By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Ebola vs. Flu
If you go by media coverage and public sentiment, the most important public-health problem in the United States right now is Ebola. Though the virus has infected only two people here, a recent poll found that forty per cent of Americans see Ebola as a “major or moderate threat” to public health, as Michael Specter points out in this week’s Comment. Meanwhile, over the past month, another infectious disease, Enterovirus D68, has made its way into the headlines. The virus causes respiratory problems, often severe, in children, and, in rare cases, kids infected with the virus have come down with muscle paralysis (it’s still not known whether the virus is actually causing the paralysis). So far, almost six hundred children, in forty-five states, have been infected by the virus, and though most have recovered quickly, five have died. Anxiety among parents has grown so much that some now wonder if we’ve been worrying too much about Ebola, and not enough about enterovirus.
In reality, we’re worrying too much about both Ebola and EV-D68, and too little about an infectious disease that is much more likely to inflict serious damage on the U.S. I’m talking, of course, about the flu. We know, based on past experience, that the upcoming flu season will kill thousands of Americans and send hundreds of thousands to the hospital. Yet the press seems relatively diffident about raising an alarm about this threat; its flu coverage has none of the high-pitched anxiety that suffuses writing about Ebola or EV-D68. EV-D68 has provoked headlines like “How Well is Sacramento Prepared for Ebola, Enterovirus Outbreak?” and “What Scares You More—Enterovirus D-68 or Ebola?” No one is asking “What Scares You More: Ebola or the Flu? (Continued: The New Yorker)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 10, 2014
Has Ottawa been too slow to take on radicalized Canadians?
Canada is sending fighter jets to take part in air strikes against Islamic State fighters abroad. That we know.
But closer to home, the Conservative government isn’t saying much about its promised comprehensive plan to deal with jihadist recruits who are either planning to go to, or are returning from, overseas conflicts.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney appeared before a Commons committee on Wednesday, flanked by the heads of the RCMP and CSIS, to discuss the government’s efforts to combat homegrown extremism.
What he had to say amounted to a recap of criminal legislation the government has already passed, measures aimed at punishing rather than preventing, the radicalization of Canadians.
It’s one thing for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to ramble on about the “root causes” of terrorism, as he did with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge after the Boston Marathon bombing, but no Conservative wants to be heard saying the same.
Instead, Blaney ran through a set of now well-worn numbers.
Among them, Canadian authorities are aware of at least 130 Canadians suspected of taking part in terrorism-related activities in places such as Syria, Iraq and Somalia. About 80 have returned to Canada.
“I can confirm for Canadians that, as we speak, the RCMP is investigating these individuals and will seek to put them behind bars where they belong,” Blaney solemnly informed the public safety committee.
But who these individuals are — what they have done, how they became radicalized — on those matters, Blaney offered little.
Instead, he repeated the pledge made last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that additional measures are coming soon.
“Preventing violent extremism is an essential element of our response, and that is why some of the important work is being done in this regard as we speak.” (Source: CBC News)
By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, October 3, 2014
On The Alert For Ebola, Texas Hospital Still Missed First Case
Hospitals have been on the lookout for the Ebola virus in the United States, and Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas was no exception. A nurse there did ask about the travel history of the patient who later turned out to be infected with the virus. But some members of the medical team didn’t hear that the man had recently been in West Africa. So he was initially sent home — even though he was experiencing symptoms of Ebola, and that meant he was contagious.
When the man returned two days later, by ambulance, hospital staffers finally realized what they might be dealing with.
The patient is now in isolation and being treated, while public health workers are tracking and monitoring anyone who had close contact with him.
Edward Goodman, hospital epidemiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian, said government officials have recently been bombarding hospitals with information on how to properly screen and isolate patients.
Just last week, in fact, a team at his hospital had a meeting to go over a special checklist sent out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We were prepared,” Goodman said.
Despite that preparation, they missed it. (Source: NPR)