Archive for Africa

The E-Word

It’s the new N-word:

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola in the United States, was not the right kind of victim for the west: he wasn’t a pretty young woman smiling in sunglasses as a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Bentley licks her cheek; he didn’t have a young, benevolent doctor’s face that looks “appropriate” plastered on newspapers; he wasn’t a kindly older nurse who told reporters how God had spared her. He wasn’t the kind of person to whom primetime news specials would dedicate 20 minutes and glorify with quotes from loved ones about his kind spirit or ceaseless determination to overcome an unfair affliction.

Thomas Eric Duncan was black, he was poor, and he was African.

That he was.

Oops! My bad. That’s George Obama. Honest mistake. The list of poor black Africans betrayed by the West is virtually endless.

Note how the writer didn’t say he was the first American to die of Ebola. There have been plenty of those already: saintly souls who’ve risked their lives to help the sick and needy. Risked them and lost them. And Duncan certainly wasn’t the first African to die of the disease. He finished somewhere in the 4,000s, I believe. And Duncan wasn’t American.

No, he happened to be in the statistically unique position to be the first person to die of a disease endemic to Africa in the geographic proximity of the United States (as many of us feel about Texas).

Well, it had to be somebody. And it was likely (given all the above) that it would be a poor, black African.

And being the first, is it any wonder he was first misdiagnosed? Even if he hadn’t lied to get here, hadn’t shamed his country (according to the president of the country) by spreading the disease to a new continent, he would still likely have been misdiagnosed. Why would Dallas know Ebola even when it was staring them in the face?

But what do I know?

(CNN) — The tragedy of Ebola is not just its staggering toll. It’s also the implicit racism that the deadly virus has spawned. The anecdotes are sickening, particularly a Reuters report this week that children of African immigrants in Dallas — little ones with no connection to Thomas Duncan, the Liberian Ebola patient who died Wednesday in a local hospital — have been branded “Ebola kids” simply because of their heritage or skin color.

In both the United States and Europe, Ebola is increasing racial profiling and reviving imagery of the “Dark Continent.” The disease is persistently portrayed as West African, or African, or from countries in a part of the world that is racially black, even though nothing medically differentiates the vulnerability of any race to Ebola.

Duh! People know you don’t have to be black to get Ebola. That’s why people are scared.

But Ebola is African. It’s named after a river in the Congo. It seems to be tied to African fruit bats. Its outbreaks—until now—have been in Africa alone. Do Africans get gout?

We just go done with the canard that Republicans caused Ebola by cutting funding (ads declaring such have been pulled). Now, this.

We’re not too smart, I guess. Our response to a litany of threats and tragedies is limited to blaming ourselves. It gets old fast, if you ask me.


Congratulations Nigeria!

We’re used to losing to Africans in marathons, but we thought we had them beat in medicine.

I blame our “coach”:

Nigeria has been declared officially free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

WHO representative Rui Gama Vaz, speaking in the capital Abuja, said it was a “spectacular success story”.

Nigeria won praise for its swift response after a Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.

The outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

An estimated 70% of those infected have died in those countries.

The WHO officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday.

Senegal? Senegal’s medical system bested ours? Words fail me…

The WHO can declare an Ebola outbreak over if two incubation periods of 21 days pass with no new cases. The last reported case in Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country – was discovered on 5 September.

The BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos says the nightmare scenario of Ebola spreading through Nigeria’s 170 million people has been avoided and the nation is heaving a collective sigh of relief.

I would have bet (someone else’s) money that once Ebola hit Lagos, it was goodnight Nigeria.

How’d they do it?

Officials credit tighter border controls, good patient-tracking and other medical practices, and just plain luck with keeping Ebola confined mostly to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since the outbreak was first identified nearly seven months ago.

Senegal did so well in finding and isolating a man with Ebola who had slipped across the border from Guinea in August that the World Health Organization on Friday will declare the end of the disease in Senegal if no new cases surface.

