Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Think Ebola's Not A Problem? Really?

It is now official. News agencies are reporting that Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan has died. Duncan, who came to the United States several weeks ago from Liberia, was the first known case of Ebola to actually develop the illness while here. While the Center for Disease Control, the President and others say we don't really have a lot to worry about, let's take a look at how this first case was handled.

On September 25th, Thomas Eric Duncan went to the Emergency Room at Dallas Presbyterian hospital with severe flu-like symptoms. Doctors allege they had no idea Duncan had recently come from Liberia where he had been in immediate contact with a woman who had died from Ebola. Duncan's girlfriend says she informed them of that fact. 

Either way, doctors did not equate Duncan's symptoms with Ebola. He was given antibiotics and sent home. Two days later Duncan began vomiting blood. His girlfriend's daughter called 911 and an ambulance was dispatched. The paramedics had no idea they could be dealing with an Ebola patient until they were on the scene and asking questions. They donned masks and gloves and transported Duncan to the Emergency Room. Duncan vomited at least once on the ground between his apartment and the ambulance. That vomitus remained on the ground for at least 24 hours.

Once he was diagnosed (shortly after his arrival to the hospital) he was admitted in serious condition and the paramedics were quarantined. The ambulance remained in use for another 48 hours before it was quarantined. According to other Dallas paramedics who operated the vehicle after Duncan's transport, they were not notified that the ambulance was used for an Ebola patient and neither were any of the patients transported in it.

Once the diagnosis of Ebola was made, medical authorities notified the Dallas County Sheriff that the Duncan household needed to be quarantined and confined to their home. No one was supposed to leave the home. The children could not go to school. Sheriff's deputies who notified the family say they (the deputies) were not told why the home was quarantined, only that it was. At least one of the children went to school the next day anyway. The apartment where Duncan lives was not cleaned by health officials for several days. 

Dallas medical officials now say that at least 48 people may have come in contact with the virus. And that's only the ones they know about. At least nine people were in direct contact with the patient himself. 

Interestingly, Dallas County Health officials are saying they did nothing wrong. They say the case was handled appropriately at all levels. Obviously they were caught completely off guard and unprepared to take the necessary steps to isolate and contain this deadly virus. Forty-eight people exposed. If any of them contract the virus how many people have they exposed? That's how an epidemic begins. Mistakes and missteps spread the virus. It's that simple.

Oh - and the government wants us all to believe that if we take the proper precautions our risk of getting the disease is minimal. The Pentagon is saying Ebola is not a risk for the troops they are deploying in West Africa. All precautions are being taken, they say. I wonder if they've spoken to the doctor and nurse who caught the virus while working there? You can bet they were following all precautions. They're the professionals.

To dismiss Ebola as no big deal in the United States simply because we have great medical professionals would be a mistake. Errors happen. Unexpected things happen. It only takes one patient to expose dozens of others. Be vigilant. Be safe. But don't trust your government when they say "the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low." It has already happened.

And don't believe them when they say Ebola is no big deal. Thomas Eric Duncan died this morning.

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