Monday, November 17, 2014

Recurring risks

A recent Pew Trust survey of what people are most concerned about identifies inequity as the issue for Americans.  The locus of that concern over inequity has resided in Ferguson, Missouri, since this past summer's events.  Now, as we wait for the grand jury decision on the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, cities all across the country have made plans to stand up their emergency operations centers because of possible demonstrations around the outcome.  It will be about more than that particular shooting.  Police departments across the board are having to answer indirectly for the response of the Ferguson and St. Louis police departments, none of which was by the book. 

Meanwhile, our concern that Ebola is coming to this country to infect us all has receded.  I wish I could say this is because everyone has understood the science behind the infectious disease, but I suspect that is rather that attention spans have moved on to other issues.  The West African coast is by no means out of the woods on Ebola, but there do appear to be some signs of progress with diagnostic tests that quickly identify then isolate patients while their contacts are tracked down and monitored.  Nigeria appears to have been most successful in its efforts, using mobile phones to quickly upload information and dispatch medical assistance.

In America, the airports that carry the traffic from West Africa are all monitoring incoming passengers.  And when soldiers return from helping to set up emergency centers in West Africa, they are being quarantined for 21 days.  So far at least, only four cases have been diagnosed in the United States -- three in Texas and one in New York City.  Three of the four patients survived, and it is suspected that the fourth might have lived if he had been properly diagnosed when he presented himself at the hospital.

We'll undoubtedly return to the issues of inequality and infectious disease again.  It is to be hoped that those on the front line will show us what it is to be a good citizen, a respectful participant in our democratic process.

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