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Talking Ebola, Politics and Pathogens

October 28, 2014

Did you see this?

CDC Suggests Quarantine-Lite for Some Ebola Clinicians: The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced recommendations for some US healthcare workers who have battled Ebola in West Africa that stop just short of the outright 21-day quarantine instituted by several states.”

Please explain this to me. If a doctor is willing to go to West Africa to help Ebola victims, what the HELL is the big deal about a few weeks of Quarantine? Jurors get sequestered for months in disgusting hotels with little (or no) contact allowed with their families. Jurors cannot even watch the news or read a newspaper. Yet avoiding jury duty can land one in jail! The possibility of catching Ebola doesn’t stop these doctors from their going abroad to offer their heartfelt “borderless” services, but 21 days in a room alone to possibly protect the rest of us – NOPE!

Is this the most absurd thing you have ever heard in your life? What is wrong with these people? Hey doc –you caught the virus. Were you not taking precautions? Thank you for putting your sweaty hand into a bowling ball and your sweaty feet into bowling shoes. Now we are supposed to trust these docs and this nurse who claims she had fever due to “anxiety”? Please someone find anxiety as a cause for fever in a medical textbook for me!

Dr. Craig Spencer

I’m not an alarmist and I don’t think Ebola is going to spread like wildfire throughout the United States, but that’s not the point. The point is, what happened to “an ounce of prevention?” We don’t have to be paranoid maniacs but a little precaution can go a long way. 21 Days in quarantine is that big of deal????? My favorite is the “veiled” threat issued by Doctors Without Borders stating that if their doctors face quarantine, they will be discouraged from going to help Ebola victims in Africa. WHAT??? Again, explain this logic to me: You’re a doctor. You are selfless enough to go to Africa and treat Ebola victims BUT NOT if you are quarantined for 21 days when you return? In other words, you are SELFLESS enough to go to Africa to fight Ebola, but too SELFISH to be quarantined for a lousy 21 days upon your return in order to PREVENT it spreading? THAT’S WHERE YOU DRAW THE LINE! What???? Is this logical? I’m a psychologist and I’m trying really hard to understand this and I just don’t.

One would expect that those individuals in health care would be the first people willing to take these precautionary measures. How much does anyone really know about the contagious properties of Ebola? If we knew so much about the transmission of Ebola, why are these doctors catching it? They didn’t know enough NOT to catch the disease, but somehow they knew enough to insist that quarantine is a bad idea? Why were they not suited up properly in West Africa? If they were, why are they infected? What the hell is going on here? Does anyone know if this virus can mutate and become stronger and therefore more easily contagious? Could repeated exposure have anything to do with the level of transmission? What happens if Ebola interacts with another virus or bacterial infection that is prevalent here and not in Africa? Remember, it wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers understood that helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) was responsible for approximately 60 percent of peptic ulcers.

So, Ms. Whiny Red-Haired Nurse who was going to take legal action if she were quarantined, I guess you are too young to have witnessed the early spread of HIV, a virus that first obliterated communities that the Reagan administration didn’t care about.

Jocelyn Elders

Speaking of HIV and other infamous U.S. political squabbles over pathogens, does anyone remember when Clinton’s Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was fired, one week after she appeared at the United Nations World AIDS Day, for suggesting condoms should be handed out at school? Oh, she also had the audacity to suggest that masturbation was normal and might be a good way of preventing the spread of AIDS amongst young people. Well, exccccuuuuusee her! Don’t mistake my intention — BY NO MEANS am I saying that AIDS patients should have been quarantined, or that I don’t miss the Clinton administration, replete with its flaws and even sans Jocelyn Elders. I am simply pointing out that politics seem to trump intelligent health-related decisions historically without any shame, and it’s getting really old.

Here is the HIV/EBOLA paradox as I see it:

The U.S. government ignored the HIV/AIDS problem because in the 1980s it FIRST hit populations that they simply did not care about and who had little political influence at the time (gay men, I.V. drug users, the urban impoverished). Because of this millions died. The government is now ass-kissing Americans with social status (i.e. doctors and nurses) who are simply being asked to sit in quarantine for 21 days to prevent the spread of another potentially deadly virus.

Thank goodness the status of LGBTQ individuals is much better today than it was in the 1980s. However, the overall sociopolitical paradigm here is just a bit too similar for me to digest. I’m not equipped to comment on how IV drug users or any of the other early-affected HIV populations have fared regarding their social standing. However, the spread of Ebola in Africa (and earlier on the same continent, AIDS) was due largely to lack of educational and medical resources. How abominable is it that if that Ebola spreads in the United States it will be because of the obstinance and arrogance of educated doctors and health care workers who most certainly know better, and because of a government who won’t impose a lousy 21 day quarantine on these high-status individuals (who also have the benefit of the country’s finest health care should they become ill).

This brings me back to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who needs you? You know, CDC, at one point in time I think we Americans thought you were kind of an important agency, seemingly full of great intelligence and even mystique. Frankly, now you look like a flip-flopping politically maneuvered knitting circle. Quarantine-lite? LITE? This is just stupidity – extra heavy. Nobody is discriminating against doctors by asking them to stay in quarantine. This is not a violation of anyone’s civil rights, any more than jury duty is. Doctors are bound by the duty to “do no harm”.

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