Category Archives: medical news

Ebola 'czar' gets expected criticism

Is there any better example of being “damned if you do, or don’t” than President Obama’s appointment of an Ebola “czar”?

Let’s meet Ronald Klain, who is the new manager of the government’s response to the Ebola situation. Klain is a trusted adviser to the president, a Mr. Fix-It sort of individual. He is known as a master government technician who knows how to make things work.

He’s not a medical professional. However, he comes into the game reportedly with a good deal of nuts-and-bolts know-how.

Republicans in Congress have been yapping about the president’s propensity for naming these “czars.” He’s got a czar for all kinds of things.

Yet … the GOP wanted him to name an Ebola czar because, they contend, the government’s response to this so-called “crisis” has been tepid, ineffective, milquetoast.

So then Obama puts Klain on the job.

GOP leaders now contend that Klain is the wrong person for the job. I haven’t yet heard who they think is the right person, or even how they would describe that individual.

I’m not at all certain the president even needed to appoint a czar to do this job.

A surgeon general would have been an appropriate person to lead the nation’s response to this matter, but Republicans have blocked the naming of that individual for reasons that have nothing to do with his or her medical qualifications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is run by someone who’s qualified to coordinate the effort; but Dr. Thomas Frieden has been criticized — again, by Republicans mostly — his own agency’s failure to manage this “crisis.”

The president is damned yet again for doing what his critics have demanded he do.

Listen carefully to Dr. Frist

It’s always heartening to read about politicians who are actual experts on critical issues of the day speak those issues with calm, with reason and with intelligence.

Bill Frist once served as a U.S. senator from Tennessee. The Republican also served as Senate majority leader for a time before he decided he’d had enough of politics. He then went back to his first calling, as a cardiovascular surgeon who’s also treated patients with infectious diseases.

Indeed, while he served in the Senate, Dr. Frist usually spent part of his time on “recess” going to remote locations in Africa and Asia to treat patients infected with HIV/AIDS.

He is an honorable man.

So we ought to heed this fellow’s assessment of the Ebola situation that’s killed thousands of people in West Africa and precisely one person in the United States of America.

Ebola is going to be a “crisis” in West Africa at least until next spring, Frist says.

Frist was in Dallas, site of the lone Ebola-related death, to take part in a family-planning conference. As Dallas Morning News blogger Jim Mitchell reported, he put the Ebola “scare” into its proper perspective: “Frist estimates that 23,000 people will die of the flu this year, and in America less than ’10 will die of Ebola, hopefully just one.’ And while every death is tragic, the reality is that protocols have to be strictly established and followed. ‘This is not contagious virus like flu,’ he said.”

Frist is one more reasonable voice that needs to be heard as the world searches for a way to stop this virus from spreading beyond its source in West Africa.

According to Mitchell: “While the Ebola crisis in West Africa has lasted longer than he anticipated, (Frist) wants people to know that he is confident it will not spin out of control in the United States even though it might seem that public uncertainty is trumping established science.”

I should add that media hysteria isn’t helping, either.

Pay attention to this man. He knows of what he speaks.

Right-wing media attack getting out of hand

Right-wing mainstream media talking heads need to get a grip on this Ebola story.

Some of ’em are yammering about demands for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden to resign.

For what?

Two of the “stars” of this trash Dr. Frieden cavalcade are Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham. They haven’t listen too intently to what their colleague Shepard Smith said on the air recently, that the Ebola “crisis” in the United States isn’t a crisis at all, that we have little to worry about and that — here it comes — we shouldn’t politicize this issue by seeking to lay blame on medical professionals who are trying to do their job.

That hasn’t stopped Blowhard Bill and Laura the Lip from firing off their criticism of Dr. Frieden.

Ingraham likened Frieden to “Baghdad Bob.” Remember that guy? He was the idiot propagandist who proclaimed that Iraqi forces were defeating American troops in 2003 — as Americans were rolling into the Iraqi capital city.

There’s no need at all to demonize Frieden in the manner that some on the right are seeking to do. Indeed, even O’Reilly’s own Fox colleague Greta Van Susteran has proclaimed Bill-O is wrong to criticize Frieden’s work as head of the CDC.

Let’s calm down, shall we?

'Shep' gets it exactly right on Ebola

One of two things has happened.

Hell has frozen over or the sun rose this morning over the western horizon.

How on God’s planet Earth can one explain that a Fox News Channel anchor has gotten it so very right on the media’s reporting of a non-existent Ebola “epidemic” in the United States of America?

Shepard Smith is the anchor. His message is right here. Listen up:

Readers of this blog know I am not prone to heaping praise on Fox News, the “unfair and unbalanced” network that keeps saying it is “fair and balanced.” My experience has been that when media keep saying such things, chances are they are neither.

