. Gupta, your explanation that the flu virus effects more Americans than would the Ebola virus just doesn’t cut it for me. The flu virus, with common sense precautions like a flu shot and washing hands, does not have a 75% to 90% fatality rate but Ebola does. I’m living proof that a person with a yearly flu shot and vigilance of common sense precautions can prevent the flu year after year. As it stands now there is no such precautionary measures a person can follow to stave off the Ebola virus, except to divorce oneself completely from humanity. Even then there is no guarantees because the Ebola virus can live in nature and, as mentioned above, in some animals.

“Today, the Ebola virus spreads only through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood and vomit. But some of the nation’s top infectious disease experts worry that this deadly virus could mutate and be transmitted just by a cough or a sneeze.”
“It’s the single greatest concern I’ve ever had in my 40-year public health career,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “I can’t imagine anything in my career — and this includes HIV — that would be more devastating to the world than a respiratory transmissible Ebola virus.”  “Every time a new person gets Ebola, the virus gets another chance to mutate and develop new capabilities. Osterholm calls it “genetic roulette.”

Again, why are we not employing every remote communication method known to man and then doing air drops of all needed supplies? We could keep our people safe while still helping those desperately needing assistance right now.