The news today is full of the first reported infection of Ebola within Europe. A Spanish nurse who treated an infected missionary flown home to Spain for treatment has the disease and her husband and three others are now being tested for presence of the disease with a total of 22 being monitored.
Compared to the numbers of doctors and nurses who become infected because they are treating Ebola cases one nurse is hardly huge. But this happened in Europe, in Western Europe, in a technological first world nation at a hospital that was chosen to treat this Ebola patient because it was considered to be well equipped for such a task.
For months now the world has watched the increase in Ebola cases from a distance. It’s just Africa, far away, backward third world countries who can’t handle a disease. This is Europe say our media and politicians, we have nothing to worry about.
The UK was proudly boasting that it has two, that’s TWO, full lock down contagious disease treatment beds ready for an Ebola victim.
This is one of the two beds, well equipped, everything needed to treat a victim. As long as the UK doesn't need to treat more than two at once we will be fine.
But at the same time the UK is showing its two beds reports from Africa talk of 40 bed treatment centres with people dying on the floors and in the corridors and more dying in the streets because they cannot be bought to the treatment centres. Thousands of reported cases, estimates of four or five times as many unreported cases.
But don’t worry, this is Western Europe, we are well trained and equipped to deal with this problem, its only Africa that cannot cope.
In the US it was all reassuring words and tones. The CDC are fully prepared, this is America, best medical facilities in the world. Our doctors are fully briefed, our hospitals are ready, the CDC is the best available. Nothing to worry about.
Then Thomas Duncan flew in from Africa by way of at least one stopover in Europe. Despite the fact that he knew he had been in contact with an infectious Ebola case in Africa, he had helped take his landlords daughter to a treatment centre where she was then turned away and nine people including the woman had then died of the disease, he felt it was fine for him to fly to the US via Europe.
Now the case can be made either way for him not knowing or just being poorly educated about Ebola but it is known that when he became ill in the US he DID inform the doctor and medical centre that he was from Liberia. They sent him home with antibiotics. Because, after all, this is America, Ebola is an African problem.
That worked well.
Ebola is an often fatal disease, it requires intensive medical support and hydration to offer any real chance of survival. But it’s not the world destroying pandemic disease, it’s not airborne (yet and hopefully never) and it’s fairly easy to clean up.
If that is you have the basic idea of how to deal with it rather than a staggeringly huge egotistical failing that Western hospitals and staff are all powerful and there is nothing to worry about.
Household bleach is strong enough to kill it on any surface, it doesn’t last long on contaminated surfaces, optimal conditions six days but the warmer it is the shorter it lasts. At normal room temperature if may last no more than hours.
The place you catch it is most often an infected person by coming into contact with bodily fluids which are highly contagious. So simply by using bleach and by not coming into contact with those bodily fluids there will be no problem, right?
Western hospitals are well equipped to handle this; it’s just Africa with dirt floored hospitals and a handful of trained medical people that have to worry, right?
Then we have reality.
The Spanish medical authorities had two incoming Ebola cases, Spanish citizens who were being flown home to be treated. So they picked the best hospital for the job, well trained staff and with all the equipment they needed. Because after all, Western Europe, modern technological nation, nothing to worry about.
Then we have the nightmare behind that arrogance.
Madrid’s Carlos III hospital where the Spanish Ebola cases is now reporting that its equipment is substandard. The Hazmat suits it uses do NOT meet World Health Authority standards and the staff have NOT been adequately trained in using such equipment.
Then on top of that when the Nurse came into contact with bodily fluids from an infections patient it was not noticed. She went home to potentially infect her husband and others before reporting back to the hospital with a fever.
This in the hospital chosen by Spain as being the best available to handle Spanish citizens who had caught Ebola in Africa. Where staff are threatening to strike or are already walking out because of the risk to them posed by poor training and equipment.
Makes you think doesn't it.
In the US when Mr Duncan was finally taken to hospital because he was displaying clear signs they still didn't start any sort of containment measures. The CDC claims that they were alerted and dealing with the situation within two hours and yet days later the family members who had been caring for him were still on in isolation and his home had not been cleaned.
The family were told to stay at home but nothing seems to have been done to enforce that quarantine and they were seen coming and going from the house several times. In addition by quarantining them in the house where the victim had been they were locking them in with the disease making possible infection from contaminated surfaces more likely.
Now a week later the family and others thought to be at risk have finally been moved to a supposedly controlled environment and a hazmat cleaning crew has finally cleaned up the home.
Compare this with what we see on the news and satellite channels where African teams dealing with Ebola victims spray bleach on anything and everything that may be contaminated and are wrapped up in multiple layers of protective clothing.
But then Africa has been burning the dead for months now and fully understands what they are dealing with, the West, the oh so arrogant west, not so much.
Ebola is NOT a world ender; it is made more dangerous because of its much longer than normal incubation period of up to three weeks before symptoms appear and the victim becomes infectious. So a person can become infected and fly around the world before symptoms appear.
But and this is the big but, ignorance and an attitude in the west that it is not a problem make it far more dangerous make it far more dangerous.
Even now in the 21st century in the information age far too many people, even medical professionals who should have been briefed, do not seem to have a clue. Someone with fever, headache, body aches, cough, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea may have one of a number of diseases, but if they have just come from Africa the one at the top of the list should be Ebola.
After all the world has had months to prepare for this. But then it’s just an African problem, nothing to worry about here in the west. Or bother preparing for or informing people about.
With routine levels of checks and body searches at airports how hard is it to use thermal scanners to spot anyone with above a 97 degree body temperature as a first line of checks. Apparently too difficult or not something that has needed because it will not spot anyone who is infected and not yet showing a fever and anyone who has come into contact with the disease will freely admit so when they fill in the questionnaires, right?
Here is the thing. Ebola can be dealt with by preventing people catching it, household bleach, basic measures to avoid contact etc. African tribal conditions and attitudes are making the problem far worse that it should be because even in the 21st century the number of people lacking modern education number in the many millions in these areas.
But Europe or the US are not Africa. The hospitals are well equipped and the staff well trained. The population knows all about Ebola and how to respond. Right?
I hope that the cases in Spain and the US make our western medical people sit up and pay attention because it’s not Ebola that is going to kill us; it’s the incredibly arrogant attitude that the West can handle it easily so there is nothing to worry about. If the best Hospital in Spain cannot handle two cases without its medical staff getting infected what does that say for the best hospitals elsewhere in Europe? What about the worst hospitals?
When the CDC doesn't bother to quarantine the family of a victim or clean his house for days after a positive diagnosis when they are dealing with just one case how will they respond to two case, or ten or one hundred?
The risk isn't Ebola; it’s the complacence of the West towards it.