Common sense about Ebola

Approaching Ebola with intelligence, not politics

Public health used to be something almost no one cared about. With Ebola cases reaching the U.S. it suddenly, it seems that all politicians have become public health experts, creating on the fly policies about an infectious disease about which they know little and about which there still are many scientific questions. Wikipedia has a pretty good brief explanation. A New Republic article opened with, “This week’s news on Ebola should make you breathe a sigh of relief—and seethe with anger.”

Jonathan Cohn, the author, goes through each of the nine cases in the U.S. and shows that all except Thomas Duncan, who died, either have been treated and released or still in treatment. In the U.S., most people have survived Ebola. The real problem still remains in West Africa, where standard of care is not standard at all. “Right now, many [Ebola treatment units overseas] are not monitoring electrolytes including sodium, potassium and calcium that are essential to deliver accurate and adequate care,” says Charles van der Horst, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina.

We need to slow down the rhetoric about Ebola, help people to understand that for those in the U.S. who have not traveled recently to West Africa, this is a minute risk, and their getting a flu shot would help them decrease a risk that’s much more real. Our political armchair-epidemiologists also might consider the fact that our public health system has been underfunded for years, and is a patchwork of non-standard operating units with different rules and regulations in different areas, even sometimes within the same state. Maybe it’s time to bring some order and more resources to the process.

Bill Foege, A man of experience and common sense weighs in

Dr. Jim Herrington, from the NIH’s Fogarty Institute, sent us the link to an Op Ed from Bill Foege, a man with a proven track record in controlling infectious diseases. He addresses quarantines, Ebola anxiety and the public health system. Foege speaks to the issues of Ebola with the knowledge and strength that only someone who helped rid the world of smallpox could summon. Let’s all calm down and take a longer range perspective.

Get your flu shot! Barbara

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