Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This annoys me slightly

People are making a big fat deal about Pope Francis coming out and stating his acceptance of the Big Bang Theory (the cosmological event, not the television show) and biological evolution.

Um, if I remember rightly, Pope John Paul II said essentially the same thing some years ago? To relatively little fanfare, though I did mention the evolution thing in my general biology classes. (Though then again, some of our fundamentalist students unwilling to even learn about evolution still think Catholicism isn't Christianity)

I don't know. The whole "he's a rockstar, he's more liberal in some ways than past Popes, so let's make a big deal out of him" thing bugs me a little. (I probably don't have a right to, not being Catholic. But I am). Actually, I'm bugged by the whole "rockstar" thing. Not just for Popes, for everyone. The whole media-adulation thing. It's kind of like the Dalai Lama - people like to fawn all over part of what he says because he's this cool mystical non-Western guy - but they don't talk about some of the more rigid or harder things he says. I'm sure there's stuff Pope Francis has said and that he believes that your average media fluff-head would be aghast at, but they don't hear that stuff, they just hear the "rockstar" stuff. It's like Christianity lite: wanting the good stuff without thinking about the "go and sin no more" part of it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dear New York City:

The Ebola thing? It's going to be okay, really. We aren't having any kind of zombie apocalypse down here near Dallas, the guy who died of the disease didn't infect family members, and apparently the two nurses who caught it (probably from either intubating or putting an IV in Mr. Duncan) are doing better.

Though I admit, some of the news channels, with their thinly veiled attitude of OH NO, EBOLA IS NOW WHERE THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER LIVE! is a little off-putting.

We're gonna see more cases. We just are. But we're learning about this fast. I may not have a lot of trust in the CDC or even some hospital administrations, but I have trust in individuals (doctors, nurses) who want to stay safe.

And may we learn something that can be taken over to Africa and used to stop the suffering there - too many kids have lost their parents, too many parents have lost their kids.

Really, the bigger worry, I think, is the fact that there have been "unlinked" but similar terrorist attacks in Canada and your city in the past few days. And that there are young women and men here (the women are the one that boggle me) who think hopping a plane for Syria or where-ever to fight alongside ISIS is a dandy idea. That worries me a lot, too. As a woman, how disaffected and disengaged do you have to be from Western culture to think, "Yeah, going to a country that historically requires women to cover from head to toe and have a male escort when they're outside will provide me far more opportunities."

(I also admit some consternation that those in moderate Islam are not speaking up, the way Christians do about the excesses of that so-called "Baptist" "church" out of Kansas, of the way many did after an abortion clinic bombing.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

lack of confidence

If anything good comes out of the Ebola mini-outbreak in the  US, it will be to show ordinary people that the government is far from infalliable and that they can screw up on a regular basis.

Apparently the CDC told a nurse who had worked with Duncan that it was just fine to fly back home from Cleveland although she was starting to be feverish. (Granted, it was a LOW fever, and she was likely unable to spread the disease at that point).

But now - schools in Ohio are closing down for the day "out of an excess of caution," people who flew on that plane are freaked out. All because the CDC said, "Yeah, sure, get on a plane" instead of "We are contacting the nearest hospital to you right now, go there, they will isolate and monitor you."

I am extremely hopeful no one ELSE catches Ebola - and especially that there are no infections from these nurses having contact with anyone while they were asymptomatic - but it's going to be about a month before we know that.

Crap. I hope this doesn't eff up Thanksgiving travel, but I bet it will. (On the highly unlikely chance that more people become infected, and the disease becomes widespread - well, I will not be traveling to see my parents for Thanksgiving. I've already told them that and they completely understand).

It just seems that so many balls were dropped on this. For bureaucracies that can be incredibly draconian and heavy-handed in many things, it seems like they are not taking this sufficiently seriously. (If it were me? I'd absolutely quarantine every health-care worker who worked with the guy dying of Ebola for about 10 days, and then insist on three clear tests before releasing them. And test anyone they came into close contact with. And yeah, there might be a few false positives, but the main harm of that is someone gets isolated for a while who isn't sick. And I'd make damn sure that there was a way to suit up so you were fully covered, and disrobe to avoid transferring blood or sputum, if you were going to work with Ebola patients. And I'd shut down entry from the West African nations, at least as much as one possibly can do (people lie, people change flights) until the epidemic has gone down) Oh, and something I forgot: I'd have made sure the borders were as secure as humanly possible ALREADY. Which would help with many other problems...

I mean, the federal government can insist that kids can't have school lunches with white bread in them, but they can't tell someone who was directly exposed to the virus and starting to show symptoms, "No, don't fly home, go to the nearest hospital that has an isolation unit" instead? Priorities are so far messed up. (Also the fact that only a tiny part of the NIH budget, apparently, was dedicated to researching this.)

