Sickness and mourning and Ebola

What with the news of higher and higher numbers of Ebola suffers in Africa this year, and the high death count (I’ve seen as high as 71% of the people who contract Ebola in this current outbreak have died), naturally the question of “how far will this disease spread” is a common one. Usually, in the news I read, this also is accompanied by “will it spread to the United States?” and “will it become an epidemic in the United States?”

We are assured that it won’t come here, and we are further assured that our hygiene and medical system/burial practices can handle it even if it does come here, so we shouldn’t be worried.

Am I worried? No. There are many other things I need to worry about before I worry if anyone I know contracts Ebola. But it isn’t logical to take these assuaging statements as facts.

First, will it come here? Well, it already is here. 4 people have been flown into the country already with the disease. The first 3 were flown in with much fanfare in specialized airplanes, the first 2 to Emory University in Georgia, the third to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha Nebraska, (which by the way, he was released today: US Ebola Patient Released; Says He Feels Great

We haven’t heard much about the 4th patient, though. He walked into the hospital after getting a flight to a local Air Force base in Georgia, and is also being treated at Emory. New Ebola Patient Arrives in U.S. for Treatment They haven’t released his name, nor how bad the illness is for him.

Also, there is the fact that tens of thousands of “unaccompanied minors” – or you know, 35 year olds claiming they are minors, or anyone else who wants to, can cross our borders. What do they have? Scabies, tuberculosis, measles, Enterovirus 68? I know the first two are true. The fourth had a sharp uptick in America this year, where it hasn’t been common, though it is common in other parts of the world…a tidbit that was in the first article I saw about this virus, but not in any subsequent articles I saw. The fact that we don’t know who is coming across is a major health threat. What would stop someone with Ebola from driving down from Canada or walking up from Mexico? Or flying right in to the country? We don’t quarantine anyone anymore, and the virus has a 3 week incubation period.

Second, yes, I know there is a difference between 3rd world Africa and 1st world America when it comes to hygiene. We tend to shower and wash our hands much more frequently than those in Africa, and we do have flush toilets and not latrines. And as shown by the 4 that have been treated, we are reasonably sure that the virus hasn’t spread beyond them. But at Emory, they have had trouble dealing with the waste associated with treating this disease…gloves, hazmat suits, diarrhea and vomit and blood, etc. “CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency isn’t aware of any packaging that is approved for handling Ebola waste.” And this at the premier hospital for treating Ebola victims! What happens at the podunk hospitals I am surrounded by?

And before the person is sick enough to be taken to the hospital, how are they treated at home? Boobock had a fever a few weeks ago. I just held him all weekend. Held him, and when we wanted to see if he had a fever, I kissed his forehead before getting the thermometer out. When he needed medicine to break the fever and kept refusing – I could get the small portion of they syringe in, but he clamped his lips up so the entire thing wouldn’t go in – DH put the syringe of medicine in his mouth and said “yummy!” and then tried to get Boobock to take it, which he finally did. And when he puked the one time, I wasn’t prepared. I caught it in my hands, yelling for DH to get a bowl, and then he took Boobock and I went to the bathroom to clean my hands in the sink. I washed it off, but it went down the drain. He was better by Sunday, and DH and I never got sick. So, what if he had had Ebola? All three of us would probably have contracted it. Because we haven’t seen this disease in this country before, many people won’t take it seriously enough at the beginning (like we didn’t treat his fever very seriously), and then panic will take us too far in the other direction, swamping ERs and doctor’s offices.

Thinking about this, someone would have to physically tear me away from Boobock if he got Ebola. Someone would have to physically block me from holding him and comforting him. I do not know how I could handle seeing my 3 year old behind plastic, feverish, vomiting, crying, with diarrhea, scared to death, and not hold him and try to calm him. And that is with me knowing about germs/hygiene, and how deadly this virus is! How can we expect people who most likely don’t know what is causing this disease, nor how it is spread, to hygienically care for their loved ones?

And let’s look at “cold and flu season”. How many of you go to work when you are sick? How many of you proudly exclaim how your fever was awful yesterday, and even though you sound like your lung is about to be hacked up your throat and stuffing tampons in your nostril to stop the flow of snot is looking pretty good right about now, you made it in today! “Give me a medal for spreading this to everyone in the office!” you gleefully exude.

Anti-bacterial soap and hand cleaners don’t work on viruses, yo.

Do we know how to clean up after someone who is sick? Does Clorox kill Ebola? If you wash it off down the drain, is that a health hazard? CAN you wash it off down the drain with soap? How hot do things have to be to sterilize them? Hot water in the washing machine? Boiling gets up to 212*. Pressure canners get up to 245* or 255*. Is that hot enough? For how long does it require?

Finally, I hear many media reports on the virus talking about the “burial custom of touching the body” in Africa. Well, let me tell you, that ain’t just in Africa. The last two funerals I went to, I saw people touch the deceased’s hands in a farewell gesture. I saw people give a kiss on the forehead and hug the deceased. And then wipe their eyes or blow their nose, with nary a thought. We know that these two funerals were not for Ebola victims, though. That should make a difference, if the person is diagnosed. What if they aren’t?

And what if they are? What happens when someone dies of Ebola in this country? Are they cremated? Are all crematoriums able to handle something like this? If not, where do we ship the bodies? Across the interstate? Fly them? I don’t know, and I haven’t heard much discussion about it.

But I’m not *worried*. This isn’t keeping me up at night. I just don’t believe we are permanently in the clear like we have been told we are.

3 thoughts on “Sickness and mourning and Ebola

  1. Karen.

    Probably the best thing I’ve read that elucidates these points. I’m much more worried about my kids’ chickenpox than their potential to get Ebola. But I’m under no delusion that we (the U.S.) won’t get Ebola.


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