F = Failure

londonplaguepits

Sixty to seventy years ago we had a better pandemic control system in place than we do now. The difference between then and now is several trillion dollars spent by a very liberal government on drugs and systems that only serve to line the pockets of their political friends. I have personal experience with the system of sixty years ago. At the time polio was the scourge that swept the country. There was no cure, there was no vaccine, and the virus spread like wildfire. The government did have some guidance for places to avoid, like crowds, public beaches, and people with the disease. In spite of offering that wisdom, people still go the disease. I was one of them. Polio was not new when I got it. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of our most popular presidents got polio in the thirties. The government did have time to react in ways it knew how. Because of FDR’s  affliction the public had an awareness of the virus and the consequences.

One day in August of nineteen fifty-three I couldn’t get out of bed because I was sick with a high fever, my throat was on fire, and my neck was stiff and hurt too. Mom did the best she could, she called the family doctor. He came to the house in the late afternoon. Yes folks, he came to the house. That was long before people had Obama Care and even longer before there was such a thing as medical insurance. Doctor Horner examined me and told my mom that I had polio. He didn’t ask, he went to the phone and called for an ambulance. He shipped my sorry ass to a special place for quarantine. You see, folks, back then people had something called common sense. They figured that if a person had a catchy disease keep him away from other people. My family was also under quarantine within the house. Thankfully, my baby sister, or my parents did not come down with it.

The place where I served my time was the Cook County Contagious Disease Hospital at 26th and California in Chicago, right across the street from the County Jail. They designed the building specifically to treat and quarantine people with highly contagious diseases. The staff who cared for us were highly trained in basic hygienic techniques of the time. Patients who were still contagious had private cells. Parents and friends were not allowed direct contact with me. Outsiders came into a space walled off from the patient space with walls and glass. I won’t bore you with more of the sordid details of my illness, but if you  search this blog for polio you will find a series of about eight stories I wrote to describe my experience.

When I watch the news about the Ebola debacle I get a chill up my spine that tells me to dig a hole and go hide inside. I watched an interview with the head of the Center for Disease Control and lost all faith in his ability to use modern medicine to stop this credible bio-terror from taking out a tenth of the population (one tenth is thirty-three million people).  The President, who has taken a solemn oath to protect the United States from harm acts as though this is a take an aspirin and drink lots of fluids kind of problem. So far, he has not shown any concern for allowing this scourge to reach our country. It is within his power to deny VISA’s to anyone who is from or has been in the source countries. Wouldn’t the simplest control be to keep the virus out, and not to have to quarantine and treat millions? I read an article this week about how a private company called Firestone Tire handles Ebola.  This famous tire company is in Liberia and employs up to eighty thousand people to harvest rubber. If a single person gets the virus they quarantine the person and treat him in a caring way. The workers who treat the victim follow strict rules to prevent the spread from themselves and others. Firestone has a very good record of stopping the spread while they continue business in the middle of the affected area. They don’t have a PhD in awful disease control, nor a trillion dollars for development of staff and control measures. They use common sense.

Here is what I believe will happen. There will be a pandemic in the United States, and the outcome will be this: we will learn that the money designated to the CDC got channeled to crony companies who spent it, pocketed it, banked it, and then declared bankruptcy. Remember Solyndra? If you do just think of it happening all over again only this time with money designated to take care of you.

Today, there is a great article about the machinations of the Ebola Czar within the system in The Federalist. Go there and read, then ask yourself if you are safer  from bio-terror than you were ten years ago?

I have never called the White House before, but this is different. If we want the Ebola virus stopped in its tracks we have to wake up the main  resident living there. I’ll have one word of advice for the guy in the sporty outfit, baseball cap, and golf shoes: QUARANTINE.

 

9 Responses

  1. Here is why the Polio epidemic and today’s Ebola epidemic are not comparable:
    1) The world some fifty years ago wasn’t as connected as it is now; people didn’t have the kind of access to international flights as they do today.
    2) According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “The incubation period, or the time interval from infection to onset of symptoms [of Ebola], is from 2 to 21 days. The patients become contagious once they begin to show symptoms. They are not contagious during the incubation period.” Now, the problem is, for the first one to two days, your symptoms look pretty much like the flu. The Mayo Clinic web site states: “Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers are difficult to diagnose because early signs and symptoms resemble those of other diseases, such as typhoid and malaria”. Generally, polio is more recognizable in terms of diagnosis, especially the type you’re referring to, which is called “paralytic polio” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/polio/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20030957). The important point however is that for people who are taking planes and are infected with ebola, if within the incubation period, they are generally unaware they are sick (and also not contagious). Therefore, they may have time to arrive on destination and then develop symptoms. That’s more difficult to control for, but on the other hand, the people on the plane are at a rather low risk of being infected given that a person who is asymptomatic is more often than not, not contagious. In any case, here are some guidelines from the Center for Disease Control for people taking planes and going to regions where there are Ebola cases: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/qa.html
    ** In terms of polio, a person is contagious during the incubation period, meaning they can transmit the poliomyelitis virus while not having symptoms. Quarantine would have therefore only been 50% effective given most people being quarantined would have had time to infect a bunch of people before being diagnosed.
    3) Lastly, again according to the WHO, the people most at risk are currently health care professionals, family members or people in close contact with infected individuals (given ebola transmits through bodily fluid- and we’re usually talking EXTENSIVE CONTACT) and mourners who have direct contact with bodies. You can check it out here: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/faq-ebola/en/
    That means the chances of a person catching ebola just by being shortly around someone who is infected are less likely… (IT IS NOT THE FLU! It’s not airborne. You have to have contact with the following bodily fluids: blood, diarrhea/vomit, saliva, sweat, etc. ).

