Via WaPo, a little PSA for the many, many, many people who watched this play out live yesterday and tweeted their amazement that a man with no protective gear would be allowed within feet of someone who’s confirmed to have the virus. The risk to him was low, of course: Not only didn’t he touch Amber Vinson, the nurse who contracted the disease from Thomas Duncan, but Vinson had on a face mask and protective suit herself to shield others in case she coughed. Even so, why not lower the risk further by having Mr. Plainclothes in a moon suit?
“His role is to oversee the process of transport including on the tarmac,” Randy Davis, vice president at Phoenix Air, told NBC News. “Part of our protocol is to have 1 person NOT in a bio-Hazard suit.”
Davis said the man, who he did not name, is the team’s medical safety coordinator. Standard protocol is for him to wear street clothes, Davis said, because the suits can block field of vision and hearing. Davis said the man has been trained on keeping safe distance from patients and is ready to “suit up” if needed.
Makes sense, I guess, although why couldn’t the guy have worn a moon suit without a hood, with a basic face mask to protect his mouth? That would have left his vision and hearing unimpeded. Ah well, doesn’t matter. Again, the risk is so low to begin with, it seems, that he’d get only a tiny fraction of further reduced risk by donning a suit himself. Nor is that unusual, per WaPo: Officials in plain clothes entered Duncan’s apartment while it was being cleaned and people without moon suits were in proximity to Ashoka Mukpo, the NBC cameraman who caught Ebola in Africa, when he was transferred to an ambulance in Nebraska. In fact, the risk is so low that Mr. Plainclothes apparently hopped aboard the plane himself and flew all the way to Atlanta with Vinson and the team of attendants — presumably in plain clothes the whole way.
“This thing is incredibly contagious,” [Rand] Paul said. “People are getting it, fully gowned, masked, and must be getting a very tiny inoculum and they’re still getting it.
I know Paul’s trying to find some political advantage for the GOP in turning the pressure over Ebola up right before the midterms but I’m surprised that he’s using a term like “incredibly contagious.” Compared to diseases like the flu, Ebola’s hard to get. Watch this simulation at WaPo. The only one of the 10 major infectious illnesses simulated that spreads more slowly than Ebola is diphtheria. It takes Ebola 72 days to infect 100 people; the flu hits that same number of infections in just two weeks. It’s alarming that the two nurses picked it up from Duncan despite wearing protective gear, but between his family members (who were completely unprotected) and hospital staff, Duncan had contact with dozens upon dozens of people and so far those two are the only infections. What makes Ebola terrifying is that it’s incredibly lethal, far more so than even smallpox. But even in Africa, with fewer resources and an inferior medical infrastructure to our own, the pandemic is thus far confined to three countries while a fourth and fifth, Nigeria and Senegal, seem to have nipped small outbreaks in the bud quickly. If Ebola’s “incredibly contagious,” what adjective should we use for the flu?