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Ebola, Enterovirus D68; Fear Mongering or Judicious Foresight?

These two viral diseases, one from Latin America the other from Africa, are now loose in our country. The “Authorities” assure us we are protected. Hmmm….

Let’s see, the plane carrying Mr. Duncan to Dallas, then traveled to Jackson Hole Wyoming, and points beyond (Jackson Hole News & Guide October 11, 2014.)  The concern is not if Mr. Duncan infected anyone in Wyoming - as far as we know none were infected. The thing to be aware of is the inter-connectedness of the world via travel. Travel from the West African Countries has not been restricted. Thus Ebola has already escaped contain.

There is some research each of us should do: check any major airline flight schedule to see how small the world really is and how many opportunities there were for us to have been exposed to Ebola and other diseases.

Marine Corps General John F. Kelly reported that the CDC estimates 1.4 million people will be infected by the end of 2014, and 62% will die. He also noted in his presentation to National Defense University that seven men found to be from Liberia were intercepted in Costa Rica planning to be smuggled into the United States and headed for New York City. They accessed the “network” in Trinidad.

Border Patrol agents apprehended a man from Eritrea at the Texas Mexico border. Eritrea is in East Africa, and there have been no cases of Ebola there. However, there is great concern raised as there is no protocol established for dealing with people from countries with Ebola, or suspected terrorists.

It has been stressed that Ebola is not air-borne but passed in bodily fluids. I ask, are the mucous droplets expelled in a cough or sneeze not bodily fluids? I maintain that they are. It has been admitted lately that Ebola can be contracted by being within three (3) feet of an infected person.

I think I’ve made my point on exposure. Now as to how prepared is our health care system?

Note, Panic is not a strategy in any situation, this one included. First, let’s assess our situation.

1)   If your community has a hospital does it have an isolation unit? Can it isolate even 1% of your counties population?

2)   Are all hospital and medical clinic personnel trained in hazardous material handling technique?

3)   Do your public first responders have the training and equipment for full protection against biologic agents?

The answer to all of the above questions is NO! Thus, protection comes down to what individuals can and are willing to do.

Careful hand washing or the use of disinfectant wipes or one of the alcohol based hand sanitizers by all is required, especially when in public spaces. When confined to crowded spaces, especially public transit like air planes, buses, trains and other enclosed places, a simple industrial dust mask, the type used by painters, might help. Those likely to be exposed to very ill people not in a hospital setting might consider the full face shield over the dust mask so the eyes are protected, as well. Latex gloves are also a must, and many already use these. Tightly woven long sleeved garments can afford some protection. The covering of cracked, cut hands and other areas is very important as well. I personally use superglue on the frequent cuts and cracked hands I get ranching (not FDA approved.)

Enterovirus D68 has been unchecked and continues flooding across our Southern border. Enterovirus D68 has been termed one of the non-polio enteroviruses, although some children have experienced a mild temporary paralysis. Enterovirus D68 has largely affected children, although there has been one confirmed adult case. Children with asthma are more severely affected. 

Parents must stress to their school-age children to not share food or put anything like pencils, toys, etc. in their mouths (good luck with the smaller bunch.) Hand washing and the known protections for sneezing and coughing can help. Hand sanitizers if available in schools and home can make a very positive difference.
Parents should pay close attention to a cold that seems more severe, wheezing fever or nausea and vomiting necessitates you seek immediate medical attention.
Being observant and proactive with these few suggestions can help us protect ourselves and our loved ones while avoiding panic.

GOD be with us all!

Taylor Haynes, M.D.

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