Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola crisis, why now?


The failure of hospital workers to follow protocols and adequately protect themselves from the Ebola virus is something that should have been addressed a long time ago on a national scale and updated annually. Doing it on the fly will probably not work out well. There are grounds for being deeply suspicious of the integrity of the CDC, but it is a fact that their budgets have been cut steadily by a myopic Congress more intent on funding the US efforts to screw over the rest of the world and rescuing bankers from the consequences of their crimes than with meeting the needs of the folks who elected them.
Anyone who has trained in the use of haz-mat protection gear knows that understanding how to use it in theory is the easy part.  The hard part is retraining a lifetime of habits and becoming mindful of where every part of your body is and what it's doing. I've only trained in nuclear and chemical hazards, where a degree of screwup leads to a degree of contamination, and that was struggle enough.  "Humbling" is a good word for it.  
A situation which is binary, where even a fraction of a degree of screwup could be for keeps, is a far greater challenge.
Tens of thousands, then millions of health care and public safety workers will have to learn how to handle bio-hazard protective gear perfectly, without mistakes. Often they will have to learn without experienced trainers, without sufficient equipment to spare, under pressure of time and fear. To say that training videos will be no substitute is beyond understatement. Anxiety and urgency do not foster clarity, and learning this routine above all requires clarity of mind.  Overcoming habits takes time, drillling under supervision, measuring results, reflection and trying again. And it takes equipment to spare.  
When we look at how the US has handled public health emergencies in recent years - Hurricaines Katrina and Sandy spring to mind - it is easy to imagine that such massive screwups involved some kind of conspiracy. And there have certainly been enough demonstrable conspiracies going around to support that suspicion.  Plus, the large and growing bio-warfare establishment is real, malignant, and active in West Africa.  We should write nothing off at this point.
However, let's not ignore the part being played in this unfolding fiasco by
* the accumulated neglect, decay and collapse of our once great nation's entire civilian infrastructure,
* the loss of our moral center and social contract,
* the decay of our healthcare, public health and civil defense capabilities,
* the weakening of our population's resistance to disease due to unchecked pollution and contamination of our air, water and food,
* half the population weakened by the struggle with poverty and housing issues, a third suffering some degree of malnutrition
* the epidemic of depression, despair and hopelessness brought on by mass unemployment.
If the outbreak of this Ebola crisis was not planned to coincide with the imminent economic collapse, it is nevertheless not unrelated.
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