The CBS affiliate in Dallas-Ft. Worth late yesterday reported on the transportation of Amber Joy Vinson, the second healthcare worker to contract Ebola while treating initial patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan died last week, and we learned Wednesday that Vinson has tested positive for the virus (read about that below), and apparently the CDC has moved Vinson from DFW to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for monitoring and treatment by the CDC. This is the same hospital where three other Ebola patients have been successfully treated. But, the unnerving part was that during that report they highlighted how one of the men helping supervise the transport of Vinson from an ambulance to the plane on the tarmac at Dallas Love Field wasn't wearing any protective gear aside from a pair of sunglasses. I hear those are great at shielding your eyes from bright sunlight and harmful UV rays, probably not the best at protecting you from viruses though.
I guess I wasn't really disturbed by the dude hanging out with no PPE on at first. I mean, the patient is suited up to nines, so she poses little to no risk to those around her. But then they started bagging up something in orange hazmat bags and he's just sort of just standing there while they tie them off. That's a head scratcher to me.
Again, I know and understand it's actually quite difficult, nearly impossible even (by some accounts), to contract Ebola without coming into direct contact with a patient who currently has it and their bodily fluids, but, again... why run the risk? Ebola doesn't kill you over a period of years like other viruses, such as HIV/AIDS, do. Instead, Ebola kills rather quickly. I see lots of people still posting a plethora of "People Need To Chill Out About Ebola" stories from seemingly every internet blog that exists, but so many of those are from weeks ago. One post I saw last night was from nearly two weeks ago when we first learned about Duncan, and it was even updated for yesterday's news of Vinson's diagnosis. That post was also riddled with holes in it's logic general knowledge base. Things like how well-prepared our hospitals are to handle Ebola patients are the hallmark of the "chill out" posts. However, yesterday, as I state below in my original post, that general consensus seems to have eroded a bit since we now have 2 employees from a large metropolitan hospital who apparently weren't well equipped to handle a patient with Ebola. I'm not a sensationalist, by any means, but I think simply brushing it off because it's harder to get Ebola than the measles is a non-option. We at least have a vaccine readily accessible for Measles. Even SARS, which is easier to contract that Ebola, only carries a 9% fatality rate, versus 50% for Ebola. Time will tell.
At any rate, if you want to watch the report, here is the link.
10/15 - Original Post
You see that little snake-like object in that picture above? Yea, that's the Ebola virus, and it's an ugly little thing. If we needed any more evidence that snakes are vile, evil little creatures outside of the Genesis account, we can be reminded about that by the physical appearance of the Ebola virus. I have a great fear of the Ebola virus. I have since I watched the movie Outbreak back in the 90s as a kid. I realize that it’s Hollywood and it’s dramatized to a degree, but ever since then I’ve been afraid of Ebola. Throughout the years as I’ve heard about flareups in Africa, I get edgy. Those flareups have seemingly always been contained and my fear reaches a more nominal level. Some people are irrationally afraid of common house spiders and garter snakes, I’ve been irrationally afraid of the Ebola virus. And then over the course of the summer as another Ebola flareup in West Africa spread to 3 countries I started to get nervous because it seemed like the outbreak was looking to cross not only borders, but continents as well. The irrational voice inside my head was shouting, “How are we not putting a travel ban to and from these hot zones?” So, needless to say when a Liberian man in Dallas was the first confirmed case of Ebola to develop on American soil… I nearly freaked out. And since that time, I’ve been on edge and anxious. Serious.
So much of the story unfolding simply leaves me in disbelief. A man from Liberia demonstrating early stage Ebola symptoms walks into a hospital and trained health professionals give him a scrip for antibiotics and send him on his way? He comes back 2 days later and once they conclude that, “Hey… this guy might have Ebola…” they leave him sitting in the open-air emergency room for an hour and a half before putting him in isolation. Now, 2 healthcare workers who tended to the man who would eventually die of Ebola have now themselves tested positive for Ebola. The most recent confirmed patient, tested positive sometime on Tuesday. Since she is a healthcare professional who had just helped treat a man with a confirmed case of Ebola that took his life, she was monitoring herself for any Ebola-like symptoms. Tuesday she came down with a fever and a mere 90 minutes later she was in isolation and confirmed to have the Ebola virus. And the real kicker here is that she flew commercial air from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday. A healthcare professional who had cared for a patient with Ebola, flied commercial air to Ohio and back during the standard 21-day Ebola incubation period.
