The Ebola epidemic in Africa appears to be creating a panic on the part of certain people in the United States. The talking heads seem to be putting on their “disaster” faces when talking about the death of Thomas what’s-his-name in Texas and the two health care workers who are currently showing symptoms of the disease at the hospital. It’s not that I don’t remember Mr. Duncan’s name; I just don’t give a damn about it. He can probably now be called “US patient zero” for bringing a disease which I believe he knew he had contracted into this country. You don’t give a damn about us; we don’t give a damn about you.
Ebola is a terrible disease. Doctors in Nebraska and several other states are knowledgeable about it and how to prepare to receive anyone with symptoms. It has become all too apparent that the staff at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas cannot be rated as knowledgeable, and that is unfortunate. It is also clear that Dr. Thomas Friedan of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is tap dancing faster than Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire in an effort to demonstrate how poorly prepared the CDC was for what has taken place. Training does not mean sending out a bunch of instructions that you hope hospital personnel will take the time to read. Whenever he said, “We have a team ready to go anywhere to train hospital staff,” I damn near pissed my pants laughing. Excuse me sir, but we have nearly 320 million people in the United States. In addition, we have 5,273 hospitals in the country…and you have “a team;” what turnip truck did you just fall from?
Ebola kills people…but…it doesn’t kill everyone. Ebola can be treated and steps can be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. The CDC and nearly everyone else in a position to know say that Ebola cannot be spread other than by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. So, if an Ebola patient sneezes while I’m inhaling, can I become infected, or, if it happens to be a woman, do we have to “swap spit,” so to speak?
New diseases seem to crop up on a regular basis, and Ebola seems to fall into that group. Notably, it has chosen to arise in some of the poorer countries of Africa. This doesn’t appear to be unusual. From Africa, it will normally descend on Europe and then on to North and South America. We have faced many epidemics or pandemics long before Ebola. We have conquered the majority of them without too much trouble, and doctors have shown that the fight against Ebola can also be won.
When Europeans first arrived on the shores of the New World, they brought with them something called smallpox. It wiped out entire tribes of Native Americans during the 1633-1634 periods. According to Healthline, “…the native population in New England dropped by over 70 percent.” The last reported case of smallpox in this country was in 1949, and that was someone who had never been vaccinated.
If you’re looking for something a bit more recent, how about the Spanish Flu that infected soldiers fighting in World War I and who were from any number of countries. This epidemic/pandemic left 20 million dead in a matter of months before its spread could be stopped. In the United States, this flu killed an estimated 675,000 men, women and children. Today, a flu shot is available that will prevent or ease our chances of catching the flu in one of its many forms.
The peak of the polio epidemic in the United States was around 1952. “The first major polio epidemic in the United States had occurred in 1916. In the 1940s and 50s, polio outbreaks created frenzy, frightening parents and prohibiting travel from city to city within the United States. Some towns were quarantined to protect the public from affected individuals. It reached a peak in 1952 when over 58,000 cases were reported, including 3,145 deaths.” One of those deaths was a kid I had been working beside on a Saturday. By the following Tuesday, he was dead. Thanks to Jonas Salk, we no longer worry too much about polio.
There have been many other epidemics in America’s more recent history. The one with which we have the greatest familiarity is perhaps the AIDS epidemic that started in 1981. “…the epidemic we now know as HIV began to appear as a rare lung infection characterized by a weakened immune system. It remains the leading cause of death in the United States among people age 25 to 44. Research has found many ways to put AIDS into remission and I, for one, have no doubt that the time will come when a cure will become possible.
There is, of course, one disease against which we are continuing to fight with only moderate success. Cancer is the most insidious of the diseases we fight; yet, that’s not fair. Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, and a ton of other diseases that could be named are still out there to be fought and research is ongoing. However, I don’t believe there is a single person in the United States who has not been touched by cancer in some way. Whether it was a member of the family, a friend, colleague, teammate, or the neighbor across the street, we all know the tragedy of cancer. It killed my Dad, my wife, my grandparents, and too many other non-family members for me to count. Just when the researchers think they’ve found the answers to a particular cancer, it mutates, and they have to begin their fight all over again.
Ebola is not cancer. A cure will be found. The big question mark becomes how will the manufacturers of the vaccine to cure Ebola get into the hands of those who need it? Countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are too poor to be able to afford the price of the cure. Here’s another opportunity for the world to show its humanitarian side and not be concerned about the bottom line.