Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ebola- The Biggest Threat Is Human Hubris (And Bill Maher Is Right To Be Enraged!)

Bill Maher went apoplectic on Real Time - recounting the miscues that led to two Dallas RNs getting infected

Now that 3 weeks has passed since Patient Zero – Thomas Eric Duncan – made his 2nd appearance at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, we have learned many things. Nearly all have disclosed a disturbing degree of hubris – and we know it is hubris that has brought humans down from the beginning of civilization.

It started even as patient zero  arrived in Dallas, with the CDC's sundry assurances that there was "no need to worry", the U.S. health care system "could handle any problems" that emerged can quash them – because, after all, this wasn’t Liberia. Well, we found out how that worked out and also how many of Murphy’s laws were ignored or dismissed out of an abundance of hubris.

It contiued with Texas Health  Presbyterian itself which – as disclosed via his nephew’s letter on Melissa Harris Perry yesterday – showed that Duncan was basically given antibiotics and shown the door because: 1) he wasn’t an American, and 2) lacked health insurance. Thereby he put the whole rest of the Dallas community at risk for at least two days.

Then, when he did appear with pronounced symptoms – by now having spread the virus far beyond what would have been – the hospital did finally take him in, but still blew it by not immediately putting him into an isolation area. Instead, according to whistle-blowing RN, we learned how many CDC “protocols” were utterly violated how and the hospital literally didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.

Nurse Briana Aguirre (who ought to be commended for her courage) described scenes of “chaos” at the hospital, with staff having no idea how to tackle the virus and having been given no credible insight or training by the honchos .  Far from  the hazmat suits one saw actual CDC workers wearing (as they transported two Texas nurses – one to Bethesda, the other to Atlanta)  the Texas RNs were issued pathetic imitations which had large gaps in the neck. There was no taping of the gaps – leaving the Nurses exposed to possible contamination –that order only came from the CDC in retrospect.

Worse, Aguirre repeated to Matt Lauer in an NBC interview that the patient (Duncan) in the midst of all his bodily fluid expulsions – was left out in a public access area and that the soiled materials as well as the implements used to treat him were left festering in corridors for days.  Worse yet, samples of his virus-laden blood were dispatched for testing using the regular hospital system – along with ordinary blood, urine, stool samples – if you can believe it.

Aguirre  also claimed that doctors were told it was acceptable to move between rooms without disinfecting.

No wonder Bill Maher on Real Time Friday  night went apoplectic even as a soothsaying Brit guest tried to calm him down by some reference to having thought Bill was a bastion of “liberal rationality as opposed to right wing hysteria”. Bill’s reply was blunt, to the point: "This is not about the right wing. Germs do not have a political party/". Bill's outrage was also understandable as he observed this was "personal" to him, as his own mother had worked as a nurse.

But the misplaced assurances about U.S. hospitals weren’t the worst of CD lapses. Several days later one of those exposed RNs (Amber Joy Vinson) - who treated Duncan – and actually reported a 99.5F fever at the time, called CDC asking if she could board a flight to Cleveland. (Mind you, technically she shouldn’t have even had to ask anyone this question, it ought to have been common sense not to go given her close contact with Duncan – catheterizing him and all, and wearing one of those flimsy protective suits Aguirre  referenced)

The CDC person at the other end, as opposed to going by the principle that NO health worker who treated Duncan should board a commercial flight, instead went by the ‘letter’ of the rules – saying it was okay because Vinson’s temperature hadn’t reached 100.4 F. Can we say dumb? Yes we can.

The result has been consternation amongst the 750 or so people who'd taken the five flights that left Cleveland after Vinson had taken her flight (2402) from Dallas to Cleveland. These included: Flight 1104, Cleveland to Ft. Lauderdale; Flight 1105, Ft. Lauderdale to Cleveland; Flight 1101, Cleveland to Atlanta; and Flight 1100, Atlanta to Cleveland. All as reported in yesterday’s Denver Post (p. 10A).

