Thursday, October 16, 2014


Ebola contracted by health care workers in supposedly well-prepared hospitals. Rumors of even more Ebola cases. Flyers continuing to arrive from West African countries. Much of America seems to think that all these things are happening here because of Barack Obama's singular refusal to do the right things. But as the Daily Beast's Barbie Latza Nadeau noted yesterday, all this is happening in Europe, too:
If you were surprised to hear the news that a Sudanese United Nations worker died of the deadly Ebola virus in a Berlin hospital on Tuesday, you might be even more surprised to learn just how many Ebola patients there are elsewhere in Europe.

The World Health Organization maintains that there are eight confirmed cases of the deadly virus in Europe tied to the current outbreak: two dead missionaries in Spain, one dead doctor in Germany, one cured man and one doctor in treatment in Germany, two tropical disease doctors in treatment in Holland and a Spanish nurse, Teresa Romero Ramos, under treatment in Spain. Romero Ramos contracted the virus from one of the dead Spanish missionaries. There are also at least a dozen or more suspect cases scattered around European hospitals that may or may not evolve into the full-blown virus.
A week and a half ago, I wrote about the case of Romero Ramos, and about Spanish nurses com plsining that safety in their hospitals was compromised, a problem they blamed on austerity-driven budget cuts. Their complaints sound awfully similar to what nurses and other health care workers are saying in America, although here the problem is for-profit-medicine corner-cutting, not central-bank-imposed austerity. (See, for instance, this grim e-mail from a Talking Points Memo reader whose wife works in a hospital that's clearly not prepared for Ebola.)

There's probably more Ebola than we know about in Europe:
... There is at least one nurse under quarantine in Germany who treated the deceased doctor there. If she is infected, she will now be the fourth health worker outside of West Africa who contracted the disease in a sterile hospital...
The other three are Romero Ramos and the two nurses in America. But that may not be the extent of it:
... As of Wednesday, there were suspected Ebola patients in hospitals in Cyprus, Rome, Brussels, Paris and London. The corpse of a British man who died in Macedonia is being flown to Frankfurt for Ebola testing. More than 100 people who were in contact with the Spanish nurse are under surveillance, being asked to take their temperatures twice a day; 16 people are under quarantine, including her beautician and housekeeper.
Conservatives (and quite a few non-conservatives) regard President Obama's refusal (so far) to ban travelers from affected countries as an act of incomprehensible recklessness, or even as a deliberate betrayal of the American people. But although conservatives have made much of the suspension of flights in and out of West Africa by certain national airlines, flyers from affected countries are still reaching Europe, and European heads of state don't seem to be in a hurry to tighten the restrictions:
One of the biggest concerns in Europe is the frequency of air traffic with West Africa. European hubs are a natural stopping point for many flights from Africa to other regions. A number of routes by major carriers have been suspended, but many still run flights. The United Nations and the World Health Organization have urged airlines not to cut off West Africa, pleading that continuing flights is the only way to save lives.

On Tuesday afternoon some of Italy’s emergency plans were put to the test when a Turkish Airways flight from Istanbul to Pisa made an emergency landing in Rome. According to the airport authority, two passengers from Bangladesh -- a mother and daughter -- started exhibiting Ebola symptoms. When they told flight attendants they had been to West Africa, alarm bells rang and the flight was diverted. They were taken off the plane by emergency officials dressed in biohazard suits and first screened at Rome’s airport before being rushed to Rome's Spallanzani hospital in a special ambulance. The rest of the passengers were asked to leave contact information in case the two suspect passengers test positive for the deadly virus, so they can be contacted if they need to start taking their own temperatures. The Turkish Airlines flight then continued on to its final destination.

The same day, Ebola panic struck the Glasgow airport after a passenger on a Dutch KLM flight fell ill. After emergency workers rushed to the scene and secured the area, the patient was diagnosed with the flu, not Ebola....
You can argue that the Europeans are reckless, too. But you can't argue that President Obama's actions attain some special level of recklessness.

And yet that's pretty much the mainstream view all over America.

1 comment:

Never Ben Better said...

Dunno whether that reassures me, that we aren't uniquely idiotic in assessing risk, or worries me, that we aren't the only country screwing up Ebola response through budget-cutting, hospital bureaucratic slowfootedness, and general human incompetence.