Friday, October 03, 2014

News stories explode on Ebola in US; contact tracing by CDC confuses the public

Of course, details of the Ebola case in Texas are changing by the hour, so it isn’t practical to keep up with them on a blog.  NBCNews is now heavily covering the outbreak because one of its own contractors is being brought back to the US as a possible case.  NBC has detail here. There is another possible case at Howard University Hospital in Washington DC.

I must note here that I was an employee of NBC at Rockefeller Center in NYC from 1974-1977 in their information technology.  So I do feel some residual tie to the company and to this. 

The most provocative idea, as suggested by the Washington Times, is the idea of “Ebola tourism”, or the idea that a patient who suspects he or she was exposed to Ebola in Africa will lie to get on a plane to come to the US, where he or she knows he will get first class care and probably survive.  It’s important to note that, when top level supportive care is given, it seems as though most otherwise healthy patients survive, even without special monoclonal antibodies.  But some people, especially on the political right, are calling for banning travel from West Africa, story here
The president of Liberia, a woman, has thrveatened to prosecute Thomas Eric Duncan if he returns to Africa, for lying on questions regarding possible exposure to Ebola before leaving.  There could be real questions with immigration when he returns, and some have suggested he also violated US law.  But Duncan had come into contact helping someone else in Liberia, at great risk to himself.  This indeed presents a great moral quandary.
At least four family members are in strict quarantine, even though they do not yet have symptoms and cannot transmit Ebola now.  The ABC news story is here. Authorities seem to fear they could disappear.   Up to 100 people are being monitored, and about ten are considered to be at some substantial risk.  Apparently these are all primary contacts (not secondary or tertiary, etc).   Media sources (most of all CNN, as shown in telephone interviews of the family members by Anderson Cooper) have been shocked that the authorities are not more helpful to family members, if they put them under legal threat. 
It would be unclear whether “The 100” (an unfortunate pun for a television series) would be restricted from travel (which they could have paid for and might not have cancellation insurance for), or attending public gatherings for which they have paid for tickets (like concerts), or even more intimate activities like attending discos (as in Oak Lawn  -- all familiar to me as I lived in Dallas from 1979-1988).  And they are put out, force to “sacrifice” personally, because the Texas hospital dropped the ball, and because the patient “lied”.  For some things, we are all in the same boat.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the possible contact count has just been lowered from to 50, link here

The latest dire projection from WHO is here

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