Archive for the ‘Public health’ Category
Everybody wants to be sure they know how the Ebola virus infects us. Studies show that skin won’t transfer the virus unless a person’s died of the disease caused by the virus. Casual contact with the Walking Sick — those suffering some of the symptoms such as fever, sore throat, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea — probably won’t infect you either. You just have to keep your hands to yourself.
A 2007 study from the Journal of Infectious Diseases took samples from saliva, from semen, sweat and bodily fluids of patients infected with the virus. Scientists were looking for specimens viable enough to grow in a petri dish. One in 12 saliva samples carried the virus. None of the skin swabs tested positive. In semen samples, two of the 38 samples tested positive. The one sweat sample? It tested negative.
The researchers concluded that Ebola transmission via casual contact is a low probability event. Keep in mind that Ebola is not an airborne virus yet, either. So how did the latest person, a doctor in New York City, get infected by the virus? Working with infected patients in Africa. Patients who are emitting blood, or feces via diarrhea, are the most virulent. Even dried blood can remain infectious for over a week.
Where on your body do you get infected? Cuts in your skin, mouth, nose, or eyes. Soft tissue openings always offer a pathway to any virus or bacteria. If someone with active Ebola is still alive, and those pathways of yours are protected, you should be safe. But once a person has died, even their skin carries the virus. Dead bodies, African healthcare duties — there are the elements that contribute to an Ebola infection.
That Journal study was conducted seven years ago. Viruses do mutate, and quickly.
The world’s most deadly virus is infecting our populace with two dangerous diseases: fear and misunderstanding. First comes the misunderstanding. Ebola is not contagious until a person shows symptoms. One of those symptoms is fever, but fever can precede a more commonplace flu.
But people on aircraft who show signs of flu will now be asked to de-board, in some places. Not official policy, just someone being careful. Too much care. Everyone on a flight where an Ebola patient flew — one who had symptoms, but wasn’t detected — will be tested for the virus.
In Texas schools, children who show up with flu have trigged a closing of their schools in the days that follow.
Misunderstanding comes first, and fear follows. Finally, civil rights are removed.
The Ebola virus can only be contracted by contact with bodily fluids. Healthcare workers have elaborate protocols to follow. The CDC is making those protocols more severe. Hospitals don’t have the funding or staff to follow the protocols that are in place. More elaborate protocols will be harder to follow.
Hazmat suits are sold out in major cities in the US. The only people who need a hazmat suit are those in contact with Ebola victims who are fighting the virus. Healthcare workers. But the suits are being purchased by plenty of people who don’t work in healthcare.
Sold out hazmat suits: More evidence of fear, driven by misunderstanding. This is the kind of emotion that drove the Patriot Act, which founded the TSA, which now demands we remove our shoes. Unless the passenger is under 12. Honestly, wouldn’t a dedicated terrorist use a child anyway?
So in response to Ebola fears, airline traffic will decline over the next several months. Smaller airlines, or those in bad financial condition, will struggle when they miss ticket revenues in this busiest of travel seasons. Fear is the most common symptom of a viral infection. It spreads to everyone who does not understand how a virus works, or how to protect ourselves.
Getting a flu shot is more effective than buying a hazmat suit or skipping school or a flight. Last year 52,000 people died in the US due to flu. Ebola has killed one person in the US.