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Checking Out Ebola at the Library

I pretty much figured at some point Americans and their lack of geography knowledge might end up killing someone. True, I thought it would be Carmen Sandiego, and I was wrong on that, but this dismal lack of place awareness sounds like it quite possibly played into the nonchalant treatment of the Liberian national who arrived in a Dallas ER for treatment of vague ailments late last month. It is said that the man did mention his recent travel from that nation. Now I don’t know if Texans are just so accustomed to hearing talk from the likes of GWB citing Lieberrys (where you get books, silly) that talk of Liberia might have just sounded like a trip to check out a few–it is possible. This would be one of those unknown unknowns to use the parlance of that man’s era . And god help us if infected Liberians go to the GWB Library in Dallas….think of the linguistic confusion and viral consequences.

But back to the issue at hand. This man presented with a travel history that should have screamed out whoa….personal protective gear needed yesterday. Get this man in isolation. But this did not happen. Evidently he was given some useless antibiotics (because, hey…… they needed to give the impression they were doing something) and he was sent on his way to go home to vomit all over the housing complex commons area a few days later. Infectious bloody vomit. Then they had to bring him back again to the hospital, this time in an ambulance. Saying you just arrived from Liberia a few days prior and now you are ill should get you every panic button pushed in a geographically and current event literate society. But this did not happen, go figure. I wholeheartedly believe it is because so many Americans are not paying attention to anything beyond their own little distraction spheres (smart phones delivering stupid fluff) and they have little to no interest in reality. They must think American Exceptionalism confers some sort of passive immunity to pesky third world bugs.

This is one of those moments in time that requires responses be titrated to–of all things…..reality. America has not been good at doing that on the individual or the collective level. Image is deemed everything, and the proper authoritarian stance seems to have been the hammer always used. But here’s the rub. Nature is in charge and viruses don’t like no-purpose authoritarian nonsense. Like useless checklists in the Emergency Rooms.

“Sir, any recent international travel? “

“Yes. Liberia.”

“ Okay, next question. Date of last menstrual period.”

“Huh?”

“Answer please. We need these filled out. Don’t make me call security.”

Because that is what America has been doing. Just running on autopilot, no connection to the now, to the use of critical thinking. If anything, those who do question and try to solve problems are actively set back in this type of culture. Go along to get along.

This is not a small thing. The mortality figures are astounding for this beast, but of course there is that governmental assurance that they can contain anything, control it all. But is this what you’ve seen with other large scale issues? Any semblance of coherence or fluid problem solving? We are going to rely on “we tortured some folks” to be our saviors?

Another terrifying aspect of this is the fear coming out of Africa when assistance is attempted. Aid workers have been murdered, and it really isn’t too shocking that such a level of paranoia is occurring. In the past when whites showed up, very bad things started to happen in those remote areas. It’s all working together to make containment more difficult.

They say this particular virus is not transmissible through the air and we have to hope this remains the case. A very close strain of Ebola did seem to allow for airborne transmission in Reston, Virginia a couple of decades ago and it infected chimps not connected in any manner other than air duct systems. So it is not at all an outlandish proposition, simply a terrifying one.

These missed opportunities to halt possible spread (and with each newly infected person comes the potential for a mutation that could take it to airborne transmission) are beyond outrageous. The plodding ignorance and arrogance that has marked US behavior could certainly allow this to become something studied as a cautionary tale years from now. Kind of like this: A sick soldier at Fort Riley Kansas was preparing meals while quite ill with a high fever—getting food to the many boys packed together who were to be sent out as WW I cannon fodder. Well, the end of that story was that somewhere between 30 and 50 million people died from the “Great Pandemic of 1918” Yep. They think that came out of Kansas now, the “Spanish Flu”.

So small things cause enormous consequences. A sick cook, a packed mess hall, a World War……..demonic synergy. But I would imagine, nothing really learned.

And back to our moment: here’s to hoping that the next person who shows up saying they are from Liberia or any other nation suffering greatly from this will get the attention from the start that is so merited because what may be brewing certainly has the potential to make all of our little daily concerns seem truly paltry. Containment and aid needs to be provided to those hard-hit areas in a manner that won’t freak them out enough to– you know, murder people trying to help. It’s not as if any of us have more than a flicker of time here in the grand scheme, but does our time need to be so full of misery? Do we need to be cheated out of a bit of our firefly time-span lives? It’s not fair for the Africans or for those of us in these other areas. But this will take vigilance the likes of which Americans are not really used to maintaining, and incredible problem solving to disrupt and halt in the areas already hit.

Kathleen Wallace lives in the Midwest.

 

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Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest and can be reached at klwallace@riseup.net

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