Monday, December 1, 2014

Government and Ebola

Physicians may not always be unbiased when it comes to issues such as the Affordable Care Act and similar subjects that govern how they work and how their incomes may be affected. The non-medical community may certainly and rightly differ with their points of view.   But when it comes to evaluating the facts regarding science-based health issues, physicians whose medical and scientific expertise is well recognized should be listened to, and their recommendations generally followed.

A recent editorial in the highly regarded New England Journal of Medicine (Nov 20) discusses the matter of Ebola virus and quarantine.  It points out how the 21-day quarantine on health care workers returning to the United States from West Africa is "unfair and unwise, and will impede essential efforts to stop these awful outbreaks....."  Government should listen to the presentation of the facts and not "drive a carpet tack with a sledgehammer."

1.  Ebola is transmitted via contact with bodily fluids.
2.  Viral transmission occurs only when the viral load is very high, which is why asymptomatic individuals are not considered contagious.
3.  Fever precedes the contagious stage.
4.  The blood test for Ebola only becomes positive 2-3 days after the onset of fever or symptoms, supporting absence of contagion prior to that time.

It is important to remember that only those individuals caring for Thomas Duncan (the American who died in a Texas hospital from Ebola) at the time of hospitalization, when he had a very high viral load, became infected, while his family members, exposed during the very early start of his illness, were unaffected.

Government officials who ignore the facts and follow their "instincts" in order to achieve what they believe to be "the greater good" for their constituents, must provide the public with some evidence to support these unscientific and unsubstantiated programs which, in fact, are more harmful than helpful.

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