Thursday, October 16, 2014

More Thoughts on Ebola, Civilization, and Government Incompetence

Image of the Ebola virus
Ebola virus (source: Legal Insurrection)

Following up on Charlie Foxtrot's piece on Ebola and civilization, I have a few more thoughts to add.

I'll start off by being blunt: I have little-to-no faith in the various responses we're hearing or the powers-that-be from whom we're hearing them.

(This became a bit of a rant, so I'm hiding the rest below the fold. You have been warned.)

Second, how on God's green Earth does a medical professional "follow all protocols" regarding highly-infectious diseases, and still get sick? It's a rhetorical question; to anyone with any sense, it's no mystery. Given that the protocols exist to KEEP the disease contained, either:
  • The protocols weren't followed, or;
  • The protocols are inadequate.
Those are really the only two possibilities (note: they are not mutually exclusive; it could be both). Simultaneously claiming the protocols work and were followed to the letter while talking about medical staff getting sick is disingenuous, at best.

Cartoon of a CDC worker in a haz-mat suit full of holes labelled 'CDC Protocol'
Ebola-care, by A.F. Branco, courtesy of Legal Insurrection

The nurses' union, National Nurses United, is leveling a number of claims against the hospital, in response to their seemingly-lackadaisical regard to worker safety when dealing a CDC-designated Class 4 pathogen. For reference Hepatitis B is a Class 2, and HIV is a Class 3.

CDC Director Tom Frieden (M.D.) has done a lot of press conferences lately, giving similar statements repeatedly, and being proven repeatedly wrong by events. He's told us that Ebola will be easy to contain, that "We [the CDC] know how to stop Ebola"* and don't need to impose travel restrictions to/from West Africa — because that would be racist — and then prove they can't stop or contain it.

Note: I'm not saying we necessarily should impose travel restrictions. I'm just saying the option should be on the table.

Cartoon of Ebola riding into America on a horse of Political Correctness
Grim, by A.F. Branco, courtesy of Legal Insurrection

More recently, Dr. Frieden has back-tracked, saying "We have to rethink the way we address Ebola control," (Gee, y'think?!) and laying out a new plan focusing on proper management and training for hands-on care providers.

Left unsaid thus far: why those plans weren't developed and in place BEFORE people with Ebola were transported to American hospitals.

This isn't the only case of back-tracking by the CDC, either, nor even the only case involving Ebola on U.S. soil. The second nurse who tested positive for Ebola got the OK from the CDC to board a plane from Cleveland to Dallas, about which (surprise!) they later said she shouldn't have flown. A little late, there, Skippy.**

The President tries to reassure us that it's all safe, that he's shaken hands with and hugged medical staff — but not the doctors — at Emory University Hospital and he's not worried. That's fine for him; Emory University is a top-notch facility designed to handle Class 4 pathogens, where every staff member is trained and equipped to treat patients with as little risk of exposure as possible. Every. Single. Staff member.

However, the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital, where Thomas Eric Duncan died and where Nina Pham and Amber Vinson work, is NOT designed to contain a Class 4 pathogen like Ebola, and their employees apparently are NOT trained or equipped to treat Ebola patients safely. No disrespect, but THP is the junior varsity squad to Emory University's varsity team, and this is what happens when you treat Ebola like a JV virus.

(As an aside, we had a small Ebola scare at the closest hospital to here. They handled it well, I think — isolated the patient and determined the symptoms didn't match up — but it pulled an inordinate number of staff members away from other duties to isolate, contain, and investigate. I fear that if a real Ebola case hit here, EVERYTHING else would be dropped or brushed aside. Because Ebola.)

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, Matt Bracken — author of excellent dystopian fiction novels such as "Enemies Foreign and Domestic" and "Castigo Cay" — wrote up a hypothetical over at Western Rifle Shooters, When Ferguson Meets Ebola. It's a good question: What will happen when store owners and public workers refuse or are unable to come to work to sell goods or otherwise provide for the welfare of already-riled-up mobs of "unarmed teenagers"? What will happen when police, fire, and EMT services are unavailable because those workers are also staying home?

Finally, because I don't want to end this on a complete downer, here's a Grumpy Cat picture for you, also via Western Rifle Shooters:

Grumpy Cat in a Haz-Mat suit
Somehow, I feel I can trust Grumpy Cat over the CDC.

Carry on. Stay safe out there.
* - Another, off-topic quote from that article, "When a wildfire breaks out we don't fence it off." Ummm... yes, they do. What do you suppose he thinks they mean when they say a wildfire is "X% contained"? Apparently he's never heard of building firelines or "back-firing" to remove fuel sources ahead of a wildfire, thereby allowing it to burn itself out. Who hired this guy?
** - Today, CBS This Morning, talking about the CDC and Dr. Frieden and the public's distrust of anything Dr. Frieden says, produced possibly the most head-smacking moment I've had in a long time: (paraphrased) "After he's back-tracked his statements a number of times, people don't want to trust him. Any wonder why that is?" Now, most of us learned this in kindergarten, but when someone states a "fact", and then has to repeatedly back-track and revise their "facts", they probably have no idea what they're talking about. When an "expert" does this, the natural, logical reaction is to question their "expert" status. "Any wonder", indeed.


  1. Nice rant for scary days.

    This situation reaks of a top-down decision. A politically-correct, knee-jerk decision, more concerned with the appearance of racism or colonialism than the well-being of the citizens of the United States.

    To our readers - please put aside a week's worth of supplies immediately. Canned goods, rice, beans, pasta, water, fuel, candles, batteries, medication, etc. Be able to stay inside locked doors for a week. When you can - add a week, then another week, and another.

    And it goes without saying: have a way to keep those life-saving supplies.

    Good luck, I fear we may need it.

    1. Indeed. That's why I included that comic from A.F. Branco (the one of Death carrying Ebola into America on a horse of Political Correctness). It's particularly poignant and timely. Branco's usually are.

      We've been improving our long-term stocks, and picked up a few boxes of nitrile gloves and N95 masks, too.

      There's not much excuse for not having SOME kind of shelf-stable food on-hand these days, but it needs to be done sooner rather than later. Large stockpiles take time, but you have to start somewhere. They call it "PREpared" for a reason - it's done BEFORE it's needed - and you don't hear about the POSTpared ones until the food riots and looting start.

  2. Everything this administration does is done with political calculations in mind.

    A real leader would have sealed the borders (against illegal aliens, drug smugglers, terrorists, and now the disease vectors) and shut down air traffic coming from Ebola infected (and adjacent) Africa. Alas, we have a man-child who hates America defiling the White House so pragmatic solutions will not be implemented.

    1. Agreed. I've heard it said, that this is the difference between "leaders" and "managers". Managers are everywhere - they're easy to hire, any medium-to-large company is full of them - but managers tend to stick to existing processes and solutions. They lack the vision and fortitude to try anything new, even if the old isn't working, but it's not their fault; they just don't have the tools/resources, or their predecessor left a mess, or [insert lame excuse].

      Leaders on the other hand, have the courage and creativity to both generate new ideas AND inspire people to pursue them, give credit where due for successes, and take responsibility for failures.

      We don't have a leader in the Not anywhere. We have a bunch of managers. Worse yet, it's a bunch of middle-managers who suddenly got the keys to the President's office. The border should have been secured LONG ago, but nobody in power has the guts to challenge the status quo.

      And again, I'm not saying that restricting travel is THE option, but it should at least be AN option. A real leader would recognize that.