Smith has laid out a perfectly reasonable rationale for why Americans have no reason to panic over news that two Americans have come down with Ebola symptoms. They treated a man who traveled to Dallas from Liberia; that man was infected with the disease and he has died, tragically. The two health care workers treated the gentleman and are now under the care of the best infectious disease medical professionals anywhere in the world.

Smith argues that unless you have come in contact with someone who is exhibiting Ebola symptoms, you have nothing — not a single thing — to fear.

He blasts the politicization of the story and the laying of blame on health care professionals who’ve been accused wrongly of lying about Ebola.

Smith’s best advice in combating Ebola? It’s fantastic! “Get a flu shot,” Smith said, adding that flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. It presents symptoms that are similar to Ebola.

We had a mild anxiety attack in Amarillo on Wednesday when a man was admitted into the emergency room of Baptist-St. Anthony Hospital. BSA ordered a lockdown of the ER after believing he was exhibiting “Ebola-like” symptoms; local media reported the lockdown and the reason for it. Those two events set off a whole lot of chatter around the city about the situation that unfolded at BSA.

It turned the individual tested negative for Ebola; the lockdown was lifted.

However, the angst was palpable throughout the city. Why? Because the media have done generally a poor job of keeping this story in perspective. At least that would be Shepard Smith’s take on it.

He is right. Listen to his remarks. If you do, you’ll feel better. Honest.

Ebola has not arrived

We can stop making Ebola quips, jokes and puns now.

For several hours this afternoon and evening, thousands of Amarillo-area residents were on the edge of their seats awaiting word about a patient who had checked into the emergency room at one of the city’s two acute-care hospitals.

The word went out that the ER at Baptist-St. Anthony’s Hospital had locked down. Why? Medical personnel thought they might be treating someone who had shown symptoms of the deadly disease that is originating in West Africa.

It’s been confirmed that the patient does not have Ebola, nor had even been in Africa.

The lockdown has been lifted; ER personnel have been allowed to leave. The patient, I presume, is going to recover fully from whatever it is that caused all the uproar.

These stories tend to drive me just a tiny bit insane. My first reaction when I heard the news was unkind toward the TV stations that were blabbing that someone exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms had shown up at BSA. “If this story is bogus and doesn’t pan out, the stations should be ashamed,” I blurted out to someone at work.

Then my more cautious angel began whispering into my ear. “Yes, but the ER was locked down and that, by itself, is news,” the angel told me. “The media had an obligation to explain the reason for the lockdown,” the angel said.

OK, I get it now. I’m a media guy myself and I understand the rules of the game.

We’d better prepare ourselves for more of this type of mini-hysteria until someone finds a way to stop this disease’s deadly path of destruction.

I’m guessing there’ll be more of these kinds of cases.

So let’s stop cracking wise about Ebola. None of it is funny.

Ebola patient dies; now, let's stay calm

Thomas Eric Duncan has died of Ebola.

He came to Dallas from Liberia carrying the virus that causes the disease. He checked into a hospital and was given the best treatment possible anywhere in the world. Still, the disease killed him.

It’s a sad end to a man’s life.

Now what? Do we panic? Do we quarantine the entire hospital staff? Or those who came into this man’s room?

Not at all.

Yes, I blogged recently about the difficulty of maintaining my composure when Duncan arrived in Dallas, given that I have immediate family members living in the Metroplex. My head has cleared since then.

I hope we start listening to the medical experts who are saying the same thing — over and over, repeatedly. The only way one can catch the killer disease is to come in direct contact with someone who’s infected.

CNN’s coverage of this “crisis,” as usual, has been a bit overblown — in my humble view. The network’s reporters and anchors keep harping on the crisis aspect of the disease in West Africa — and it’s real. However, I am concerned about what it’s doing to the American psyche as it relates to this disease.

Yet the network is trotting out infectious disease experts from all over creation to tell us that a single case of Ebola in one American city should not be cause to push panic buttons, or to sound sirens, or send people into undisclosed secure locations.

If this situation is going to produce any positive outcome, it might be this: We’ve got a lot of brilliant medical researchers right here in the U.S. of A. who are quite capable of finding it. If the Ebola scare has done anything at all, I am hopeful it has scared researchers into redoubling their efforts at finding a cure.

ISIL threat: real or imagined?

Here’s my fervent hope for the moment: it is for otherwise responsible members of Congress to quit saying things they cannot prove beyond any doubt — not just reasonable doubt.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., says at least 10 Islamic State fighters have been captured on our southern border.

Not so, says Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Who’s telling the truth?

My relative lack of cynicism leads me to believe the guy in charge of protecting the homeland. That would be Secretary Johnson.

“Let’s not unduly create fear and anxiety in the American public by passing on speculation and rumor,” Johnson told CNN.