    • Lyla: Thank you for the insightful response to my Post F = Failure about polio. I agree whole heartedly with your number one point that the world was not the same in the nineteen fifties. Air travel was in its embryo stages, and people were not as mobile as they are today. What I am trying to convey is that in the nineteen fifties polio was as scary a disease as ebola. In nineteen fifty-two at the height of the epidemic, over three thousand people died and many more tens of thousands lost the ability to use muscles that allowed them to breathe, walk, stand, use their arms, smile, and more. Public health tried many things to keep people from getting the disease. Yet, in spite of all they tried, including quarantine, it did little to shed a light on where or what caused the disease. The point I make is they tried. In the case with ebola we know where the disease began (Ebola River in Africa), and we know how it is transmitted. In spite of all this knowledge public health has done little to nothing to allay our fears, or to stop the spread. Sending troops too Africa will not stop it, granting entry visa’s to thousands of people from the region to travel to any part of the world does nothing to stop the spread, a lack of safe handling methods by the most advanced health care system in the world has done little to stop the spread, and we sit here listening to health care officials from the CDC to not worry.
      Ebola is a complicated disease, and the world is a more mobile planet than it was sixty years ago, but it doesn’t excuse us from trying every common sense method known to keep from infecting the planet. This is by far worse than any man-made global warming fantasy, or even a nuclear war. Ebola can kill the world if we assume we are doing everything right by not taking common sense action to stop the spread. In the meantime, what is happening to develop the vaccines, and the drugs to cure it once we become infected? Who is developing a test to learn if a person has it? A citizen group called the March of Dimes did more than the National Health Organization to develop the vaccine that finally stopped the scourge.
      Thanks again for a very learned response.

      • Well, the part on not sending troops is a good point and you can read more on that in this great blog entry: http://humanitariansdilemma.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/the-ethics-of-staying-home/
        Regarding safe handling; although health care professionals possess a lot of equipment to protect themselves, you are right that “handling” is just as important as the use of the equipment. The problem is, a lot of people mis-handle the equipment, either due to negligence or, what’s worse, lack of training. That is a point that could go hand in hand with the “sending troops” argument. Often time, people filling in for humanitarian aid, albeit with good intentions, lack specific knowledge (let’s not forget that until recently, ebola was largely endemic to a particular region of the world). After all, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

        One point I was particularly adamant about is that quarantine alone is not enough. As this article from the Scientific American, ‘Contact Tracing’ is also extremely important (see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-did-nigeria-quash-its-ebola-outbreak-so-quickly/?WT.mc_id=SA_SP_20141020). The point I was trying to make is that contact tracing in the context of international travel gets extremely hard to do.

        Lastly, I think the more troublesome aspect of the current ebola epidemic relates to the lack of concern shown until recently. Until Americans citizens became infected, nobody seemed to take this too seriously. Doctors Without Borders started its intervention in West Africa in MARCH 2014. Not September, not July, but MARCH (http://www.msf.org/article/guinea-mobilisation-against-unprecedented-ebola-epidemic). On March 31, their press release reads as follows: “We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country […] MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but they were much more geographically contained and involved more remote locations. This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic”. Dr. Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, was in fact ringing the alarm way back when nobody cared. One is left to wonder; 1) why did nobody give a damn then, when it would have been much easier to contain, and 2) why do people start caring when a Westerner is concerned, but not when West Africans are?

        • Another good article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/10/04/how-ebola-sped-out-of-control/

        • Lyla: A excellent article. Thanks for sending the link. It confirms my suspicions that not enough is being done to curb the spread. Big government bureaucracies have too much inertia to move fast in these situations.

        • It is simple, it is them and not us. Out of sight, and out of mind.

  2. Reblogged this on The Readneck Review Blog and commented:
    A good perspective on the dangers of a pandemic from someone who lived through the Polio pandemic in this country.

    • Thanks for spreading my words.

      • Hopefully you’ll get a few readers out of it.
        Can’t beat talking to someone who was there.

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