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.

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