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Thursday, October 16, 2014

The impact of the Ebola scare on healthcare workers

How many lives will be lost before we close our borders,
as 10 nations already have, to Ebola stricken nations.
Failure in this regard might be the deadliest mistake
 our country ever made. A huge, or two-thirds majority,
of Americans agree with me that our border needs securing.
Two nurses in Dallas are now infected with the deadly virus,
and all we had to do to prevent this from occurring
was prevent flights from Africa from landing in the U.S.
Banning travel to and from infected nations
is something that could easily be done.
Update:  While the U.S. refuses to close its borders,
five west African nations are proud to say,
they have stopped the spread of the disease
by securing their own borders.

I get the influenza vaccine every year because I have asthma and it's highly recommended.  Yet I honestly don't feel safer as a result of getting it as even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it only reduces your chance of getting the flu by 15 percent.

The CDC says that, unlike other viral infections like the common cold, the influenza virus can cause "severe illness and life threatening complications." Yet while 5-20 percent of the population will get the disease each year, with 200,000 requiring hospitalizations, the death rate remains at 0.5 percent.

While it should be taken seriously, and surely we should all do our part to try to eliminate the spread of this disease during the course of our work and our daily lives, this 0.5 percent is nothing when you compare it with the Ebola virus.

Surely your likelihood of getting Ebola is nothing to your chances of getting influenza, although if the Ebola virus makes its way to your hospital, and you your skin comes in contact with the virus, you will in all likelihood get the disease.

They used to say that Ebola wasn't airborne, although now they are saying that it can be spread by droplets in the air.  For instance, if a person with Ebola coughs onto a surface, the Ebola virus can live for up to seven days, infecting any person who touches that surface.  So you could also get it this way.

This might explain why even people who have been wearing Hazmat suits have still contacted the Ebola virus.  You won't hear this in the news, but of the 4,447 reported deaths this year due to the Ebola virus, 233 of those were trained nurses and doctors.

This death rate among the medical community included highly trained doctors, such as the Medical Director of the two largest hospitals in Liberia.  The number includes United Nations doctors.  The number includes two healthcare workers from Doctors Without Borders teams.

Most, if not all, of these medical workers were wearing full Hazmat gear.  So could you imagine if this disease comes to a hospital near you?  Are you equipped with Hazmat gear?  Probably not.

We should also look at the positive side here.  It was reported that about 70 healthcare workers were in Thomas Duncan's room, and 68 of these did not get the disease.  Still, the fact that two did get the disease leads us to believe there are holes in whatever protocols were followed.

That said, the World Health Organization (WHO) now report that the Ebola virus death rate is up from 50 percent to 70 percent.

This means that of the 8914 people reported to be infected with the virus this year, 4,447 (including 233 healthcare workers) died.

Yet WHO also notes that these numbers are probably not even the real numbers. They say the real numbers are probably much higher due to difficulties in reporting.  In fact, back in August one cemetery worker in Sierra Leone said tons of bodies had been delivered to the cemetery he works for, yet the Sierra Leone Health Ministry had reported only 10 deaths

WHO also estimates that, if the disease is not under control soon, as many as 10,000 people may diagnosed with the disease per week by December.

I described the history of this disease in my post Ebola now in the U.S.  While there is certainly no reason to panic, it's not such a bad idea to bescared, especially those of us in the health care industry, as fear causes people to become prepared.

Based on initial reports coming from the nurses union at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas where two nurses have now apparently contracted Ebola from a patient named Thomas Duncan who later died of the virus, there were many breeches in protocol at that hospital.  In fact, two weeks after the fact the hospital is apparently still not prepared.

Based on what we are hearing from those investigating the response at this hospital, one has to wonder if other hospitals are ready.  We must wonder if the U.S. is as ready as we have been told by the CDC.  We were told the U.S. was ready for it.  We are not.

A Detroit area hospital, which is near Detroit Metro Airport where patients with Ebola are most likely to fly into if their destination is Michigan, tested their Ebola response yesterday.  Perhaps this is something we will see more of in the days and weeks ahead.

In the meantime, our government should keep infected people from Libia and other infected nations from crossing our borders, and it must educate hospital personnel as to what needs to be done to prepare for the worse case scenario.

It should stop the nonsense of screening patients for the disease before they board airplanes, because obviously this system is not working.

Obviously people can get on airplanes before they show symptoms, they can lie about where they've been, and they can get across our porous borders. It's been done since the beginning of time, when people become infected you quarantine them.

Obviously the CDC, including its director Thomas Frieden, has no clue how to handle the disease. The outbreak was first reported by the CDC in march, and here we are in the middle of October and it still has no clue what to do. When he was working for Mayor Bloomberg he had no problem telling people they couldn't buy anything bigger than 16  ounces that contains Coke or Pepsi for their own good, but he can't restrict travel to prevent the spread of a deadly disease for our own good. This makes no sense to me.

We should not be politically correct by not banning flights just because of fear this might hurt the economy of a nation that was founded in the 1820s or 1830s because of American Slavery.  Nothing against the people of Liberia, but if the Ebola virus continues to find new hosts, more economies than just the Liberian economy will suffer.

In my opinion, saving lives trumps saving economies.  If we can save lives by restricting travel, it should be done.  Period!

Surely a pandemic in the United States or Europe is unlikely, and we should keep it that way by restricting travel to West Africa.  At least ten other countries have already done it, and it can easily be done here too.  Even people who previously championed against restricting travel are now opposed to it.

For some reason, those responsible for preventing an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. are asleep at the switch, and it's scary sad.  Yet fear not, because we got our flu shots.

Here is a demonstration of how CDC recommended protocol may not prevent the spread of the disease.

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