Nigeria is another success story. It had 20 cases and eight deaths after the virus was brought by a Liberian-American who flew from Liberia to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital of 21 million people, in July. Nearly 900 people were potentially exposed to the virus by the traveler, who died, and the disease could have wreaked havoc in Africa’s most populous nation.

Border closings may also be helping halt the spread of Ebola.

Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, all of which share borders with at least one of the three most affected countries, have closed those borders.

Nigeria initially banned flights from countries with Ebola but relaxed the restriction once it felt that airlines were competent to take travelers’ temperatures and follow other measures to prevent people with Ebola from flying.

Nigeria has teams taking the temperature of travelers at airports and seaports.

Another factor is luck. All it takes is one infected person to slip around guards at a border post or get aboard a plane.

“God has been merciful we haven’t reported a case in Kenya, but we really need to up our disaster preparedness,” said Dr. Nelly Bosire, an official with Kenya’s main medical union.

“The fact we stopped doing the West African flights had an impact. On that part I think we got it right. But it still has more to do with luck.”

Luck is the residue of design, the saying goes. Meanwhile, we still haven’t cleaned up the residue where Thomas Eric Duncan hurled.

But we’ll get there! Look out, Senegal, we’re right behind ya!


Coming to America

You don’t need a brain as big as this guy’s to know that travel from West Africa is a bad idea right now—but as long as he has one anyway:

[A]ccording to the head of a research institute in Cambridge, the new restrictions might still not go far enough.

Yaneer Bar-Yam leads the New England Complex Systems Institute, and for years he’s been arguing that in cases of severe infectious disease outbreaks, the best policy might be to prohibit travel from afflicted countries altogether.

“At the global level, I do think transportation should be curtailed from, but not to, West Africa,” he says.

Bar-Yam is trained as a physicist. His research primarily focuses on the behavior of complex systems, like, for example, the way an infectious disease moves through a population. In 2006 he coauthored a paper with Erik Rauch, a computer scientist at MIT, called “Long-range interactions and evolutionary stability in a predator-prey system.” The title is a mouthful, but the paper’s implications for the current Ebola outbreak are stark. Bar-Yam and Rauch used mathematical models to simulate the spread of an infectious disease; their analysis suggests that even small amounts of travel between regional populations may be enough to allow an infectious disease to jump from one country to another. “Even if significant mixing already exists,” the authors write, “a small amount of additional mixing may cause extinction.” And in this case, extinction means us.

And we all know how liberals love models. Sounds like “settled science” to me.

“Severe pathogens . . . can be stopped by the very fact that they’re destructive,” he says. “If they kill off their host, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen locally.” In other words, epidemics burn out on their own when the disease has no one left to infect, provided they’re not able to hop across oceans on airplanes.

One of the biggest arguments against travel restrictions is the sense that our health care system can handle isolated Ebola cases as they crop up here. Bar-Yam thinks that confidence is misplaced, a view which has gained some currency as it’s emerged that a Dallas hospital misdiagnosed and released Duncan when he first showed up for treatment.

Doctors trace the severity of an outbreak by the average number of people become ill after contact with an infected person. If the number is one or less, the outbreak is stable or declining. If it’s greater than one, it’s spreading. Thomas Eric Duncan infected two people (that we know of), trained nurses, in a “health care system can handle isolated Ebola cases as they crop up here”.

If you weren’t soiling your drawers before, now’s a good time to start. If you were, you should get checked out. It’s a symptom.


Ebola Failures

I said I would lay off Ebola for a while, and I will. Soon. Promise.

Until then:

Recent pledges of help and deployments to Africa’s Ebola-hit regions have had no impact on the epidemic, a senior Medecins Sans Frontieres official says.

Christopher Stokes, who heads the charity’s Ebola operation, said it was “ridiculous” his volunteers still bore the brunt of care for sufferers.

The remarks came as UN chief Ban Ki-moon pleaded for funds, as a drive for donations fell short of its target.

UN Secretary-General Ban said a $1bn trust fund he launched in September has received just $100,000 (£62,000) so far.

