Saturday, November 01, 2014

Doctor with Ebola in NYC reported improved; but speculative uncertainty about Ebola is still more troubling that CDC admits


While it’s good news to hear that Craig Spencer is doing better in New York (no longer in serious condition and apparently recovering – my tweet on the NYTimes story got favorited), and while Kaci Hickox won a reasonable order from a Maine judge, it’s good to note two letters to the Editor of the Washington Post, link here

Note that one of the letters maintains we don’t really know everything yet.  I can remember that kind of reasoning with AIDS and HIV, often used by the right wing in Texas particularly to try to pass draconian anti-gay legislation around 1983. 

Even so, the idea that very small infections might take longer than the 21 days to manifest and surface later, causing unpredictable cases, could be troubling. 

If someone goes to work in West Africa (whether treating patients or for normal commerce, like for an oil company), it seems that employers and organizations can arrange to compensate people for the 21 days of monitoring and limited activity, in advance of even going.  But there is at least a possibility that in the future that 21 days might not be enough. What is more troubling is isolating someone caught in the middle, who did not agree to go to a dangerous area.  What if someone boards a plane in Brussels for the US and we find out later that he or she sat next to someone from West Africa who does develop Ebola right after landing and perhaps started to become symptomatic during a long flight?  What if the 21 days gets extended to 42 for that person.  Who compensates the person? 
  
I’m reminded of another debate, when to take driver’s licenses away from people as they age, if they haven’t shown significant symptoms, but have some laboratory finding that suggests a sudden death or blackout is possible even though it hasn’t yet happened?   Should people be goaded into treatments (like pacemakers or bypass surgeries) they don’t believe they need, based on “theories”?   I’ll take that up more soon on my Retirement blog.  

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