Ebola: 1 More Week Of Waiting

October 10, 2014

Hospital HelipadAt the end of next week, we’ll hit the end of the 21 day incubation period for anyone in Dallas who may have been exposed to Ebola while America’s first Ebola patient (not including transferred doctors) was undiagnosed and running around vomiting.

Let’s talk about America’s plan for Ebola.

Our confidence largely hangs on our ability to throw out/replace blankets and other porous materials that are contaminated by Ebola (there’s no sterilization method considered adequate—this accounts for a good chunk of the medical waste Ebola patients make). Not having lots of replacement blankets/disposal was one of the main factors blamed for Ebola’s spread in Africa.

But confidence is wavering since American medicine did not save Dallas’ Ebola patient.

And there’s concern that even with protection, healthcare workers aren’t safe. There’s risk when removing the protective suits, for instance. And if your colleague makes a human error, they could put everyone they work with at risk.

Some scientists are even concerned that it can spread through the air in tight quarters.

The message being pushed hard in American is that you have to “lick an infected person’s vomit” (according to chat room popular opinion). But Dallas health officials are watching for symptoms in anyone who was within a three foot radius—that’s someone sitting next to you at a restaurant or on the subway, etc. There’s also disagreement about whether it lives on surfaces—broadly, it doesn’t. Specifically, it does, if there’s moisture, or cold/fridge temperatures (and here comes winter…).

I also wonder—because when it comes to Norovirus, which is spread via moisture/vomit, scientists have found vomit particles spread twenty plus feet, and used that to educate the public about cleaning and safety—why the opposite message with Ebola? I get not wanting to cause a panic, especially since paranoid patients are swamping health facilities and labs, but people need to be more prepared then they are (I observe two camps—watching and preparing, and completely unconcerned).

What’s else is going on in Ebola news?

Many are mad that we (America) haven’t limited African flights to aid only. There’s also been some discussion about our hospitals. After all, Dallas’s Presbytarian was made clear he had come from Liberia. Apparently most nurses pulled don’t feel prepared to handle Ebola—even if their hospitals have plans, they haven’t been given it. And a few people are also mad it took us so long to react to Ebola—it started last Christmas, wasn’t identified until March, and it took American doctors dieing in June for us to help.

And airline cleaning crews—whose jobs regularly require mopping of vomit and cleaning airplane bathrooms—are striking because they don’t feel adequately protected against Ebola transmission. In this case I say—good for them. Stopping flights won’t come even close to protecting us from Ebola if it’s as bad as it seems, but it might slow things a little.

Meanwhile, Europe (WHO) has said that Ebola spreading there is inevitable, and is preparing appropriately (Britain’s NHS is on stand-by).. Spain’s infected nurse, the first to have the disease transmitted outside of Africa, has been determined to be a victim of a combination of human error and inadequate protections. Specifically, she accidentally touched her face while in the room. Others being monitored have complained that the protective suits aren’t one size fits all, and there was a gap between the sleeves and gloves.

Speaking of—here’s a little PSA. If you have a knack for any sort of engineering, problem solving, or a mechanical aptitude, there’s a 5 million dollar contest for anyone who can improve the design of the current suits, which are too hot and can only be worn for less than an hour in the African heat. Take a look if you think you might have an idea! We’ll be needing them here soon enough (imagine some poor doctor being in an hours long surgery needing a protective suit!)

Which camp are you? Preparing for Ebola, or completely nonchalant?

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