Ebola diagnosed in Texas: don't panic

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The first person ever to catch Ebola in the United States is now in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Don't panic, even if you live in Dallas. But also, don't fall into the hyperskeptical trap of assuming that because scientific authorities tell you everything is fine that concern…
In the light of the current Ebola outbreak, I thought this post from 2007 was once again highly relevant.  As another Ebola outbreak simmers in Uganda (and appears to be increasing), I recently was in touch with Zoe Young, a water and sanitation expert with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF*, known in…
It's odd to see otherwise pretty rational folks getting nervous about the news that the American Ebola patients are being flown back to the United States for treatment. "What if Ebola gets out?" "What if it infects the doctors/pilots/nurses taking care of them?" "I don't want Ebola in the US!"…
Measles has come to the happiest place on Earth. As of this writing, a total of 32 cases of measles have been linked to Disneyland visits that took place between December 17th and 20th. About 75% of the cases identified to date were not vaccinated, either because they chose to forgo vaccines or…

True, panic never helps in any emergency. But, I think it is reasonable to be very concerned.

There's been a tendency to underestimate the scope of this epidemic from day 1, and to fail to recognize the need to contain it in Africa immediately.

Secondly, my sense is that yes, it is very unlikely that Ebola will be a threat to the US. Thus, far, however, the US government has been slow to respond, slow to act, and slow to shift resources to fix the problem.

Hopefully, in a year, we can all look back on this as an epidemic that was well contained. But, it won't be looked back on as a stellar example of the US government in action.,

A lot of people died, and they died because, in part, because we didn't care enough about the lives of poor people in the Third World.

Shameful.

(note: this is not a criticism of the blogger)

By Justin Loe (not verified) on 30 Sep 2014 #permalink

Tara, you're doing a great job keeping us informed about this. Don't let the nasty comments in the Guardian get you down: some people are just chronic complainers in need of having their serotonin levels adjusted.

I'm not terribly worried about the present case in Texas. He's in hospital, and if a few people close to him caught it from him they'll be treated as well. I don't see a serious risk of spread beyond that level. Ebola terrorism is still a risk, but the recent "subway security" exercises were probably good for some practice at dealing with that, and I trust the relevant authorities are exercising all due vigilance.

I think you underestimate the cultural failure of Americans' lack of hand washing. With so many adults practicing inadequate hand washing and so many more of their children who, essentially, only have a proper hand washing once a day - combined with our ability to travel quickly and without obstruction to diverse locations, Ebola does have a good chance to spread in the US.

The precautions you point out, are the benefits to living in our society. The necessary reassurance you provide is a by-product. I wonder, while most read this behind a laptop or smartphone in a/c with a full fridge, why reassurance is necessary. It's as if I was talking to my 8yo. Don't misunderstand, you wrote a fantastic article. I am ashamed at the public outcry. Poor Liberian-Americans are suffering due to our close-minded society. Thousands are suffering across the globe, while we whine about slow data. I hope your article wakes people up. I really admire your work. I think we need more women like you!

By Nicole McGhee (not verified) on 04 Oct 2014 #permalink

Hi Tara,
My questions/concerns are: 1. If EBV infections should spread into an area of cooler temperatures and low air humidity, such as there may have been at both the Reston, VA and Canadian research facilities, is there more of a risk of an airborne transmission (NYT, Dec. 2007 article on airborne transmission of influenza in low air humidity). 2. Having just flown to and from Chicago, in the last week, why aren't there more hand sanitizer stations, especially, before getting on and off the escalators??? And before getting on and off the trams and busses???

By Bill Emery (not verified) on 06 Oct 2014 #permalink

Question: Would Sambucol be helpful or harmful with Ebola? Normally, for a flu, it would be helpful. However, my understanding is that Ebola kills because of the cytokine storm that the immune system creates when it suddenly "figures out" that the body is under attack and goes into hyperdrive to kill the EBV. Sambucol raises cytokine levels, which is normally part of the immune response, and it could help if it wakes up the immune system sooner than normal...or it could make dying just that much quicker. What say you?

So we now have two health care workers with Ebola in Texas, and the boyfriend of the second worker admitted with symptoms.

Is it time to panic yet? Because all of the "don't worry, be happy" proclamations of the medical establishment have been wrong.

TJ

By TJ Harvey (not verified) on 15 Oct 2014 #permalink

What's the source for this "boyfriend admitted with symptoms" claim? Last I heard, the first nurse's boyfriend had been pre-emptively detained but was healthy. Even Drudge isn't claiming this, which makes me think it's rumor.

Indulge me a moment.
A terrorist flies to Liberia, walks right up to JFK hospital in Monrovia and infects himself with the bodily fluids of several of those lying outside, waiting to get in. He flies to Belgium and then boards a flight to NYC using an American passport (from any American sympathizer). A week after checking into a Manhattan airport he crashes in his room, racked with fever and calls a local operative who enters the room, collects vomit and drains blood, fills small spray bottles and proceeds to spritz car handles, door knobs, handrails, subway pulls, latches on bathroom doors, cold salad bars, cab doors, seats, toy store merchandise...you get the drift. Twenty four hours of covering every surface possible, he collects his very ill friend and drives off into dense forest in the NJ Pine Barrons to die in their car, found potentially weeks later.
Is that scenario somehow less viable than dozens of hijackers taking control of and FLYING commercial jets into targets? Because, I dunno, using Ebola as a bio weapon in the above scenario seems about a million-fold easier than figuring out how you're going to coordinate a multi-jet hijack while taking over cockpits and managing the controls of a commercial jet well enough to remove it from auto-pilot and steering it at targets in NYC and DC.