The story that has unfolded today out of Dallas Presbyterian Hospital where Ebola has now spread to 2 individuals is one of complete unpreparedness for Ebola. The nurses union has claimed the personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers working with the first patient was inadequate. The hospitals pneumatic tubes were allegedly used to transport the patients lab samples. Blood, vomit and diarrhea-soaked materials in garbage bags were also allegedly allowed to pile up as well. And, the head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has claimed that protocols set in place to protect workers were most likely breached and thus the reason these two nurses now have Ebola. And, I can’t say that the CDC official is entirely off-base there. The CDC has handled terrible viruses for years now, seemingly without incident, so how are they so successful? Well, for one they’re facilities are built to handle the threat. And, their employees are trained on how to properly disrobe and discard PPE. The special hospitals where American Ebola patients such as Kent Brantly were treated, are also set up to house such patients and their employees highly trained in getting out of their PPE without contaminating themselves. Monday I read an Editor’s Note from the editor of Time Magazine where she recounted her own experience documenting Ebola and the time-consuming process of getting out of her PPE afterwards. A process that took at least 10 minutes each time to perform.
I live in Ohio and so the specter of a person carrying the Ebola virus while in my state is deeply disconcerting. And, sadly it seems as though at this point that officials in the U.S. Government, U.S. healthcare system, Dallas Presbyterian Hospital and even some at the CDC have simply responded to the situation like this… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
How does a nurse treating a man dying of Ebola then get on a plane and fly out of state? Especially if a work colleague treating the same patient was confirmed to have contracted Ebola over the weekend? Why do you then go and get on a commercial airline? C’mon…
In light of the sheer ridiculousness of this situation, and my own nearly irrational anxiety over Ebola, I’m going to offer several tips to our healthcare system as a whole, and our government to help stave off the spread of Ebola here in the United States.
1) If you are a hospital administrator, please contact the CDC directly and obtain any information available for how to properly and safely handle and isolate patients exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms.
2) In addition to point #1, please also obtain any and all information available from the CDC with regards to PPE for the staff treating said patients.
3) In addition to points 1 and 2, please also obtain any and all information available from the CDC for how to properly dispose of all PPE and other materials used in the treatment of patients demonstrating Ebola-like symptoms, or who have been confirmed as having the Ebola virus.
4) If you are a hospital administrator, please instruct your staff that any individuals entering the hospital demonstrating Ebola-like symptoms be quarantined immediately. Don’t allow them to sit in open-air, common areas of the hospital while the staff decides what to do with him/her, isolate them.
5) If you a member if a hospital staff, and you do not feel as though your hospital has provided a clear protocol for how to handle confirmed or potential cases of Ebola, please contact local, state, and national government as well as the CDC immediately to obtain that information.
6) If a patient walks into your hospital and demonstrates Ebola-like symptoms, as with point #4, isolate them immediately, and if proper protocols are not in place, contact those authorities in point #5 immediately before any other measures are taken.
7) If you are a staff member of a hospital that has recently treated a patient with Ebola, please, do not travel. The virus has a 21-day incubation period. Isolate yourself as much as possible for 21 days, monitor yourself, and if possible, have yourself tested to determine that you are free and clear of the virus.
8) To the United States Government- please suspend and ban any and all travel to and from the hot zones in Africa where the outbreak of Ebola is currently taking place. It’s not discrimination or over-reactionary, it’s called governance and protecting your sovereign nation, and it’s citizens.
9) To the officials at the CDC- get in the game. I realize the CDC has been involved in the situation in Dallas, but the head of the CDC himself has essentially stated they need to get out in front of this more. Amen to that.
Since the outbreak went crazy in West Africa, we’ve been assure by government health officials that our healthcare system is well-equipped to handle any cases of Ebola here in the United States. This has been true to a degree. Thus far we’ve brought home and successfully treated 4-5 individuals at specialized hospitals and they are all alive and none of them have passed the virus on to anyone else in those situations. However, those were special facilities with a staff who has been trained and trained and trained on how to handle deadly viruses as well as how to properly get into and out of their PPE without contamination. Dallas Presbyterian Hospital and their staff have proven that maybe we’re not as prepared as once thought. We are nearing the 21 day incubation period for anyone exposed to the first patient before he was isolated to begin demonstrating symptoms. Now, here in Ohio we’ll sit and bide our time to see if anything crops up here. I honestly don’t believe that we’ll go full outbreak as we’re seeing in West Africa, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see it be passed along to others until we get this under wraps. The good in all this? We’ve treated Americans with Ebola with great success thus far. And Nurse #1 is apparently in stable and good condition in isolation. Dr. Kent Brantly has apparently donated blood to her since they share a blood type and he has been cleared of the virus as well. Hopefully big pharma and the rest of the world can get it in gear now and finally start to develop an effective vaccine or treatment that will save lives. I’ll let you know if they do drop an effective vaccine. Chances are I’ll be first in line to get it.