Well, my answer to that question is both yes and no.
I decided to write this blog since I have a B.S. degree in Microbiology and over 20 years experience working in a medical laboratory. As I watch the media news coverage on this topic, I have had mixed feelings. One minute, I hear someone who, in my opinion, is talking very intelligently about this situation, and the next minute, I hear something that makes me cringe! So……here are my thoughts.
First and foremost, it is important to know that if you haven’t been directly exposed to the bodily fluids of someone with ebola, your chances of getting this virus are very, very slim. Why isn’t it a zero chance? Because nothing in medicine is impossible. The experts say that it is not transmitted through the air. I take that with a grain of salt. Right now, we are facing the biggest ebola outbreak of all time, and in my opinion, we just don’t know enough about this virus to say that anything is impossible.
Secondly, it is extremely important to remember that ebola can survive for short periods of time outside of the body. This means that if someone with ebola vomits, and it splatters on a wall, floor or doorknob, the next person to touch that area can potentially be infected. I think it is important to know this, and the media hasn’t really addressed this issue from what I’ve seen. Not only is it important to completely shield yourself from the actual patient, but it is also vitally important to completely sanitize any area where they have been sick. I am extremely impressed with the way that Frontier airlines has handled this situation. They have completely sanitized the airplane and even removed carpeting and seats from the area where Amber was seated. It might seem like an overkill to some, but it really was a wise decision, so kuddos to Frontier!
It is also important to keep in mind that viruses have an ability to mutate. Just because ebola behaves in a certain way now does not mean that it will always behave that same way. Viruses and bacteria have the ability to change and find their way around our defenses. Many bacteria have mutated and become resistant to certain antibiotics. This has now become a major concern in the treatment of many bacterial infections. Although we should not become panic stricken over this, it is important to remember this and not just assume that ebola will always act in the same manner as it is acting today.
As for me, I place the blame for the mishandling of the ebola situation in the United States squarely on the CDC. Of all of the health care institutions in America, the CDC knows (or should know) exactly what to do in a crisis such as the one we are facing today. Many, many inexcusable mistakes were made during the handling of Thomas Eric Duncan’s case, and in the end, it all falls directly on the shoulders of the CDC for not ensuring that the proper protocols were being followed. I do not agree with much of what Dr. Tom Frieden has done in handling this crisis, and, in my opinion, I believe he should step down. The following is a list of reasons why I believe there needs to be an overhaul at the CDC:
1. Dr. Frieden doesn’t seem to want to put a travel ban in place, stating that he feels it would backfire by not allowing medical care to get to the ebola ravaged countries in West Africa. Stopping casual flights into and out of those countries while still allowing medical flights to continue is something that can be done. It’s not rocket science, but just a matter of organization.
2. There was a clear failure to train hospital personnel in Dallas on how to safely handle Thomas Eric Duncan. There are many different types of personal protective equipment, which can range from just gloves and a lab coat to a hazmat suit that covers every inch of the person’s body. What type to use depends on the pathogen involved. Ebola requires complete coverage from head to toe, and the report that the nurses at Dallas cared for Duncan while having their necks exposed is indefensible.
3. Self monitoring of people directly exposed to Duncan, especially health care workers, was not sufficient in taking control of this crisis. These people should have been quarantined for 21 days and not allowed to travel in my opinion. But the worst part was the CDC telling Amber Vinson that she could travel with a 99.5 degree temperature. In a previous blog post, I talked about how medical professionals need to “think outside the box”. This is a perfect example. More than likely, whoever Amber talked to at the CDC looked on a list and saw that the cutoff for a fever was 100.4 degrees and told her it was OK for her to fly. But, if that person would have “thought outside the box”, it would have become clear that Amber should have never gotten on that flight since she had also been involved in Duncan’s care in Dallas. As someone on the news stated a few days ago, “common sense has taken a vacation”.
The CDC needs to take responsibility for this mess. The steps that are being taken now to ensure the health of the American public should have been taken the minute they found out that Thomas Eric Duncan had been diagnosed with ebola and was in the United States. Too little, too late.
So, in conclusion, I believe that we shouldn’t panic, but we should be aware. Know the truth about ebola and viruses in general and just be careful. Fear has come about by the failings of the CDC and the assurance that ebola wouldn’t enter this country. In this country, we do have the capability of controlling this virus, but it doesn’t do us any good if the ones who are in charge won’t do their job properly. We need for the CDC to step up and start ensuring that the medical professionals are properly trained in ebola and are given the proper personal protective equipment. Just my opinion.