Donors have given almost $400m (£250m) to other UN agencies and aid organisations directly but the UN trust fund, intended to act as a flexible spending reserve, has itself only received pledges of just $20m (£12m).

The ultimate Jack Benny dilemma: Obama or the UN? I’m thinking, I’m thinking!


I’m not sure whether the chart counts only pledges or aid delivered—indeed, whether it counts the troops we have over there now—but it would appear to me that America has provided (or will provide) more aid than the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the EC, the UK, Germany, and China combined.

But if the world looks at the UN as the savior of humanity from contagion, it’s no surprise it looks away in disgust.

PS: The fun is beginning to wear off:

The current Ebola outbreak is “running much faster” than the international response to it, the co-discoverer of the virus said Thursday.

“This is the first Ebola epidemic where entire nations are involved, where big cities are affected,” Peter Piot, a microbiologist and a former undersecretary general of the United Nations, told Global Public Square host Fareed Zakaria. “And I continue to be worried that the response to the epidemic is really running behind the virus.”

According to the World Health Organization’s latest update, there have been almost 9,000 confirmed and suspected cases, with almost 4,500 deaths. However, the WHO warned there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of this year.

Piot, a member of the team that discovered the virus in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, made headlines earlier this month when he told The Guardian newspaper he feared an “unimaginable catastrophe” if the virus became lodged in a mega-city such as Lagos.

“The three countries that are affected are being totally destabilized, not only in terms of people who are killed by Ebola — their families, the orphans that now are coming up because the parents died — but the economy has come to a standstill,” Piot said Thursday, speaking from Oxford.

“People are massively dying from other diseases that are normally treatable, like malaria, or women die while giving birth because hospitals are abandoned or are full with Ebola patients. So that’s a very, very destabilizing factor,” he said, adding that the impact of its spread is “beyond Ebola.”


Ebola Follies

A great, great, GREAT, GREAT call to Rush today:

RUSH: Here’s Thomas in Washington, DC. Thomas, you’re our first call today. It’s great to have you on the program. Hello.

CALLER: Longtime listener first-time caller. I really appreciate what you’re doing.

RUSH: Thank you, sir.

CALLER: I wanted to make a statement that I think the American people need to hear. (huffing for air) Sorry, I was just out jogging. The… (gasping) I’m a physician here in Washington, DC. I used to be in the military.

Introductions out of the way, I’m going to cut to the chase:

CALLER: Just, for instance, somebody comes into contact with somebody with Ebola and the virus now replicating in the host body, in the human.

RUSH: But the host may not know it. The patient may not know that he’s contagious yet.

CALLER: He has no idea.

RUSH: Okay.

CALLER: If you’re in an infected area or high-risk area where it’s found, you should be concerned about it. But if you’re around somebody, say, in an airport and they’re shedding the virus and they’re asymptomatic you have no idea. What I’m saying is the virus can reach elevated levels prior to 21 days, prior to sickness symptoms and be shed through close contact prior to the patient getting sick. So if we’re just leaving it as a litmus test, “Oh I’m sick; therefore I shouldn’t be on a plane,” or, “therefore I now can transmit this disease,” that’s wrong. The viremia prior to getting sick can be shed even though it may be smaller but it’s still infectious.

RUSH: So let me… So what you’re essentially saying is that when we are told, “If a patient is not showing symptoms, you can’t catch the disease,” that may not be true.

CALLER: That may not be true. Like I said, studies to prove or disprove this have not been made.

This confirms something I thought—and wrote—days ago: how likely is it that you become toxic just the moment you start feeling poorly? The only reason you start feeling poorly in the first place is that the viral load is building up in your body. It must be true that you are “shedding” the virus for a period of minutes to hours before you acknowledging feeling sick yourself.

But let the doctor tell you:

CALLER: Because from a statistical point of view, that’s probably true 99% of the time, for the majority of the time. But the virus is replicating in the body prior to it getting to a high enough titer where they can get sick. But prior to the symptoms occurring, the virus can still be spread or shed from the body that has been infected prior to actually having symptoms. This is what people need to know. We cannot be allowing people to come into America even if they’re asymptomatic, because the virus can be shed prior to symptoms. Prior to a level of the virus actually hurting the body, the body can be shed in the same manner prior to sickness. It may be statistically low, but it can happen.

