Doctor, I Think I Have Tennis Ebola
Okay, I’ve resorted to dark humor to get your attention. It’s time for me to sit you down and have the ‘Ebola Talk’. Now that a man lied on travel papers to get into the United States after having been exposed to the virus, the universal fear mongering has begun and my head is about to ‘splode.
First, let’s talk about what Ebola actually is: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a disease caused by infection of one of the five known Ebola strains. It is rare and it is deadly and while it is not known the precise origin of the virus, it is widely believed that several species of African bats are the likely reservoir. Those infected manifest symptoms that include a temperature above 101.5 degrees F., severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 2-21 days after exposure, but generally begin within 8-10 days. People who survive the disease have good immune systems to begin with and rely on immediate clinical care. Those who recover from it carry antibodies protecting them from getting it again for at least 10 years. In order to get it, you MUST come in direct contact with the blood, vomit, feces, urine, semen, mucous, or sweat of an infected individual. Some African tribesmen have been infected when handling bush meat because the animals killed for food have foraged on the ground after bats carrying the virus have left their guano in the soil where the bush animals eat. Period. If an infected person touches a doorknob, the virus certainly isn’t a strong one and it dies quickly outside of a living host. It is immediately killed when it comes in contact with a 10 percent bleach solution. So if you’re not handling infected African bush meat and you can contain yourself from kissing a sweaty Liberian on an international flight, you should be good to go. Google, people. I’m not making this up.
Now let’s talk about what Ebola actually isn’t: Ebola is not a conspiracy. Ebola is not a threat to you. Ebola is not going to sweep the United States – and the quickest way for you to understand that is to turn off Fox News and other outlets acting irresponsibly in the effort to grab sensational headlines and foment unnecessary fear. And you folks on Social Media can shut the hell up about how the United States has the patent on Ebola and is using it to wipe Africa off the face of the earth. You’re full of shit. And about not letting anyone into the US from Africa, you’re full of racist shit and I’ve had enough. Announce that one Liberian got into the US with a deadly disease and even the most rabid Progressive starts ranting like a Tea Partier.
I remember the early days of HIV – the ‘gay plague’ and the idea that every Haitian was carrying the virus. We demonized the gay community and the idea of letting anyone into the US who was infected made the most manly men scream like Lindsey Graham on one of his “The Terra-Wrists Ah Comin’! The TERRA-WRISTS Ah-A-COMIN’” rants. In retrospect, we should all be ashamed of how we treated people back then. Remember how the ignorance of it all just resulted in more infected people? Can we not all jump off that same rooftop again? Ignorance is the major cause of death in most health crises.
There’s a American lady we should all be listening to – her name is Laurie Garrett. When Vicki Childs and I were doing our Broadsided Radio show, we were immensely fortunate to interview her. She’s direct and smart and no-nonsense. She’s a Senior Fellow with the Global Health Program and she’s won the Polk, the Peabody and the Pulitzer Prizes for her work on global health issues, epidemiology and reporting. Laurie Garrett is a woman without a political agenda. She is merely interested in how we address global health crises in the most efficient manner and this weekend, I heard her speak on the “Up With Steve Kornacki” Show on MSNBC. What she had to say made sense. In essence, the virus is containable with enough medical personnel to address the crisis. They need 10,000 trained medical workers on the ground in West Africa and no one wants to go. Without people there to stop the epidemic, this outbreak could become a pandemic that becomes so widespread it can’t be contained where it is. The President of the United States has sent 3,600 trained medical military personnel there to fight the problem. These soldiers aren’t 18 years old kids fresh off the Kansas farm being sent in with no training. These are doctors and nurses and people with formal medical training. They are not going to bring Ebola back to the United States en masse, regardless of what Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert is telling anyone who will listen. Louie thinks it’s awful that we use our military for humanitarian purposes instead of mere killing machines. I don’t happen to agree with him on this or frankly, on absolutely anything.
Like everything else, the world wants the Ebola problem to simply go away. No one feels the need to get involved and their attitude seems to be that we should simply close off all air traffic between West Africa and the US. When I point out it doesn’t take much to travel from West Africa to Western Europe and then to the US with no way of knowing their point of origin, they move to simply closing off the US borders entirely for six months. When I ask about all of the Americans abroad who wouldn’t be able to get home, or the people who need to travel in and out of the US for business, they become silent. The World Health Organization has asked for trained medical volunteers to go to West Africa. France found 7 volunteers. Germany offered medical supplies, but their military transport couldn’t get off the ground. Once again, the world looks to the United States to ‘do something’, so President Obama sent 3,600 trained medical staff over there to help get it under control. Those 3,600 people were not sent there to get the virus and spread it across the US. Stop. Just… stop. Dr. Garrett, in her talk with Steve Kornacki, pointed out that poor sanitation is a huge part of the spread of this virus. We don’t have that problem here. Poor immune systems are a huge part of the spread of this virus. We don’t generally have that problem here. In West African households known to have a victim of Ebola with active pathology, with everyone in the household taking care of them, only 1 in 7 people living a subsistence existence with no health care and poor sanitation get the virus. Are you seeing how difficult it is to transmit? If there is any threat to the American population, it is the lack of universal health care. Be afraid of poor uninsured people. Be angry that it’s a problem that can be easily remedied.
“But won’t there be a flood of people from West Africa coming here just to get treatment?” The average annual income of a Liberian national is $436. A year. Period. How do you propose they’ll get here? If an Ebola infected Liberian can wait until March to travel, I went on Orbitz and found them a round trip rate of just $674. If they want to travel sooner than that, I can get them booked on October 18th for a mere $1,013. You understand they’ll already be dead, right? You get that there’s no way they could fool health officials they weren’t ill, right? You understand that in order to enter this country, you have to prove you have health insurance or the means to pay your medical expenses, should you require medical care here, right? To wit; there will be no ‘flood’ of people from West Africa coming here to get treatment. I’m not sure the one patient in Dallas even constitutes a ‘trickle’. Mostly, you need to understand there’s no way these people have the means to get here… right?
Will there be people who lie to get into the country? Rarely, but yes. Will be handle it properly when it occurs? Maybe not, but I’m betting after the debacle in Dallas, we’ll be handling it on a case by case basis a damned sight better than they did in Dallas.
Why are they bringing those ‘Ebola people’ into the United States once they’ve been infected? Those ‘Ebola people’? You mean, American doctors and aid workers who went there to do what needed to be done? They brought them home so they might live. They brought them home because they’re Americans and we take care of our own. They brought them home and cured them and they’ve infected no one else. Deal with it – and stop calling them ‘those Ebola people’. You sound like an idiot.
And, I might point out, our anti-science Congress cut $600 million from the very agency leading the Ebola response, our very own CDC. So while they’re out there pointing fingers at the President, they should see how many are pointing right back at them.
In excess of 20,000 people have died from the deadliest outbreak of Ebola to date. According to Dr. Laurie Garrett, without adequate resources, that number will rise to 40,000 by Christmas. We have a choice: We can stop the fear-mongering about something that is virtually no threat to us here at home today by stopping it where it is or we can attempt to close off our borders to the world and watch it become so wide-spread that it can’t be stopped. I choose not to be critical of the measures that have been put in place to stop it where it is. If an American soldier is infected, we should, without complaint, bring them home and get them well. We should support organizations like Doctors Without Borders and if one of them becomes ill, bring them home and get them well. We should all educate ourselves and become a part of the solution by not spreading misinformation. This is a fight we can win.
Now, about my Tennis Ebola… it hurts when I do ‘this’: