The more information comes out about the nation’s first diagnosed case of ebola, the more apparent it becomes that the “system” that is supposed to protect the public from outbreaks of deadly diseases is made of Swiss cheese, just like our porous southern border.
(The following information is compiled based on reports in The Telegraph, the Washington Post and other sources.)
Thomas Duncan, a native Liberian, helped bury a 19-year-old who died of ebola on Sept. 16. Four days later, he boarded the first of three planes on his journey to see his girlfriend Denise Troh in Dallas.
Standing in his way was the first formidable barrier to his travel from an ebola-plagued country to the United States: a form.
On the form was the question whether Duncan had come in contact with anyone who had contracted ebola. He checked no.
While there is talk of prosecuting Duncan for lying on the form, to be fair, it’s unclear for the moment whether he understood the form or even if he understood what the 19-year-old had died of.
In any event, there was no other checking of this particular passenger’s health before he boarded a Brussels Airlines flight in Liberia.
Once in the U.S., he showed severe symptoms of the illness, so his girlfriend took him to the hospital. When he was asked for his Social Security number, he told hospital staff he didn’t have one because he was a Liberian citizen. According to Troh, he told staff twice that he was Liberian, yet somehow the word didn’t get around.
Under CDC guidelines, in which the hospital staff should have all been trained, red flags, bells and steam whistles should have popped up at the mention of Liberia.
Instead, Duncan was diagnosed as having a common virus, and was sent home with antibiotics. Antibiotics, of course, do not work on viruses, according to the Mayo Clinic, something else the hospital staff should have known.
On September 28, when Duncan was so sick that an ambulance was called, the emergency personnel used no special precautions despite Duncan being Liberian and showing symptoms of ebola. He also “vomited wildly” outside the apartment where he had been staying.
The unsterilized ambulance was used for an additional 48 hours before being taken out of service. It took 48 hours after that for health workers to get a cleaning crew to sterilize the area outside the apartment where Duncan had been vomiting his guts out.
The girlfriend and immediate family who had been in contact with Duncan were not quarantined until three days after he was diagnosed with ebola. During that period, they did go outside.
Since the quarantine, health officials have not made any effort to sterilize the apartment or the building where Duncan was saying. Troh told a reporter that she had cleaned the apartment herself using bleach, but that she didn’t know what to do with the towels, sheets and bed Duncan used.
At least four sheriff’s deputies entered the apartment without protection and have also been quarantined, as have the ambulance personnel.
The list of people being monitored, but not quarantined yet, has grown to over 100.
Five children are known to have had direct contact with Duncan. They were not pulled out of school until three days after his diagnosis. The schools are still in session, although hazard-suited personnel and extra nurses are on hand. Many parents are taking no chances and have removed their children from school.
This is how well our health care system works.
Hundreds of people within a matter of days may have been exposed to a disease with a fatality rate between 60 percent and 90 percent, depending on the strain, because ultimately we are placing our lives in the hands of various governments and private bureaucracies that rely on forms and people who are bored, lazy or just inattentive to defend society at large from an invisible killer.
Meanwhile, all up and down the government food chain, bureaucrats are smiling and saying everything is fine, there’s no risk, certainly no danger.
That certainly explains why President Obama has dispatched 3,000 troops to ebola country and the CDC is predicting up to 1.4 million cases globally by January.
In this situation, people need to consider what precautions they should take for themselves and their families, and not wait for government to admit there’s a risk and do something about it.