EBOLA in the U. S.: What is Most Worrisome?

Move over ISIS, you are being scooped by the U. S. Ebola problem today.  It is not a crisis, but it may have the makings.

Most of the cable news this morning has been focused on the fact that Amber Vinson, a second nurse from Texas Health Presbyterian. has contracted Ebola.   The first was Nina Pham.

Worrisome is that Vinson was allowed to fly back to Dallas following a trip to Cleveland despite her reporting to the CDC that she had a fever of 99.5.  She was told not to worry about it because their guideline is 100.4.

Ah….  shouldn’t it matter that she had treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died in Dallas?  Rules are made to be broken in special cases.

It sounds like they will lower that bar now, but it is one more reason to be nervous as to the preparedness of  our health care system for handling Ebola cases.   Texas Health has issued a statement that they followed CDC procedures and staff had the recommended protective gear in treating Duncan, but that seems the product of a legal team and nurses there report differently, one very publicly on TV this morning.   Basically, when confronted with an Ebola case, the response was chaotic.

But here’s what’s most worrisome to me.   We have only four hospitals that are expert at handling infectious diseases like Ebola, one of them Emory where Vinson now resides.  More importantly, they are estimated at being able to handle only 19 patients max. 

As described in Time:

“There are four hospitals in the U.S. with special isolation units designed to contain biohazards like Ebola. In addition to Emory, they are the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, in Bethesda, Md., a hospital at the University of Nebraska in Omaha and St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mt. The facilities in Atlanta and Omaha have successfully treated Americans infected with Ebola overseas without any healthcare workers contracting the virus.

Though transporting future cases to these facilities may be prudent, they have limited beds: only 19 between them, according to CNN. Exclusively using specialized hospitals to treat Ebola is only an option so long as the number of cases in the U.S. remains extremely low.”

From what I’ve heard on TV from experts, we could easily have over thirty cases break out (and that seems a total guess to me) and I don’t know if that includes 3,000 military in West Africa, some of whom seem bound to contract the disease.

And it seems we are only completely confident that we can handle 20 or so.  I would worry less if I believed that we are doing whatever it takes to expand that capacity as quickly as possible.

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P. S. – After writing the above I saw Rachel Madow on TV focus on the same issue of all too few beds available for Ebola patients, but her count is even less:  She says nine beds in those four best facilities, four of which are now in use.   Whatever the exact count it seems way too few.

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