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Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Friday, October 31. 2014
Some people love horror tales and frightening, high-suspense movies, while some cannot tolerate them.
Every person has his own zone in which fearful things are exciting and interesting.
The scariest costume this Halloween would be to wear an ebola costume. The Psychology of Irrational Fear - Why we're more afraid of sharks than car accidents, and of Ebola than flu
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It's my estimation, with Ebola, there is a fundamental difference about the fear. It may be irrational, given the numbers of people infected here in the US, but let's parse that a bit.
We brought 3 people back here who were infected, for no particularly good reason. They could've been treated over there, given what was known at the time, and even now.
The quarantine, given the incubation period, is not a terrible idea. The doctor who went bowling was symptomatic at the time he went bowling, despite what we were told. He wasn't running a fever yet, but he was fatigued - the first symptom.
We know, too, that Ebola can be aerosolized in a cough or sneeze. If he had done either, the doctor may well have infected many more people.
Viruses mutate, and this virus is mutating now. Just because it hasn't spread in the US yet, doesn't mean it won't.
Quarantine has always been a viable solution to contagious diseases. It was how they handled tuberculosis, smallpox, polio, and a host of other disease to limit their impact. It works when done properly.
It wouldn't hurt volunteer efforts. If exposing yourself to the potential of contracting a deadly virus doesn't stop you from going to West Africa, then a 21 day quarantine sure won't.
Now, quarantining anyone upon return from South Africa - that's idiocy. But Kati Wilcox, should she suddenly become symptomatic in the next few days....how stupid will she feel?
No, she wasn't symptomatic before and it's unlikely she'd get anyone sick. But do you want to take that risk? I wouldn't want to.
An abundance of caution is not the same as hysteria. It's just what we Boy Scouts called "Be Prepared".
The public has a right to choose what to be afraid of and to balance terrors in whatever way it deems best, subject to some constitutional issues. Courts passing on these issues should give extreme deference to state public health officials, even if not fully rational, and the 21 day incubation period provides such minimal rational basis for quarantine.
We accept that coal use results in a certain number of deaths, spread out over each year; we still will not accept half as many deaths from a nuke accident because all these deaths happen at the same time and radiation poisoning is uncommon and horrible.
influenza is an ancient human disease, so its qualities and risks are well known and fear is mostly attenuated therefor.
ebola? screw that. that plague nurse should have been quarantined (or, better yet, marooned) on some Pacific atoll or (best) just stay in Sierra Ebolia until the epidemic is under control.
An ebola epidemic in the USA is a low-probability but would be a high-impact occurance. Odds are extremely likely that flu will kill thousands more people in the USA than ebola. Although flu is a high-probability event for many people, the impact for most is discomfort, inconvenience, and lost income for a few days rather than anything more major.
Even before we had anyone being cared for in the US for ebola, my friends who have west-Africa experience were scared about this outbreak. This time, the ebola is much more virulent than previously known outbreaks. So although outbreaks in the past could with high likelihood be contained to a village or region, THIS time it consumed much of a whole country, and began to spread to neighboring countries. Had it become as virulent in Nigeria as it was in Liberia, they have no doubt that quickly many other African and western cities would have dozens or hundreds of cases rather then the two-here, one-there we ended up with in the US. For Liberia and Nigeria this was a black-swan event.
I'm about to have a third wheel-bearing installed on my car in the space of a few weeks. The first two were brand-new but defective. They were "aftermarket' parts, rather than official parts from the auto manufacturer. Had this been an essential replacement part for an aircraft, odds are there would not have been generic parts available, and the part from the manufacturer would be certified, serial-numbered, and traceable. Yet there are car-accidents related to equipment failure FAR more frequently than there are aircraft mishaps. Why do we spend so much more effort, money, and bureaucracy making sure that aircraft are safe?
Although flu is a high-probability event for many people, the impact for most is discomfort, inconvenience, and lost income for a few days rather than anything more major.
That may be true, however, less than 100 years ago, the "Spanish Flu" H1N1 virus mutated enough to kill 50 - 100 million people and cause a pandemic around the world, including the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic
It was as devastating to some communities, as Ebola has been to some parts of West Africa.
Quarantine is NOT too high a price to pay to ensure that a disease with 50-70% fatality rate does not break out. Until we can force the CDC to stop wasting taxpayer money on "community outreach" programs, and get them back to studying, and funding drug companies to produce immunizations for, these viruses (and keeping up with the mutations that occur), quarantine is the ONLY effective treatment...
The government of Australia has (wisely) opted out of ordering their people to go to west Africa for the excellent reason that no Ebola vaccine exists yet. If individual Australians want to be brave and selfless and go, OK. But expect to be quarantined when you come back (if you come back)
I think it is wrong for Obama to order US Military to Africa for the same reason. We are going to lose some people. But Barry's cool with that. The ones that come back will spend 21 days in quarantine, but his administration still opposes imposing any quarantine on anyone coming into the country from any African nation still infected with Ebola. Explain that to me?
I keep harping on the fact that, as of yet, there is no 100% accurate and quick test for Ebola infection that results in 0% false negatives. There is no vaccine. There is no cure. There is hope for cures and a vaccine but more time is needed. That is why people like that damn NYC doctor and nurse Hickox are so dangerous, we need time and their irresponsible behavior is chipping away at that time.
I don't say this to the unwashed masses, but I'll say it here. "Don't forget to Vote!!".
With the exception of their asshatted behavior after returning from west Africa, their conduct is heroic and I hope that their service to others under conditions of extreme hazard remains an example for other volunteers. People like that doc and the nurse are why the epidemic will be stopped even without a vaccine.
I was reading an account of the American doctors and nurse who all were sick from Ebola. Quite horrific. Their personal accounts of vomiting, diarrhea and massive fluid loss.
And then a horrible thought occurred to me. The previous outbreaks occurred in the interior, this outbreak as it reached the coast and populous urban areas exploded way pass the the outbreaks of the past. Cities have sewers. Sewers have rats. Rats are bats without their pilot licenses. I wondered if the West African cities were about to find out that curing all the human cases doesn't stop the outbreak.
Then I remembered Duncan. Dallas has sewers. Oy Mama!
OT: FDA’s Distorted Priorities Are Lethal
From the article:
Last month FDA granted permission for “expanded access” to an experimental medicine for Ebola virus infection. The drug, currently designated TKM-Ebola, has barely begun to be tested for safety and efficacy and is available in extremely limited quantities. It will be administered to patients with confirmed or suspected Ebola infections but not as part of a clinical trial.
As a 15-year veteran of the FDA, that decision surprised me – not because it was bad on the merits, but because it represents a peculiar set of priorities. To put it less charitably, FDA has been dragging its feet on the approval of critical products for the prevention or treatment of other fatal illnesses that are far more common in this country than Ebola – which has caused exactly zero deaths in Americans — so I was puzzled by regulators’ willingness to expend time and energy on a drug that will be used rarely, if at all, in the United States.