 Passengers on all seven flights did receive notification from the CDC or Frontier, and the six person crew was placed on a 21-day leave, as well as a number of people (including at a school in Cleveland) with whom Vinson came into proximity. But passengers have been left guessing as what to do – as reported in yesterday’s Denver Post. According to this news (p. 1A):

A Florida lawyer who Tuesday flew on the Frontier Airlines plane that a day earlier carried Ebola patient Amber Joy Vinson, said he placed precautionary calls to his doctor and the Ohio health department after he realized he was seated close to where Vinson had been seated but was referred to the CDC.”

 But the “expert” at CDC  told him: “I don’t have an answer for you.”


At 8.30 p.m. Wednesday he was told “someone would be in touch” but according to the press report, “on Friday he was still waiting”.

And this is how it likely begins......or not. We don’t know. We’ve had so many soothe- saying idiots paraded on the tube and trying desperately to allay fears it’s hard to keep track. Including one doctor who actually said on one news piece yesterday that “Even if I’d been seated right next to Ms. Vinson I wouldn’t be worried!”

Really, Bozo? And you can assert that bollocks with 100 percent confidence given how CDC workers themselves are decked out in full HAZMAT suits when they even come within 3 feet of an Ebola-infected patient and those suits have their own oxygen supplies? (Oh, but of course, it is impossible the Ebola virus could be airborne, never mind Canadian experiments that show it is possible for the virus to spread along that route from one animal to another. But maybe the CDC doesn’t accept that humans are animals, eh?)

In the wake of the pathetic CDC non-response to the inquiring Airbus passenger, Wendy Aiello from Aeillo Public Relations of Denver had this to say (Denver Post, p. 13A):

This is one of the saddest examples of poor communications I’ve seen in 25 years of public relations. On a scale of ‘fantastic’ to ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ this weighs heavily to the side of ‘What in God’s name is going on?’

Well, incompetence is going on, and it’s not just the CDC, it’s the World Health Organization (WHO) as well. As The Post also reported (p. 12A, ‘WHO Failed on Ebola’):

Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall. A perfect storm was brewing, ready to burst open in full force.”


Meanwhile, the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, Dr. Peter Piot, wondered why it took WHO five months and 1,000 deaths before  declaring an international health emergency in August.

All of which points up that the calls for calm are only credible if we the people (the non-experts) can expect competence on the part of the health authorities and experts – whether in CDC, or WHO or our hospitals. It is not sufficient to tell us to “stay calm” or “don’t get hysterical”, if in fact the experts themselves don’t know their asses from holes on the ground and are literally learning on the fly. If they don’t know that a health worker with a 99.5F temperature – who cared for the “index patient” – shouldn’t board a plane, then they are learning on the fly.

 The other thing that keeps getting repeated by the assorted medical elites, as if on auto-play, is it’s so very, very, very hard to get this disease because it requires direct contact with body fluids (saliva, sweat, blood, semen, breast milk etc.). That is supposed to comfort us, but that repeated formula may also be our downfall. The reason is that the ‘low risk without direct contact’ meme can encourage too many to let their guards down as it has. It also takes no cognizance of the fact that: a) once a person is infected all his/her contact points must be immediately traced and this is bloody difficult work, and b) Actually caring for a symptomatic person requires an isolation room and – as Rachel Maddow pointed out two nights ago- there are only 9 in all at all the specialized facilities (including in Nebraska, at Emory, and at NIH) and 2 are already occupied.

Are we really going to entrust regular hospitals to care for the infected and symptomatic patients? Especially after Repuke state budget cuts from two years ago have left many operating on shoestrings? (Not to mention the CDC, which has experienced a real budget cut of 21% owing to inflation)

So no, I am not leaving out the hard right austerity fetishists by any means. Everyone literally, from our bought out politicos to the health authorities are to blame for letting this thing reach a stage it never should have.

In that respect, I damned sure share with Bill Maher the disposition to become apoplectic- and you should too!

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