Rep. Hunter is feeding the national anxiety over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Does he have proof that these individuals were apprehended and they, indeed, are members of the monstrous terrorist organization? No. Johnson replies that his agency has seen no “credible intelligence” that ISIL is at our southern doorstep, ready to cross into the U.S. territory and begin its reign of terror on unsuspecting and innocent Americans.

There is, though, another way to look at this matter.

It is that Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI and local police authorities are on their toes. Suppose they are capturing individuals linked to ISIL. Wouldn’t that mean they’re doing their job?

I’ll stick with Secretary Johnson’s assessment that the situation lacks “credible intelligence” to suggest ISIL is on the march in North America.

We need physical proof, folks, that this is happening. And I’m not talking about fuzzy photos that Bigfoot believers produce to “prove” the existence of a mythical creature.

Let’s deal in reality and forgo the fiction.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em … for now?

Military veterans of a certain age — or older — should understand what I’m about to say next.

There might be no greater barometer of society’s cultural shift than an idea to ban the selling of tobacco products at military installations.

That idea is on the table. So help me, I cannot decide how I feel about this.

I quit smoking cold turkey 34 years ago. It was in February 1980. I took a drag on a cigarette, nearly choked on it, snuffed it out, tossed the rest of the pack into the trash and I was done. So I’m now a dedicated non-smoker who detests the smell of cigarette smoke wafting into my face.

I also once was a young man in my late teens who served in the U.S. Army. I did a couple of years from August 1968 until August 1970. Smoking was part of my life then.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus floated the idea of banning the sale of tobacco in the spring. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of the idea. It might come up during the lame-duck session of Congress.

Is this right? Well, from a health standpoint, of course it is.

From another angle, which I have difficulty describing, it seems somehow wrong.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine reservist who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps spoke for a lot of vets when he said: “It’s not curbed for anybody else. Why pick out the folks who have chosen of their own accord to fight for their country and serve their country and punish them? Leave us the hell alone — we’re out here fighting for your freedom and you’re taking away ours.”


During basic training, there was many a time when we’d get PX privileges we’d spend our then-meager $103 monthly stipend on “necessities.” Cigarettes, which then sold for 15 cents a pack, were among them. We’d have them handy while out running from place to place lugging an M-14 and a pack full of gear. Our drill sergeant would stop us for a break. “Light ’em up!” he’d bark. We would scramble for the cigarette and Zippo lighter, fire one up, then he’d yell, “Put ’em out!”

There’s something, oh, rather unique about that experience that sticks with me to this very moment — 46 years later.

Has society changed so much since that time? I reckon so.

Ebola becomes political football

Let’s call it the politics of Ebola.

Politico reports that some of the presumptive Republican candidates for president in 2016 are shouting “panic!” at the prospect of the deadly virus infecting the United States of America.

Not all of them, mind you, are saying such things.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry — along with President Obama, if you can believe that — suggests it’s better to stay calm and cool as medical professionals seek to contain the single known case that ended up in Dallas.

Yes, it’s a concern. A man flew from Liberia to Texas while carrying the Ebola virus. He is in critical condition. But his status has been upgraded a bit to stable. He is undergoing intense medical care at a Dallas hospital, where he is receiving the best care possible.

Meanwhile, GOP politicians are calling for an immediate ban on all flights from West Africa to the United States.

And, of course they’re saying the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to fight the virus. They’re scattering out over right-wing talk radio and TV and proclaiming their intense concern that the president isn’t sounding sufficient alarm over the Ebola case that found its way to Dallas.

There will be more intense airport screening of inbound passengers, the president has assured. There also will be greater vigilance at the outbound end of flights headed for the United States and other countries.

These measures haven’t stopped some of the GOP candidates in waiting. As Politico reports, “Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared on ‘The Laura Ingraham Show’ that ‘this could get beyond our control’ and worried, ‘Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?’”

How about settling down just a bit?

The next political campaign will get into full swing in due course. Cooler heads think better than those that are overheated with political ambition.

Ebola case testing my composure

Allow me this admission: News that a man got off a plane and is in Dallas, Texas, suffering from the Ebola virus is testing my resistance to panic.

Why? I have family immediate family members in the Dallas area.

I keep hearing stories of how people are getting exposed to this deadly virus. I know that exposure relies on contact with “bodily fluids” and all that. Still, people are getting infected in other ways, or so it seems.

I will continue to keep the faith my family members will stay far away from wherever this individual is being quarantined. They’ll go about their day as they usually do. They’ll work, study, perform household duties, tend to their children, do the things they do normally.

However, the deadly news out of West Africa has found its way to the United States — and to the very part of the country where our loved ones are living.

I won’t panic. I won’t worry myself sick over this news. I’ll continue to put a measure of faith in the medical professionals’ knowledge of how to deal with this disease and how to keep it contained to the individual who flew here from Liberia as he was infected with the often-fatal virus.

But damn! If I spend too much time thinking about Ebola, it’s hard to keep my composure.