So This Is How We’re Going to Respond to the Killer Death Virus?

So two power-hungry, corrupt, thuggish governors, New Jersey’s Chris Christie and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have decided to enact their own public health Ebola policy. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, according to Doctors Without Borders, one of their nurses who returned to the U.S. and sort of tested positive for Ebola (we’ll return that later), is currently being held in quarantine under these conditions (boldface mine):

Upon arrival at Newark University Hospital, Ms. Hickox was placed in a tent set up as an isolation ward adjacent to the main hospital building. Her temperature was again taken with an oral thermometer and was normal.

Hospital personnel are keeping her in isolation and have not informed her of any next steps, including additional blood tests to confirm Ebola infection with certainty.

She has been issued with an order of quarantine, which does not clearly indicate how long she must remain in isolation.

While she is being provided with food and water, the tent is not heated and she is dressed in uncomfortable paper scrubs. She was permitted to bring personal belongings into the tent.

That’s right: in the Greatest Nation on Earth, the Indispensable Nation, God’s Gift to Humanity, and so on, we can’t even keep someone who could possibly be infected with a lethal disease in a heated room. The low last night in Newark was 50˙F (10˙C).

This is the fucking plan? To keep potentially sick people outside in 50˙F weather? (Mind you, even if she does have a fever, it could be something other than Ebola). I realize the hospital is where Newark Airport patients are usually taken, but this is the KILLER DEATH VIRUS. Shouldn’t we be taking patients to, I don’t know, a room with four walls? And heat? It seems like New Jersey is making it up as they go along.

Sadly, that’s not even the most disconcerting thing about this whole response. According to the nurse, here’s how the diagnosis of fever was reached (boldface mine):

Then he escorted me to the quarantine office a few yards away. I was told to sit down. Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks, and a disposable face shield.

One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.

Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.

I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.

Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.

I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong.

Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101.

The female officer looked smug. “You have a fever now,” she said.

I explained that an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset.

I was left alone in the room for another three hours. At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.

Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong….

At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don’t have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”

After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felt my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”

My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.

It’s not clear that she’s febrile–she doesn’t appear to have a fever at all–which is not stopping Governor Christie from describing her as “obviously ill.” Because misrepresenting facts is a great way to engender trust.

Admittedly, this is her side of the story, but reading her account, it’s almost as if customs officials had concluded that they were going to quarantine her, and were trying to find a way to do so. Though it would be inconceivable to think that U.S. security forces might force facts to fit an unsupported conclusion.

Here’s the kicker. On the off chance she does have Ebola, will the State of New Jersey force hospital personnel to remain in quarantine as well? What about all of the people who interrogated her? Will they be quarantined as well? (and what about Kevin Bacon?) Most importantly, have they even considered this question? (I’m guessing no).

Christie and Cuomo are handling this worse than Texas Gov. Rick Perry did. For those of you in the slow sarcasm group, that’s not a compliment.

This is not a good development.

This entry was posted in Fucking Morons, Public Health, Viruses. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to So This Is How We’re Going to Respond to the Killer Death Virus?

  1. anthrosciguy says:

    What’s Christy doing leaving the state? He came from New Jersey! Doesn’t he realize that must mean HE COULD HAVE IT TOO??!!??!!!!

  2. anthrosciguy says:

    OMFG! I just read news reports saying Christie has been shaking peoples’ hands in Iowa! Expand the quarantine! No flights out of Iowa!!!

  3. Pingback: What I’m Reading – October 26, 2014 – ASK Musings

  4. Ed White says:

    Thank you Mike. As a microbiologist I cringe at their policy and their treatment of this nurse. This is going to backfire on them bigtime.

  5. Most bizarrely illogical and needlessly grotesquely inhumane.

    And the comments I read last night under her story made me feel physically ill from embarrassment for my fellow humans, some who, at once, present themselves as utterly clueless, pointlessly judgmental, and harshly sadistic.

    Meanwhile loads of people continue to contract C. diff at hospitals & get untimely diagnoses, and catch MRSA at their local medical centers & get misdiagnoses of having been bitten by spiders that don’t even exist in their region.

    And then there are the thousands of people who suffer, are hospitalized, or even die from flu.

    We don’t quarantine them or treat them like criminals.
    Indeed – we do just the opposite as a society, really. We act like they’re criminals if they quarantine themselves.

    Workers with the flu or other contagious illnesses are not just penalized for quarantining themselves by taking off time from work – if they don’t have paid sick leave… but they’re actually threatened with being fired if they don’t show up to work with the flu.

    I think many people would be aghast if they realized just how many people collecting unemployment benefits are unemployed MERELY because of their employers having an inflexible arbitrary attendance point system where they were fired from their job after missing work because they were TEMPORARILY sick (or even hospitalized) with flu, sinus infections, c. diff, or whatever.

    Which means there are many others that keep their jobs by working with those illnesses… interacting with coworkers in close quarters, dealing with the public, dealing with the elderly, responsible for the safety of others, or even handling your food.

    The real danger to U.S. citizens is not from educated competent aid workers returning from Africa and announcing themselves as such.

    The danger WOULD BE when, because of fear of being held & imprisoned or mistreated, the person returning from Africa comes home in a way to avoid the hassle they heard about. Then ignores symptoms because they’re uneducated or in denial of the danger or frightened about being penalized or mistreated… meanwhile infects someone else — someone who’s shit scared of being fired for missing work, and instead goes into work already throwing up.

    I think somebody should really do a study on the threat to public health that is an employee absentee point system.
    I know I don’t want to working at one of those places, or interact with anyone who does, when a real epidemic arises.

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