Stupidity is contagious

And you're surprised that I'm wearing a HazMat suit in public?
But we knew that already. Guess what else is highly contagious?
Two patients who had symptoms similar to those Ebola and were rushed to a New York hospital today do not have the virus, it was confirmed this afternoon. 
The pair were taken to New York City's Bellevue Hospital after falling ill, but the hospital has confirmed that they do not have the disease. 
Bellevue Hospital spokesman Ian Michaels told MailOnline: 'There are no patients at Bellevue with Ebola. 
'Two patients there this morning were evaluated and it was quickly determined they did not have the virus.

'Because of the heightened alert, hospitals will be using enhanced scrutiny and an abundance of caution when reviewing questionable cases, and are meticulously following all public health and CDC protocols.'

He do not specify what the diagnosis of the pair was or what condition they were in. 
According to the New York Daily News, the pair are believed to have recently return from a trip to Africa where the latest outbreak has killed more than 4,000 people. 

It reported EMS crews who dealt with the patients have also been isolated as a precaution. 

Bellevue Hospital has been established as NYC's Ebola intake center. 
It is kitted out with isolation units prepared to treat up to four patients and has the capacity to facilitate nine other patients if necessary. 
If the pair had tested positive for the virus, it would be the first case of the disease in New York.

Last week a Brooklyn teenager was rushed to the hospital after showing symptoms consistent with Ebola. 
The 14-year-old boy had a fever and was feeling fluish according to officials. 
He was brought to Brookdale Hospital where he remains in isolation, although doctors say he does not have the virus.

Yesterday a Dallas passenger was removed from an American Airlines flight at Nashville airport after vomiting on board. 
Passengers reported the person was being sick and possibly having a seizure as Flight 1676 arrived in Nashville at 11:29 p.m. Sunday. 
There were 140 passengers and five crew members on board - they were held on the runway until the sick passenger could be removed.

The passenger was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to be assessed, reports WSMV.

Officials said they are not concerned about this person having Ebola.
Here's another point of interest: Ebola wouldn't be spreading nearly as fast as it is if it weren't for active stupidity on the part of those put in charge of tackling the disease.

Think about it. Disease control is not a pleasant or enjoyable thing to have to do. But, conceptually, it isn't difficult. As John Ringo pointed out in The Last Centurion- which I will readily admit is a work of fiction, albeit one that actually has quite a lot of real science and maths going on in it- the basic method of fighting the spread of a highly infectious, or contagious, disease is to play Othello with it.

The idea essentially comes down to surrounding and containing the disease.

Essentially, the moment you discover an actual vector for the disease, you very swiftly quarantine it. Then you quarantine anyone who was in contact with that vector. And you quarantine anyone who was in contact with those people. And, if you really want to be thorough, you quarantine anyone who came in contact with those people.

Bearing in mind, though, that the average person comes into contact with anywhere from 10 to 18 people per day (most of those people are the same every day, admittedly), you're looking at an exponential curve. Curmudgeonly misanthropes like me who strongly dislike being touched can get by with not touching anyone the entire day- but if you're in the gym, or taking public transport, or going down to the shops, or whatever else, you ARE going to come into indirect contact with people whether you like it or not.

For those of a non-mathematical bent, this simply means that you're facing something similar to the green curve down below:

Just imagine f(x) = 10^x...
This should illustrate exactly why getting a move on as early as possible is so important. Exponential spread of a disease means that within a few weeks of a truly virulent disease with a high mortality rate results in thousands dead within a few weeks.

Now at this point let me be very clear that I am dramatically oversimplifying things.

Ebola isn't easy to catch. You have to be in direct contact with fluids- blood, sweat, urine, faeces, vomit, sperm, etc.- from someone with the actual disease. The disease has a long incubation period of about 3 weeks. And in the modern West, its mortality rate isn't 90%, it's more like 40%- so still pretty terrible, just not as terrible as it is in the benighted Third World.

But you're still looking at a very nasty scenario where hundreds can be quickly infected and dozens can die within the space of a month.

The only way to stop a disease like this dead in its tracks is to shut down its ability to infect people. You have to get on top of it right away, you have to stay on top of it for an extended period, and you have to be willing to suffer the (severe) economic consequences of doing so. To hell with the economy- to hell with everything- until the plague runs its course.

Of course, doing any of this would actually require, um, doing something to shut down immigration and travel from all the countries where the little brown brothers and sisters live. And that, as far as I can tell, is the only plausible explanation as to why the Obarmy administration has done a sum total of almost nothing to contain this disease.

I don't know if it's wishful thinking, incompetence, galactic levels of stupidity, or all three at once.

I do know that if a true world-killer plague ever got loose- like, say, bird flu or swine flu jumping to humans with mutated viral binding sites- then a response like the current one would leave the country in ruins.

Think upon that for a moment. Imagine a plague with a mortality rate of 40-60%, transmissible via airborne pathogens- i.e. you just need to be standing near someone to be at risk, never mind touching his or her body- and capable of crossing borders with virtual impunity because the average incubation period is more than two weeks.

We're not facing that, not yet. But if we were, imagine if the people in charge of running this country responded to that threat in the same way that they have been responding to this one.

It's enough to give grown men screaming nightmares.


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