Today is the first day of October. In the old Japanese calendar this month is called kannazuki (meaning godless month because it is the time when all “gods’ get together at Izumo Shrine.
October started with a disturbing but nonetheless anticipated headline news that CDC, the Center for Disease Control, confirmed the 1st case of Ebola in the US on Tuesday evening, Sept. 30. According to the New York Times, the man infected with Ebola virus arrived in Dallas from Liberia in order to see his relatives on Sept. 20 (he was screened for fever before boarding the plane); on Sept 24, he began to develop symptoms; on Sept 26, he sought care at a Dallas Hospital but was sent back home because his symptoms were “not specific”; on Sept. 28, he was admitted to the hospital and placed in isolation. On Wednesday, Oct. 1, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and health-care officials related to the hospital, told a news conference that the infected man had had contact with 18 people, including 5 school-age children who attend 4 different schools (2 elementary schools, 1 middle-school, and 1 high school), before he was quarantined. All the people who had contact with the patient would be closely monitored for 21 days.
This is a rather scary scenario, particularly if you had seen Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion and liken this real-life scenario to the plot of the horror film. But, what we have to remember is that Ebola virus is not like a flu virus that can be transmitted by air. Ebola patient is infectious only when he/she is showing actual symptoms – not during the incubation time, which can be as long as 21 days. Ebola is transmitted through close contact to the physically ill patient’s bodily fluid, such as blood and saliva, according to CNN. CNN also reported a case of possible misstep committed by the health-care workers at the hospital when the patient first sought care: the nurse, who first interviewed the patient on Sept. 26, knew that he had recently been in Liberia, but this information was not adequately communicated to other health-care professionals. I wonder if such a blunder is due to the dangerous complacency or sheer obliviousness of the health-care workers involved. I know many health-care workers, particularly emergency-room workers are over-worked, but they should stay more alert and mindful of what they are dealing with, for their own sake and for the sake of the patients and community.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Thomas Friedan, “Ebola is a virus. It’s a virus that is easy to kill by washing your hands. It’s easy to stop by using gloves and barrier precautions” (reported by NBC News). I hope he is right.