Editor, The Times:
Thanks for the article about rural physicians’ continuing education efforts. Unfortunately you detracted from that worthy story by referring to “rare but serious diseases” such as infection with the Ebola virus.
Keith, every time a physician or nurse receives a patient in distress they go through a process called differential diagnosis. That includes a recounting of the person’s history, which leads to an appropriate physical examination. I’d like you and your readers to know that there have been many instances of “rare but serious” disease diagnoses and treatments in our small emergency room over the years. You didn’t see them acted out because that wasn’t the point of the team building experience.
Both China and Colorado recently reported cases of plague, (also whimsically referred to as the Black Death because it killed 100 to 200 million people about 650 years ago). Should we panic? No. There are cases reported sporadically in various flea-infested jurisdictions every year and they’re treated successfully.
We are unlikely to see the plague in Clearwater because of good public health measures and are far less likely to see something like Ebola virus or Marburg disease for the same reason.
The disease in Africa is not “primarily spread by shoddy health care practices, especially the use of dirty needles.” It is spread by fearful ignorance, the wish to closely comfort the sick, and the complete absence of health care when the virus is transmitted. The 7,400+ people who have contracted the virus thus far didn’t get it because someone ran around stabbing them with dirty needles.
Ever expanding deforestation for agriculture (and logging in Guinea) has allowed more interaction between susceptible domestic animals like pigs and pockets of wild animals that used to live in isolation. Fruit bats, gorillas, monkeys and other sources of “bushmeat” are also consumed by people who ultimately suffer the consequences.
When people transfer bodily fluids in the many ways that people can, including inadvertent pokes from contaminated embalming needles, the disease spreads.
If those fluids are not shared, Ebola will retreat when its last victim dies. Just don’t take any nature walks along the Ebola River.