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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ebola: Our Obligations

A World of Risk

Spain has the dubious distinction of having produced the very first person outside Africa to contract the Ebola virus. The patient is a nurse who somehow became infected in spite of the fact that she wore the Haz-Mat suit and knew the protocols to avoid contamination. Now, I think that as she struggles against the virus, everyone in Spain is with her, saying in our minds, "Come on Teresa, you can beat it!" She has to beat it, because the health care community are rioting in the street. How could this have happened? We can't have a situation where care givers refuse to treat patients out of fear for their own lives. There has already been one case where a caregiver has refused on the basis of lack of training.

I survived the last killer plague, AIDS, through dumb luck. Like most people, I had no idea a killer was on the loose until the news broke that my activities over the last ten years might have put me at risk. AIDS first appeared as a homosexual illness, but then quickly mutated into both homosexual and hetrosexual threats. I would like to say that I survived due to prudent and sensible actions on my part, but that would not be correct.

Ebola has been around for a long time, during which there have been several outbreaks and containments, always in Africa. The latest outbreak has so far been the worse, and now it has spread into Europe and The United States of America. Now, Ebola has our attention because its in our backyards and we are personally at risk.

As a natural part of our daily lives we pass all sorts of nasties between one another. During the flu season we see how fast that gets passed around through coughing and sneezing, and the simple handling of money. It is just unavoidable. Normally these things are not deadly, although people have died because of complications, but Ebola is another matter. This is deadly!

We here in Spain are a long way away from panic stations, but we should start now to develop behaviour, as it is our obligations to protect one another, and especially to protect ourselves. What should we be doing?

We should replace the Japanese style bow for the handshake.
We should carry a small bottle of disinfectant to use for the health of our hands.
We should use the plastic gloves that are provided in supermarkets to handle fruits and vegatables.
We should use air kisses to replace kissing on the cheeks.
We should think about using face masks when mixing with large groups of people to avoid sneezing into densely packed spaces of people. This would also have the added benefit of not taking in other people's sneeze droplets.
When moving among large groups of people we should use latex gloves when touching the railings on steps, doorknobs, escalators, etc. Equally important is not to allow the exposed side of the glove to touch naked skin. Wear the gloves when visiting your doctor's office.

There will be other commonsense things that perhaps we can do to stop the virus, but keep in mind that transmission is through coming into contact with human bodily fluids, and every minute of every hour of each day we gleefully exchange bodily fluids with selected mates. However, one of those  fluids might include freshly placed infected sweat from  the infected person ahead of you who has a fever and sweaty palms. Touch that with your exposed hands and it will be Gotcha!

Ebola is a complicated subject. I think it is probably in your interest to Wikipedia the topic to gain a broad understanding of what we all face. It would be a grave mistake to think that this deadly virus can't get out of control in a modern society with soap and hot and cold running water. We though that about AIDS.

Another thing to bear in mind is that a person who was infected, but who survived because the virus has somehow passed from his blood, is still infectious for up to three months in his seman. You might indeed want to celebrate the all clear signal to him, but think condoms!

Copyright (c) 2014  Eugene Carmichael