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    • What Protests in Lebanon, France, Chile and Ecuador Have In Common
      There’s some important events happening today: another Brexit vote, and the Canadian federal election (whose results are not obvious), but we won’t know how either of those end till later, so let’s discuss some popular protests of massive size. In France the protests were sparked by an increase in diesel taxes. The demands included an […]
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Apollo 11, West Africa and Eyelids

I lived in Pearl Harbor when Apollo 11 went to the moon and back.  They used slide rules to make calculations back then.  Those guys were launched into space while sitting on a giant firework.  They got to the moon, made it back in one piece…

…and spent three weeks in an isolation unit in Hawaii.  They were heroes.  They deserved a ticker tape parade.  And they waited patiently until they were cleared of any nasty moon germs before they got it.

I understand Anthony Fauci’s concern that a mandatory quarantine will discourage volunteer health care workers at a time of crisis in West Africa.  However, the problem is a cultural one.  Here in the US, workers get very few vacation days.  If you spend them all in an Ebola hospital in Monrovia, it is an unfortunate likelihood that your employer is going to be unsympathetic to your do gooder status when you get stuck in Newark for three weeks.  That’s why I think politicians need to move on protecting workers from losing their salaries and jobs when they come back.

Nevertheless, I think Cuomo, de Blasio and Christie have done the right thing by mandating a quarantine for a very limited number of people coming in from West Africa to New York and New Jersey ports.  That’s because the NYC-NJ megalopolis is the most densely packed area of the country and an outbreak of ebola there could have a devastating impact.  If health care workers are diverted to less crowded areas of the country to disembark in order to avoid detention in Newark, then the quarantine may have served its purpose.

(Update: DeBlasio and Cuomo have moderated their quarantine policy and I approve their changes.  They will allow health care workers that are high risk to remain at home during the isolation period.  They will be monitored by public health officials twice a day AND they will be compensated for lost income.  There’s a lot to like here.  The twice a day monitoring should help to keep the person off the streets, subways and buses.  The compensation for lost income should assure volunteers that they’re not going to be punished for doing good things.  Christie hasn’t changed his policy yet.  Not sure where Hickox is from but she might have to tough it out in Newark until she’s been cleared to travel on domestic airlines.  I’m betting that no American airlines wants to have another Frontier incident.)

It would be the equivalent of keeping ebola infected individuals out of Kinchasa or Lagos, as Michael Osterholm explains in the video below from Johns Hopkins Ebola Forum a week or so ago.  This video emphasizes why it is so important to contain the outbreak in West Africa and why it is almost too late to do so.  Well worth the viewing.  Not too nerdy or complicated.

Finally, this article from the New Yorker illuminates the problems with diagnosing ebola and protecting health workers.  Inside the Ebola Wars is a must read. (Also not too geeky) Here are some things I learned from it that makes me think that quarantining Kaci Hickox was probably not a bad idea:

  • The diagnostic test for ebola was developed on an old strain of the virus.  For the current two strains, it has become much less accurate and may be an unreliable confirmatory test for ebola.
  • Dr. Kent Brantly was symptomatic when he went into isolation in Africa and had his blood sent for confirmation of ebola.  The test came back negative.  A few days later, Brantly was much sicker and had a second test.  This one was positive.  So, if Kaci Hickox is making the case that she shouldn’t be stuck in Newark (well, who should?  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy) based on her ebola tests, she’s full of s#*}.  There’s no way to know whether she is carrying the virus until she gets sick. That could still happen.  So, I’d stop giving the general public the idea that I’m imprisoned on false pretenses.  First, it’s not imprisonment and second, we don’t know yet and neither does she.  That’s the whole point of a quarantine.
  • There has been some speculation as to how some health care workers are getting infected in spite of their expertise with PPE.  A proposed route is that a tiny droplet of infected bodily fluid is getting trapped behind the moist eyelid of the health care worker.  How it got there is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it’s a chance encounter with an tainted gloved hand.  Maybe its aerosolization.  No one knows yet.
  • A single viral particle can kill you.  Well, it has to replicate like bunnies in your body but it only takes one.  And a single drop of blood or sweat contains billions and billions of viral particles.  Yep, think that over and now project that onto the map of New York City and New Jersey.  {{shudder}}

Still not panicking but I am relieved that there are people trying to prevent an outbreak.  This is not a Texas scenario and for that we should be grateful.

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