They finished with the politics of situation:

CALLER: Well, they’re hurting us. Our own health care workers are at risk. Our patients are at risk. You look at what happened down in Dallas and you’ll realize that our facilities are ill equipped to handle an outbreak more than maybe a patient or two. We’re not equipped to handle this. We should not be allowing patients to come in from infected areas without like a 31- or 40-day waiting period.

RUSH: No, no, no. Doctor, as has been stated by a number of people now — particularly when it comes to Liberia and Sierra Leone — we cannot turn our backs on those people because it was slavery in this country that was responsible for those countries being set up and established so that slaves in this country could escape and have a place for freedom. Now if they’re getting sick, we can’t turn our backs on them. We can’t close the borders. That isn’t going to happen for political reasons, among many others.

CALLER: Well, that’s illogical. It bares no common sense, and from a national security point of view —

RUSH: Maybe not, but there is common sense if you have different objectives.

Rush has made the point several times that Obama can’t close the borders to Liberians because he wants to open the borders to everyone else. Anyone want to convince me that’s not so?

I didn’t think so.

Comments (1)

What Did I [Bleeping] Tell You?

Thanks, Liberia. Thanks a [bleeping] bunch:

A man claiming to have recently traveled to Liberia in West Africa who turned up at the Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates urgent-care offices in Braintree this afternoon complaining of a headache, muscle aches and other Ebola-like symptoms was quarantined and has been brought to one of Boston’s top hospitals under police escort, according to multiple authorities.

“Out of an abundance of caution we immediately notified authorities and the patient was securely removed from the building and put into an ambulance now headed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The building was closed briefly but has now re-opened. We are working closely with the Department of Public Health who will determine next steps,” said Dr. Ben Kruskal, chief of infectious disease for Harvard Vanguard.

The driver of the Brewster Ambulance transporting the patient shortly before 4 p.m. was seen wearing a hazmat suit and face mask. Beth Israel is planning to hold a press conference shortly.

A second person was later brought out on a stretcher in a hazmat suit and placed in a second ambulance.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Anne Roach, when asked about the Braintree case, told the Herald, “There are no cases of Ebola in Massachusetts,” while adding, “DPH is only reporting on confirmed cases.”

Odds of it being Ebola are less than 50%, probably. But still.

Seriously, Obama?


Ebola Follies

Precautions, shmecautions:

A health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for the Ebola patient who was hospitalized and later died there has tested positive for the disease in a preliminary test at the state public health laboratory in Austin. Confirmatory testing will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, according to state officials.

The health care worker reported a low grade fever Friday night and was isolated and referred for testing. The preliminary test result was received late Saturday.

“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”

You might want to step up those efforts to extremer diligence, doc. Maybe wicked extreme, if you can manage it. Merely extreme diligence isn’t getting it done.

Duncan, 42, died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where he was admitted Sept. 28 and kept in isolation, according to spokesman Wendell Watson. Wendell said the death left officials with “profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment.”

Bullsh*t. Some nurse who’s probably never been to West Texas, let alone West Africa, now has one of the world’s most deadly diseases because this criminal from Liberia (even his president said so) risked the lives of hundreds of people to get here and enjoy half a million dollars of the best medical care in the world (for however much longer we can make that claim), at no cost to himself, even though he was a dead man walking by the time he got here. Excuse the length of the preceding sentence, but the more I think about what he did—about what we allowed him to do—the more I want to throttle somebody (while wearing a Level 4 hazmat suit). Smart people—scientists, not “public health” officials—know we can’t allow any possible transmission of this plague beyond where it’s already endemic. The only people who argue otherwise are politicians and bureaucrats. They’d rather see an epidemic than violate the tenets of political correctness.