I wonder if this is going to be the HIV/AIDS of the 2010s....Only this disease seems like it might be harder to avoid if you're a health worker.

Monday, October 13, 2014

And another case

As I said before, I live within the Dallas media market, so I've been hearing a great deal about this second case of Ebola - a nurse who cared for Duncan has contracted the disease. At this point it seems likely she will pull through (she's not as sick as he was, and got care faster). But it raises some issues, I think:

1. Screening at airports. We should be doing this ANYWAY for the really bad infectious diseases. I mean, if you transport a pet across state lines you are really supposed to have a veterinarian's certificate showing they aren't carrying anything transmissible. People have, I think, changed - when I was a kid, if we had a vacation planned and one of us got sick? Either no vacation, or the sick person stayed home if there was someone available to care for them. Now, because of changes in attitudes (ME FIRST, ALWAYS ME ME ME) and changes in airline policy ("every ticket nonrefundable! You gotta problem with that?") and business policy ("You're sick? Too bad, you still need to get to that meeting. Take some Dayquil and go.") more people are traveling sick, or that's my sense.

2. Heck, in this crisis, we probably SHOULD shut down entries from West Africa as much as possible. Didn't they stop flights to Israel a couple days this fall when Hamas was lobbing missiles around? That seems less of a threat to the American populace in general than in bringing in people who may be sick with a serious disease.

3. That said, given that Duncan died, it may discourage other travelers: America isn't some magical country where you can come to when you're sick and get cured. Health care has its failures here, too.Especially if you're poor, if you're "not from here," if you're a person of may not get the same treatment. Oh, it might be better treatment than some small rural hospital in a developing nation, but big-city hospitals are not perfect. In fact, I'd probably avoid a big, central-city hospital for emergency care, if I were given a choice.

4. Apparently a nurse's union is crying foul that the claim of "protocol mistakes" seems to be putting the blame on the nurse. Okay. We are now to the point where we need to man up and woman up and stop worrying, at least for the nonce, about hurt feelings. If there was a protocol breach, it needs to be said that there was and the details need to be made public. And steps need to be taken to stop future ones. That said - there needs to be better training for doctors and nurses, stat (as they say in the ER). None of this BS of handing them a piece of paper with a weblink where they can watch a video on it. None of this BS of giving them a sheet of instructions. This is something that needs to be practiced. Important, life-saving things need practice: you need to actually USE a fire extinguisher in a "dry run" before you may have to actually put out a fire. If you own a gun, the responsible thing to do is to do periodic target practice to keep yourself up to speed.

5. And another thing: the first person who cries "racism" or "classism" or whatever about the airport checks needs to be told to man up or woman up. (Though I'd be willing to bet if a European-American nurse working for Samaritan's Purse or something was coming back from Liberia on a commercial flight, they'd be checked just as hard as a native of that nation. Or at least, I'd expect they would be. Or maybe even checked *harder,* seeing as they actually worked with sick people)

This situation, I think, represents a bit of a crossroads. If we toughen up and stop worrying so much about 'feelings' and do what is the right thing for the majority of the populace and health-care workers, we can most likely defeat this. But if we dissolve, as we seem so often to these days during a crisis, into blaming other groups for stuff or complaining about how things are "unfair" or playing the "whatever" card, we could see a lot more cases, and it will get a lot, lot uglier.

It makes me wonder what would have happened in WWII if we had the softer attitudes we seem to have now.

6. I've also been a hell of a lot more lenient about excused absences for sickness in my class. I want to train people that if they get really sick - because there WILL be a Norovirus outbreak or the flu - that they need to stay home. I've had a flu shot but I can still catch Noro and I don't want to get sick. (And I have approximately doubled how often I wash my hands, just to train myself). And yeah, maybe some people are taking advantage of that to skip class. But you know what? They do worse on exams. So it sorts itself out. I take attendance because the administration says I have to. I'm not going to encourage someone who may be contagious with WHATEVER to come to class. In fact, I have actively discouraged students who called me to say stuff like, "I'll make it to the exam if I can stop throwing up long enough" to NOT come and to reschedule.

As for me? I'm going to do my best not to come into contact with ANYONE'S bodily fluids. Luckily, in my job, that's not too difficult, provided someone isn't an idiot in lab who cuts themselves on a broken beaker or something. And even then, I can just hand them a Band-Aid and tell them to take care of it.

The nuclear option? I have several month's worth of canned and other nonperishable food, I have lots of books, so I go in my house, lock the door, and don't come out until the disease dies down. And I have chlorine bleach to wash stuff off with if I have to.