I do not understand the official response to the quarantining of Nurse Kaci Hickox.
Here’s my understanding of the situation:
Kaci Hickox is a member of a group called “Doctors Without Borders”, a group of volunteer medical professionals who travel to very poor disease-ridden areas around the world to help those who otherwise would never get medical care. She recently went to Sierra Leone and freely disclosed that she had actually been working with patients infected by the outbreak of Ebola devastating small villages there.
Ebola, for anyone who doesn’t know by now, is a hemorrhagic fever that sounds related to that holiday-misery-maker Norovirus. Except as miserable as norovirus is – and let me tell you, for some of us it's no simple 24-hour flu bug as my sister who took a year for her gut to recover will tell you – it’s got nothing on Ebola. Not to be too ridiculously graphic, but how does the thought of dying in great pain while bleeding from pretty much everywhere strike you? Oh and by the way, first you’ll spend a while possibly with a high fever, but most certainly with intense abdominal pain, throwing up and having uncontrolled diarrhea. Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to get horribly graphic…but this is not a little sniffle bug we’re talking about here. This is a nasty, nasty disease, the kind you hear about in dystopian science fiction stories. And personally, to me the politics surrounding it right now sound straight out of the same kind of scary story.
After spending a time working with sick people in Sierra Leone, Kaci Hickox returned to the United States and expected to walk off the airplane in New Jersey and head home to Maine as if she had never heard of a hemorrhagic fever raging in the country she’d just left. A fever she’d been around multiple times. A fever other nurses were contracting. And incidentally, when Nurse Hickox got off the plane, it was discovered a few hours later that she was running a slight fever.
You or I under these circumstances would probably have done the same thing the folks in charge in New Jersey did: get this lady secluded FAST before anyone else gets sick!
In case you’ve already forgotten my earlier description, let me reference bleeding from the eyes while dying in great pain from a disease with a whopping 50% mortality rate. Influenza, by the way - that dreaded killer we’re all suppose to rush to our nearest drugstore to get immunized against or else we’re horrible people who want to start a world pandemic - has a 0.5% mortality rate.
Nurse Hickox is a medical professional. I assume she knows these numbers if I do. But when she was immediately placed under quarantine after getting off the plane with a temperature, her first actions were to insist that not only was she feeling fine and not ill, but her civil rights were being violated by being place in quarantine against her will. The White House immediately got involved and the next thing you know, Governor Chris Christie caved to pressure and ordered Kaci Hickox released from quarantine and sent home with apparently a promise to self-monitor. “Oh, she hasn’t gotten anything in twenty-four hours, so we’re letting her go,” was pretty much the conclusion.
As I understand it, when you have a disease with a twenty-one day incubation period, you can be fine for twenty days (or four-hundred-fifty-eight hours) and then come down with it on the twenty-first day, presumably exposing everyone you come in contact with from that point on. So to say someone is fine in twenty-four hours is kind of silly, though I guess if her temperature went back down and she tested negative for Ebola I can see why at that point it was pretty safe to get her back to Maine where hopefully she could just have some quiet time at home for a few weeks until she was sure all was well and she could resume being out and about as usual.
But Kaci Hickox is not sitting peacefully at home recovering from jet lag and taking it easy for a few weeks. She has gone on a campaign to deliberately violate the quarantine she was asked to maintain. She feels great, so she’s determined to go out and about if she wants to. From what I can see, her standard of concern about spreading a horrific disease ends with whatever “medical science” has determined necessary and apparently, quarantine is “not a medically proven” way to stop the spread of a contagious disease.
Let me say that again: according to this particular nurse – and her lawyer, and multiple political people – staying away from everyone until you’re sure you’re not sick isn’t medically proven to prevent the spread of a virus.
I guess I can sort of see why when she’s not sick she’s not particularly concerned about spreading anything. As far as we know, as with norovirus you can't spread Ebola if you don't have any symptoms yet. Still, for the peace of mind of her neighbors and relatives and just on the off-chance that a disease we don’t know that much about might be contagious before we think it is…why is she heroically defending her civil right to ignore a sensible precaution? More strangely yet, why is this such an important point that even the White House is insisting a quarantine not be used to prevent the spread of Ebola?
Because, our leaders postulate, to quarantine everyone returning from these countries would discourage people from going over there to help treat the disease. Because even if you’re courageous enough to go help people who are dying while bleeding from their eyes, you’re probably going to chicken out if you find out you’ll have to stay in quarantine three weeks when you get back, apparently.
Invoking images from the shameful behavior of citizens to our soldiers returning from Vietnam, the President sternly lectured us this week that we need to treat our returning aide workers “right” and not subject them to all this outdated and pointless posturing like routinely quarantining them to make sure they don't spread anything when they get home.
Unless you belong to the military, of course. Turns out the soldiers being sent to help in Ebola-ravaged areas are still being placed in mandatory quarantine until it becomes clear they haven't gotten sick. So medical professionals can freely come and go without any concern at all...but watch out for those soldiers because they might carelessly spread the plague around!
I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on with the administration in charge. They haven’t wanted to ban travel to and from the countries affected. They haven’t wanted to give us accurate information about the disease. They haven’t wanted anyone to quarantine anyone who might be contagious. They didn’t even seem to take it seriously when a nurse who’d treated an Ebola patient wanted to travel even though she already had a fever and one of her co-workers was also sick and suspected of having the disease. Sure, they responded with heavy-handed force once the traveling nurse tested positive – they stripped everything from her apartment and got rid of it even though the Ebola virus has proven to live only a few hours on surfaces – but the whole saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” seems to have been tailor-made for our officials in this situation. They have pretended the issue didn’t exist at all and act annoyed that anyone would be worried about it during the ounce of prevention stage, that’s for sure.
The really paranoid black-helicoptor-sighting part of me says it’s almost as if they WANT there to be an epidemic of Ebola here. I can’t figure out why that would be beneficial to anyone, but their actions are certainly not those of people who want to prevent the spread of sickness. They took the Swine Flu thing last year a whole lot more seriously. If I had a nickel for every time I heard or read the word “pandemic”, I would be a lot richer today…and we don’t even own a television.
Maybe that’s what has me worried. Why is it that we’re pressured every which way from Wednesday to get the flu vaccine but we’re not supposed to worry about Ebola unless someone has already tested positive for it? Why is the White House putting heavy pressure on the states who want to quarantine aide workers? What could they possibly gain by it?
The only reasonably possible explanation I can come to (after I consider maybe some bizarre form of population control or racial overtones saying the United States has a guilt-ridden duty to help black countries no matter what the cost) is that this is an election cycle. There’s a big election in just a few days. Rule of thumb is that when people get scared during an election year, they kick out the party in power if that party can’t show strong leadership and present an immediately effective solution to the problem.
I think no one in charge really has much of a solution for Ebola right now, so the official stance is to try and keep people from getting scared. Hence… “Ebola? What Ebola? Oh, that Ebola. Why, that’s nothing. Nothing at all. Don’t worry about it. Remain calm. And when we do have a solution, we’ll proclaim it loudly and all will be well.”
It's about their images. It's about people not getting scared and acquiring a "vote the bums out!" attitude even more than they already have given the chaos our entire healthcare system has been thrown into. It's about the same thing it's always about when it comes to some kinds of officials: looking good, not looking for real answers.
But to be honest…I still don’t understand.
I really hope Kaci Hickox remains in excellent health.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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