Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ebola

I've been kind of obsessed with Ebola the past few weeks. I check the news multiple times a day to see if there are any updates.  This morning I did my first check and saw that Australia might be joining Liberia, Sierra Lione, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal,  the US, and Spain in becoming an Ebola-country.

Or maybe not. There have been multiple false alarms all over the world.

I just went ahead and read the article.  There's a nurse who worked with Ebola patients in Africa. She returned to Queensland, and then had a fever. Understandably she worried. But hopefully she's worrying for nothing.

The medical staff in Cairns have put the nurse in quarantine. That's better than what happened in Dallas.

What happened here is Thomas Duncan came to Dallas from Liberia, the country hit worst by Ebola. A few days into his visit, he had a fever and other flu-like symptoms.  He went to the local emergency room. They sent him home. A few days later he came back to the hospital with much worse symptoms, and it was announced to the world he had Ebola.

Why didn't the doctors raise the little red flags in their brain?  It seems no one knows. At first, they tried to blame the computer system. The nurse wrote down that the patient was from Liberia in the electronic chart, but the information wasn't transferred to the doctor's chart. I heard that and thought, who cares?!  If there's an important question and the doctor doesn't see the answer on the chart, shouldn't he or she simply re-ask the question?

From what I've read, later the hospital retracted the blame on the software problem. Supposidly the doctor and nurse both knew the patient came from Liberia. But for some reason, warning flags didn't pop up in their head.

Later in the story, a group of officials entered the Ebola-victim's apartment without protective gear. Did they need protective gear?  I don't know. There was currently no patient on the premises. But his germ-infected bedding, and other stuff, were there.

One of the people who entered the apartment was unhappy about being ordered to go into the apartment without gear. Now he's in the hospital waiting for his Ebola test results. Does he have Ebola? Or does he have another fever-causing illness + Ebola-hypochondria?

There are about fifty people in Dallas who are on a watch-list.  Ten of them had direct contact with Ebola. I think it's quite likely one or more will get sick. And then there will probably be several more people who get sick with something else and imagine they have Ebola. Hopefully all medical staff and other pertinent professionals will act with over-caution and germophobia. Because right now...in this mess, those qualities might save lives.

Of course there's the point where people go overboard. Like if you were planning a trip to Cairns, and now have canceled—you might be a bit over-paranoid.

We have tentative plans to go to Dallas this weekend. There's a part of me that's scared, even though I know my fears are pretty baseless. It's that irrational idea that Ebola is just lurking all over the place in Dallas.

But sometimes....

Yesterday I made a remark to Tim about how I wouldn't want to have to seek medical care in Dallas. I'd be worried that, at the same time, one of the Ebola patients might show up at the same time. Tim gave me that, you're-going-overboard look.  He told me the only thing to worry about is the Presbyterian Hospital. I guess his idea was that all sick people would go to that one, since that's where Thomas Duncan went with his Ebola illness.

A short time later, I went for one of my frequent Ebola-news updates and saw that the Dallas man fearing he contracted Ebola (from the infected apartment) went NOT to the hospital, but to an urgent care (Doc-in-the-box) center.  Now all those people at the center are probably feeling paranoid. Hopefully, the new patient will have a negative test result and they can all sigh with temporary relief.

If the test comes out positive, I think we'll all need to be more paranoid. It means Ebola is probably more contagious than believed.

For now, it's a time of sadness. Thomas Duncan, our visitor, from Liberia died yesterday.  He came here to be reunited with his family.  I wish it turned out to be a happy occasion, but instead it turned out to be a tragedy. His family now deals with their tremendous loss and also fear that they will get sick as well. I wanted so badly for him to survive. I love medical horror stories with happy endings. They give me hope and make me feel less afraid of the world.