A Quick and Cheap Way to Test for Ebola in the Offing

James Collins, a synthetic biologist at Boston University, says he’s been able to print the ingredients for simple DNA experiments on paper, freeze dry them, and use them as much as a year later. It could lead to cheap diagnostic tests for viruses like Ebola.

Extremely good news.  Let’s hope it pans out.

African Ebola-Containment Standards Higher Than American Standards

According to the leader of a group treating Ebola patients in Liberia:

When Samaritan’s Purse health workers treat patients in Liberia, they wear two pairs of gloves and spray themselves with disinfectant twice before leaving the isolation ward. They have a three-foot “no touch” policy and hold safety meetings every day.

In U.S. hospitals — such as Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, which has had three cases of Ebola — workers don’t have to hose down their gear and are told it’s OK for gloves to expose their wrists.

“If you slip, and you touch your skin on the wrist, you’re going to get Ebola,” said Isaacs, who has worked on-the-ground disaster relief in countries like Haiti, the Philippines and Bosnia.

This may have some bearing to an exchange of comments on one of my earlier posts.  I questioned whether perhaps inadequacy of protocol was as possible as breach of protocol in the Dallas nurse’s illness.  Invisible Mikey said the protocol was OK because it had worked in the past.  I’m still not qualified to have an opinion, but this sort of thing makes you wonder.

How Nigeria Contained and Stopped Ebola


Once the country’s first Ebola case was confirmed, Port Health Services in Nigeria started a process called contact tracing to limit the spread of the disease and created an emergency operations center to coordinate and oversee the national response.

The group worked with the airport and airlines, triaged any potential cases, and decontaminated the airport as well as areas inhabited by people who might have come into contact with the virus, according to the CDC. Entry and exit screening was also established at ports in Nigeria.

Health officials used a variety of resources, including phone records and flight manifests, to track down nearly 900 people who might have been exposed to the virus via Sawyer or the people he infected. That group was monitored for symptoms for 21 days. Those under observation were required to check in with officials twice a day to provide health updates, according to The Independent.

If someone was showing symptoms or failed to provide an update, that person was checked on.

As soon as people developed symptoms suggestive of Ebola, they were isolated in Ebola treatment facilities. Without waiting to see whether a “suspected” case tested positive, Nigeria’s contact tracing team tracked down everyone who had had contact with that patient since the onset of symptoms.

During this contact tracing process, officials made a staggering 18,500 face-to-face visits.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-nigeria-stopped-ebola-2014-10#ixzz3GVjdCPFM


Dallas Nurse’s Ebola Infection Due to Unidentified Breach of Protocol. Really?

Federal official assure us that contraction of Ebola by the nurse in Dallas was due to a breach of protocol.  But the same article goes on to say they have not yet identified a breach.

If the second statement is true, then the first necessarily must be disingenuous.  As a matter of simple logic, there are two ways the nurse could have contracted the disease: (1) breach of protocol, as federal officials would have us believe, or (2) inadequacy of the protocol, which federal officials do not want us to contemplate.  I am no medical expert, and I have no idea which of the two possibilities actually accounts for the nurse’s disease.  But over 37 years of practicing law has given me what I indelicately refer to as a bullshit meter.

That meter red lines when someone gives me assurances on a matter about which they themselves have admitted they are ignorant.  That’s what the federal officials have done here.  If they have not identified a protocol that was breached, they cannot possibly know that breach of protocol is the cause.  Without identifying a particular breach, they cannot possibly rule out inadequacy of the protocol.  They are just telling us what they want us to believe.  In so doing, they undermine their credibility at the worst possible time.  That is contemptible behavior.

Could the US Lose Control of Ebola?

Clearly the World Health Organization lost control of Ebola in West Africa.  Of course West Africa does not have the health care system we have in this country.  But we hardly covered ourselves in glory on the Dallas case.  And Dallas residents exposed to Ebola are now claiming discrimination based on the measures taken to isolate them.  Jesse Jackson, sensing the opportunity to get in the news, is going to Dallas to take up their cause.

Of course these Dallas residents are being discriminated against, but not on the basis of race, ethnicity, or other prohibited classification.  They are being discriminated against based on their exposure to one of the most lethal contagions on the planet.  It’s not fair that they are being discriminated against.  It’s not fair that they have been exposed to Ebola.  It’s not fair that people are dying in West Africa.  But what does fairness have to do with it?  Isolating contagion is an existential imperative for the rest of us.  It’s not clear that we any longer have the political will to continue doing what needs to be done.

Our health care system seems to have a handle on the one Ebola patient it has right now.  If any of those exposed to him come down with the disease, how well will we be able to handle those cases?  And if we widen the circle exposed to those people, as Jesse Jackson apparently proposes we do, how well will we handle those further cases?  How many people will be exposed to those in the first-tier wider circle?  In the second-tier wider circle?  In the third-tier?  How far can we stretch the system before it breaks?

Quarantine is a brutal concept.  It was implemented not because it was thought humane but because it was thought necessary to preserve others.  I don’t want to be quarantined.  I don’t want my family quarantined.  But what right do I have to resist and thereby put others at risk?

One final horrifying thought.  We have lost control of our southern border.  Some think that’s good, and some think it’s bad.  But is incontrovertible that it has brought into the US diseases such as scabies, lice, and chicken pox.  What will we do when Ebola gets into Mexico?  Mexico’s health care system will likely be quickly overwhelmed.  Thousands more will stream north, some to escape the disease and some to seek treatment.  If there’s one think we know for sure, we do not have a system place to stop them.  Will our health care system be able to deal with that?  Surely not.  Then what happens?  How will we stop Ebola from sweeping through the general population uncontrolled?

At this point, I don’t know what we could possibly do.

Ebola Patient Initially Sent Home Because of Bad Software

During his initial visit, Duncan told a nurse that he had recently traveled to West Africa—a red flag that the CDC says should have sent hospital staff scrambling to test him for the lethal virus. Instead, the critical information about his travel was somehow lost in the shuffle among the various doctors and nurses treating him that day.

The hospital says a software problem caused this.  That’s a problem that needs fixing, but if we haven’t got this sort of thing straight across the country already, it may be too late.

Ebola Transmission

They tell us that Ebola can be spread only by direct contact.  But what does direct contact mean?  Not what you think:

Ebola can live outside of the body — on surfaces like countertops or doorknobs, for example — for several hours. In bodily fluids like blood, on the other hand, the virus can survive outside of the body for several days at room temperature.

Several days at room temperature.  So, in medical terms, direct contact can seem a lot like what laymen might think is indirect contact.  Read the whole linked article.