Tomorrow is Columbus Day in America. Yet today it is more fashionable to describe history’s most famous explorer as a genocidal racist than as Italy’s favorite son. Columbus and the other European explorers are trashed for unknowingly exposing indigenous peoples here to all manner of European plagues to which they had immunity: smallpox, measles, hemorrhoids, whatever. Thomas Eric Duncan may not have been symptomatic when he bought his ticket and boarded the plane, but he knew well he might soon be. I don’t feel “profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment” at his inevitable death. I feel [bleeping] pissed. My sadness and disappointment are reserved for the infected health care worker who showed him kindness and mercy.

No good deed…


From the Good Folks Who Brought You the “Settled Science” of Global Warming

Their latest creation: free travel to and from plague-infested countries!

[I]n an exclusive Arutz Sheva e-mail interview, Dr. David Dausey, a world-recognized infectious disease expert, asserted that the scientific-sounding pronouncements like those issued by the UN Secretary-General and the WHO against a travel ban “don’t hold up to scrutiny.” Last week, Dr. Dausey authored a pro-travel-ban op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “Stop the Flights Now.”

Dr. Dausey is a Yale and Harvard-educated epidemiologist recognized worldwide for his research on infectious diseases. He is currently the Dean of the School of Health Professions and Public Health and Chair and Professor of the Public Health Department at Mercyhurst University.

Specifically, Dr. Dausey is an expert in planning for global pandemic emergencies such as influenza. When asked by e-mail, “Do you know of any ‘risk of transmission’ analysis [relating to the West African Ebola contagion] that would support an ‘anti-travel ban’ stance?,” Dr. Dausey answered:

“You are asking the right questions! There aren’t any risk assessments. Everything is based in arguments that aren’t really proven. I’m shocked that more reporters aren’t asking these kinds of questions. When you start to evaluate the arguments for not having a travel ban [to Ebola-stricken West Africa] you will find that they don’t hold up to scrutiny.”

In fact, a closer analysis of many explicit warnings cataloged in the same WHO Risk Assessment that the UN Secretary General relied on to issue his anti-travel-ban stance, appears to scientifically support Dr. Dausey’s call for a US travel ban to the West African countries affected by Ebola.

From Arutz Sheva’s review of the WHO Risk Assessment, here are just some of the problematic questions that arise:

Given the wildly variable incubation period of “2 to 21 days,” during which the infected person is “not infectious” to other people, how does a traveler even know they are “infected”? What of the danger of a knowingly infected person travelling to the United States wanting to lie about his condition, in order to seek better treatment in the United States?

With the airplane seats being likely repositories of undetectable highly infectious Ebola-infected materials, how can the airlines effectively clean the seats when the WHO recommends “non-cleanable fabric [seats] should be removed before the plane is used again”?

“Application of disinfectants should be preceded by cleaning to prevent inactivation of disinfectants by organic matter” – again, what if the organic matter is not clearly visible to the airline staff? How can this be practically applied?

In conclusion, Dr. Dausey remarked, “The reality is that a temporary ban could be feasible. British Airways and Air France already stopped their flights.” Based on the text of WHO Risk Assessment that the Secretary General of the United Nations relies on, a travel ban isn’t just “feasible,” but may be necessary.

This sounds a lot more rational and scientific than the guy who said we had to accept sick Liberians because that nation was settled (almost 200 years ago) by freed American slaves. To me, anyway.

And I’m not saying no aid or aid workers can come or go (with proper precautions). Just no Ebola tourism. How hard is this to understand?

PS: And note how astonished the guy is that reporters are just taking the pronouncements of bureaucrats as gospel like the dumb sheep they are. You and me both, doc. Except me.


Blood, Sweat, and Tears

You expect me to clean that up?


Airplane cabin cleaners have set up pickets outside a LaGuardia Airport terminal over health and safety issues.

About 200 Air Serv workers who support domestic flights at Terminal D began a 24-hour strike on Wednesday night.

They say their concerns include possible exposure to Ebola.

“The whole country is shivering, worried about the problems of Ebola,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ Service Employees International Union. “Airport workers are on the front line of protecting the public, to protect the public we have to protect the workers.”

