(An aside from my usual libertarian leanings to show that government service isn’t the only place where IQ points erode.)
By now you’ve probably heard about the Ebola case in Texas. And you might be more worried than you would otherwise because you heard he went to the hospital, and then got sent home again:
“It doesn’t surprise me that the man was sent home initially because the disease presents just like a bad cold of flu at first. But you need to ask if the person has been traveling. This would be the tipoff that further testing is needed,” said Dr. Michael Zimring, director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
All the hoopla about Ebola–he even told the nurse he’d been in Africa–and the nurse didn’t pass that gem of information on. Well, that’s something to fuel the fears of an Ebola pandemic in the U.S.
But there’s another thing about this case that people are probably overlooking, something health officials have warning about for years, and apparently the message still isn’t getting through:
After the patient sought medical care on Sept. 26 and was sent home with antibiotics, he returned in an ambulance to Texas Health Presbyterian two days later and was admitted, said Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at the hospital.
OK, let me get this straight: they thought it was either a bad cold or flu–both of which are viruses— and they gave him antibiotics, which don’t work on viruses. The only argument for giving antibiotics to someone with the flu is to ward off bacterial infections that could develop with it, like pneumonia. So even if we assume they were living in a bottle and didn’t know a nasty infection like Ebola was up and about, they still treated him incorrectly.
Ebola is scary, but containable. And while our attention is on Ebola, people aren’t thinking about all the uncontained little nasties going around. I worry less about what Ebola will do directly than about what will happen indirectly because Ebola is drawing focus away from other dangers. Like remembering not to throw antibiotics at a viral infection. Apparently, hospitals are working to set us up for a super-bacteria to come along and wipe us out after the Ebola virus runs its course.
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