Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Stop Ebola

"Stopping Ebola is hard." (Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control [CDC])

He's right, right? Yes. Ebola is super aggressive and contagious.

Can we stop it? Yes. It is like any other disease that is transmitted through channels that can be controlled and contained and protected against. Common sense is enough - it does not take a microbiologist, a politician, a physician, an attorney, or a US President to figure out how to control, contain, and this rid a country of Ebola.

If the fight to keep Ebola out of America is lost (which it is), we have to prevent its spread. This requires protecting against transmission from infected people to non-infected people. This requires isolating the infected people (and potentially infected people) and using preventive measures to ensure the virus is not transmitted. These are both easy. Not convenient for those involved, but easy. How do we know which preventive measures work? We understand how the disease is spread. It is now known to be spread both through direct contact with body fluids AND through aerosol dispersion (breathing someone's coughing or sneezing discharge). So we suit workers up with gear that prevents them from contacting, ingesting, or breathing any "discharge" from the infected person.

To rid an area of Ebola, first, you have to contain it. That means stopping its influx into, and exit from, an area. That means stopping all travel into and out of epidemic zones. This also means preventing travel of any infected or potentially infected people. They must be isolated. This is inconvenient for would-be travelers and politically hazardous to people who are concerned about retaining the approval of the people in those epidemic zones. As far as stopping Ebola, it's a no-brainer.

In parallel, we have to expedite the production of medicine that fights the virus. That takes money and enthusiasm. The CDC has plenty of money. They can stop building bike paths for a while and pour money into the Ebola medicine.

Think about it like a football game. Only in this football game, the outcome will decide whether half the people in the stadium will contract a painful, deadly, and super contagious virus and die, and probably pass it on to their families, who will pass it on to hundreds of thousands of other Americans.

The offense is carrying the Ebola virus. The defense is the US Government and the CDC. The Ebola team is down by 5 points has the ball on the 50 yard line, and there are 10 seconds left on the clock. All they need is a touchdown, and game over for an unknown, but large number of innocent Americans.

Here are the two possible strategies the defense can take:

1) All eleven defensive players can back up into the back of the end zone and play it safe. They're not going to risk an Ebola player getting past them. Ebola can run the ball or throw the ball, and they will be allowed to get to the goal line, where they will be met with the strongest effort the defense can muster, to keep them from crossing that line.

2) Due to the serious, deadly nature of this scenario, the entire defensive team enters the field. Guards are stationed around the entire perimeter of the field, to prevent fans' entry, and Ebola players' escape, from the field. The ball is snapped. Thirty two linebackers and defensive backs knock every pass receiver down immediately.  Simultaneously, twenty three of the best pass rushers run right over the offensive line and mash the quarterback into the ground. Game over.

Referees throw their flags for all kinds of penalties committed by the defense. The refs are escorted off the field and quarantined. All players on both teams are quarantined and monitored. Any that become infected are treated.

Lots of fans are crying tears of joy in relief, even though the game was wildly unusual. Other fans are screaming and throwing their glasses of beer onto the field. The fans that usually rush the field after the game are held back. Their lives are saved. But they are angry and vitriolic. The government ignores them. They get over it. Some players on the Ebola team try to get off the field - they have lives outside of football - they have fast food to eat, places to go, and sex they must have. They are also held back and kept in quarantine for the safety of the 84,596 fans in the stadium (and the millions of uninfected people outside the stadium). They are really pissed off.  The government ignores them and declares absolute victory.

Game over. Ebola contained.

Why the hell can't our government and/or the CDC figure this out? Why are they afraid of offending a few people in order to protect their own people they've been hired to protect?

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