The workers, who are seeking to unionize, said they’re sometimes exposed to blood, feces and vomit but are not equipped with appropriate protective gear.

I first heard about this strike yesterday, but didn’t get that it was tied to Ebola. And I can’t blame them.

The government says no, no, no, we can’t stop flights from West Africa (more accurately, passengers, as there are no direct flights from West Africa). And we expect these people to clean up the…bodily fluids of people on those flights? Without a Hazmat suit?

This is what happens when you lead from behind. Ebola will never come here, Obama assured us. It’s a JV disease. Now they’re trying to play catch-up, checking random passengers for fever. Which can be beaten with a couple of Advil or Tylenol. Imagine trying to fly with just a mild flu. You register 100.8 degrees and you get sent off to the sick ward, with who knows how many people and whatever disease they may have.

The Ebola outbreak is chaos theory in action: the butterfly wing-flap in Monrovia results in panic in Dallas and a work stoppage in Queens. So far. Good luck trying to keep up.

Comments (2)

What the Saudis Don’t Get

You’d need the Library of Congress to catalog it all, but this is the latest:

Ebola fears have stopped more than 7,000 West African Muslims attending an annual pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia implemented a travel ban.

The measure affects some 7,400 would-be pilgrims from the West African countries, which have been the hardest hit by the virus that is estimated to have killed more than 3,400 people.

‘That will continue until further notice until we are comfortable that it is not anymore an epidemic in these countries,’ Mr Faqih said.

About 12 per cent of the population of Liberia is Muslim, while more than a half are part of the religion in Guinea and Sierra Leone, reported Al Jazeera.

Silly Saudis, don’t you know that shutting the borders, banning travel, looking out for the health and safety of your own citizens is counterproductive? That’s what our health officials tell us. What are you, stupid?

That’s the least of your problems. Backward, inbred, psychotic, your intellect is hardly the issue. Just take it from your wiser Uncle Sam: when you see haggard, sunken-eyed zombies barfing a your border, throw open the gate and let them in. That’s how you cure this thing. Quarantine, bad; open borders, good.

M’kay? There’s a good little Wahabbi.


Thomas Eric Duncan, We Hardly Knew Ye

May your example serve as an inspiration to thousands who may also fear infection. Postponing treatment in (American sponsored) Liberian hospitals to fly across an ocean (and half a continent), telling felonious lies to Liberian and American officials, putting loved ones and strangers—up to and including emergency medical personnel—at risk of infection, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical care and panicking a nation.

And you still died.

God have mercy.


Finally, SENSE!

This is what I’ve been saying:

The human errors in this single [Duncan] case highlight why it is urgent that we ban all commercial flights from the impacted countries to all non-affected countries until the outbreak is contained.

Individuals who suspect they have been exposed to Ebola and have the means to travel to the United States have every reason to get on a plane to the United States as soon as possible. There are no direct flights from the three most-affected nations, but passengers can transfer elsewhere, as Duncan did. If they stay in Africa, the probability that they will survive the illness if they have it is quite low. If they make it to the United States, they can expect to receive the best medical care the world can provide, and they will have a much higher probability of survival. So they are motivated to lie about their exposure status (wouldn’t you, in their shoes?) to airlines and public health officials and travel to the United States.

The incubation period for Ebola is up to 21 days, so a person could get on a plane the day he or she is exposed and spend three weeks in the United States or elsewhere before exhibiting symptoms. Then he or she could potentially infect any number of people here before the disease is properly diagnosed, and they are isolated or quarantined.

Top U.S. government health officials have spoken strongly against creating a travel ban (though members of Congress increasingly disagree). They say restricting flights will also restrict aid to affected countries and will increase the amount of ongoing unrest. But commercial airlines are not the only ways for the United States to send aid and aid workers. The United States has the most advanced military in the entire world; we can transport people and supplies without commercial carriers.

Exactly. This is the medical argument. The argument against banning such flights is based on feelings.


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