Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Hysteria

Hysteria is the only way I know how to describe what has happened since Ebola came to the United States. It is the lead story ever night on the news. With a second health care working in Dallas having contracted Ebola the hysteria is ratcheting up again.

I’m not down playing how deadly this disease is. But a little perspective needs to be used by people in general and the news media in particular. There have been three cases in this country. Three. One person has died from it. Let’s get a little perspective on this.

More people die from the flu each year than have died from Ebola. The numbers bounce around a great deal:
There is a lot of variability from year to year, though, with a low of 3,349 deaths during the 1986-87 flu season to a high of 48,614 in 2003-04, which was considered a severe flu season.
But those numbers give some perspective on what we are dealing with. Here’s another statistic to put Ebola in perspective around 85 people die each day from guns. Average number of people killed in car accidents each day is around 80. Again just putting into perspective Ebola’s impact.

Here’s one more perspective before the second health care worker tested positive:
Here in this country, exactly two people out of 316 million of us have gotten the disease: a man who contracted it in Liberia when he came in contact with a person who was already gravely ill, and a nurse who treated that man. As a point of comparison, twenty-four Americans have been killed so far this year in lightning strikes.

Having said all that, it’s hard to imagine medical community handling this any worse. First off was oh the chances of Ebola getting to this country are very very slim. Well I guess not.

If it does get here, information has been sent out to all hospitals on what to look for and how to treat people with symptoms that might be Ebola. Well that sure didn’t happen did it. Now there is a second health care worker that has tested positive for Ebola. One additional ripple to the story of the second infected health care worker and sure to stoke more panic is the fact this woman traveled by plane a day before she reported having symptoms.

Here’s a little more:

“Today’s development … while concerning and unfortunate, is continued evidence that our monitoring system is working,” said Daniel Varga, chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, the hospital system that the Dallas hospital is a part of.

The second infection of a health worker at the facility has called into question the procedures in place to protect workers. Varga said he does not believe that there is a “systematic” or institutional problem at the hospital, but he acknowledged some missteps.

“A lot is being said about what may or may not have occurred to cause our colleagues to contract this disease, but it’s clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime in their treatment of Mr. Duncan,” Varga said. “We’re a hospital that may have done some things differently with the benefit of what we know today.”

“No one wants to get this right more than our hospital,” he added.

The problem is that this hospital seems to be doing things by the seat of its pants. Note to self if ever in Dallas and I end up going to a hospital make sure it’s not Texas Health Presbyterian.

This type of an event is great for the 24-hour cable news cycle because they can beat this story to death which is exactly what they’ve done. In the process whipping up hysteria about what is going on. The problem is that the actions by the CDC and the hospital in Dallas have not been all that reassuring. So maybe a little hysteria is a little bit justified. But only a little.

The most important thing is for the medical professionals to get their houses in order the sooner the better.

One final note is an excellent article about the ten things America needs to do about Ebola.

Let's hope there can be some calmer heads in the coming days that can give us some good information.

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