Tag Archives: Ebola

Ebola fighters get too much credit

I’m not prone to critiquing Time magazine’s annual Person of the Year selection.

The choices don’t usually get me too worked up — either positively or negatively. This year’s choice is a bit different.

Time chose to honor the Ebola fighters, the medical professionals who went to West Africa to battle the killer disease.

Of all the choices Time could have made, the editors could have chosen someone with more, um, immediate and palpable impact.

As my pal Tom Taschinger wrote in the Beaumont Enterprise, “Granted, these men and women are doing noble deeds. But Ebola has faded from the epidemic that will end Life As We Know It to an overhyped cable-TV story.”

Indeed, this story was overplayed from the beginning, particularly the “outbreak” in the United States that never occurred.

Here’s one of the posts I published on my blog about the coverage:


One man flew to Dallas from Liberia; he was carrying the virus with him. He got sick, checked into a first-rate hospital in the Dallas area, but then died. Another man died in Nebraska. A nurse got infected in Dallas, went to Atlanta, and was declared Ebola free.

That’s it.

The disease has receded from the headlines and from CNN, MSNBC and Fox news coverage.

As Taschinger noted in his excellent column, occasionally Time picks a notorious figure as its Person of the Year — such as Ayatollah Khomeini or Timothy McVeigh. It has leaned more in recent years to feel-good selections. I agree that they’re important, too. But let’s get real here. Is Ebola really a worldwide threat?


The magazine can do better next year.


Taiwan creates interesting back story in Ebola fight

A fascinating back story has emerged in the worldwide campaign against the deadly Ebola virus.

It involves Taiwan, a country I’ve visited five times since 1989. It’s a highly developed, modern, technologically advanced country of some 25 million people packed onto an island of less than 14,000 square miles.

Taiwan is now playing a key role in combating the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It is sending medical teams into the infected regions, lending aid and expertise. It’s also planning a stepped-up effort to protect its own population against any possible outbreak.

According to an essay written by Kent Wang, a Taiwanese foreign policy official: “Relevant agencies have been directed to remain on high alert as Taiwan needs to prepare for the worst. While no cases have been reported to date, Taipei is taking every precaution. This includes strengthened entry inspections, health education, international collaboration and quarantine exercises. Taiwan CDC had set up an emergency response team August 8 and organized three expert consultation meetings and 1,212 training sessions for more than 100,000 medical professionals and individuals.”


So, what’s the back story?

Taiwan doesn’t belong to the World Health Organization. It does have “observer status,” meaning that it can peer over WHO’s shoulder, but doesn’t reap any of the real benefit of actual membership. It’s been blackballed from joining the WHO by the People’s Republic of China, which still claims Taiwan as a “renegade province.” You see, Taiwan broke away from China in 1949 after the communists took control of the mainland government. Taiwan’s government set up shop on the island, made Taipei its capital, then set about building a first-rate economy.

The nations co-existed in a virtual state of war for decades. Taiwan was expelled from the United Nations after the U.N. recognized China in the early 1970s. The United States broke off diplomatic ties with Taipei when it set up its embassy in Beijing during the Carter administration.

There’s a certain irony today with Taiwan emerging as a key Asian player in the Ebola struggle. A nation that has been expelled from relevant worldwide health organizations is being seen as a leader in fighting an emerging health menace.


Perry to N.Y.: Learn from us

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has placed an important phone call to his colleague in New York and offered a critical piece of advice.

Don’t make the mistakes we made in Texas when handling an Ebola case, Perry reportedly told Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Good advice, governor.


The Texas Ebola case ended tragically for the Liberian man who brought the disease to the state. He died under the care of medical professionals in Dallas. A nurse who cared for him has just been released from medical care after she came down with the virus. Now  New York doctor who was in West Africa treating Ebola patients has been diagnosed with the disease and he apparently is responding to treatment.

Perry called Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to offer his assistance on how to handle the disease. Gov. Perry’s prime advice? Follow all the necessary medical protocols to the letter. A breach in protocol in Dallas apparently led to the nurse getting infected, according to the governor’s office.

The good news is that the nurse, Nina Pham, is now Ebola free.

There was some more advice Perry gave to Cuomo and de Blasio, according to the San Antonio Express-News:

“Perry shared some more lessons in separate Friday phone conversations with the officials, including regarding ‘the importance of informing the public about the realities of the Ebola virus in order to reduce misconceptions about its transmissions,’ his office said.”

Ah, yes. Public information.

A lack of accurate information has helped lead to the near-hysterical response in some quarters to the arrival of this disease.

A thorough dissemination of facts always should be of prime concern.

It’s good to remember that Ebola likely wasn’t on medical professionals’ radar when the patient arrived from Liberia. It’s on everyone’s mind now.

Gov. Perry has some valuable experience to share and it’s good that he’s sharing it.


Alzheimer's marches on and on and on

Readers of this blog know that I’ve commented several times over the years about the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

It struck down my mother at an early age. She was 61 when she died 30 years ago. She never got the chance to grow old, to watch her grandchildren grow up and to enjoy those so-called “golden years.”

I’ve noted with dismay that research for Alzheimer’s disease — a degenerative condition that eats away at a person’s brain — has been given the short shrift. Public attention has turned to HIV/AIDS, various forms of cancer and even chronic depression.

Why, I learned this week that Congress is planning a hearing to discuss the dangers of drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving is dangerous? Who knew?

Meanwhile, 5 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Their loved ones will suffer the most. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients lose all cognitive ability. They won’t know their names, or the names of those who love them. They tend to become incontinent. The effects of this disease are ghastly in the extreme.

The numbers are going to grow as the nation continues to age.

Well, another member of my family has announced that he has been diagnosed with early onset of this disease. I won’t reveal who it is because he doesn’t yet know that I am disclosing this news.

He said in an email that he has “a long way to go prior to ‘losing it.’ and now I’m on medication to slow the progression even further.”

This family member is very dear to my wife, our sons and to me.

My intention is to use this forum as a bully pulpit to keep calling attention to the need to step up Alzheimer’s disease research, to find a cure, perhaps a vaccine and to improve therapies that can arrest the inevitable deterioration that this disease brings upon those who suffer it.

While the media keep hyping an Ebola “crisis” that doesn’t exist in this country, they are giving scant attention to an actual crisis that is claiming the lives of Americans every day.

NIH boss blames budget cuts for Ebola mess

A dose of self-awareness is in order for critics of the Obama administration’s response to this Ebola matter.

Pay attention, congressional Republicans. I’m talking about you.

The head of the National Institutes for Health says budget cuts have derailed efforts to find a vaccine for the deadly disease that has killed thousands of people in West Africa — and one in the United States.


As the Huffington Post reported: “Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has ‘slowed down’ research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Post goes on: “Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion — barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.”

Here’s the maddening part, from my perspective.

The very people who now complain about government’s inability to deal with this matter (I refuse to call it a “crisis” in the United States) are the same folks who keep slashing money because — they contend — the United States cannot afford to spend it. They are critical of the NIH, calling it some sort of “liberal-leaning arm of government” that pushes “agendas.”

And yet these are the folks who are feeding much of the hysteria that keeps showing up on right-wing mainstream media outlets by contending that Ebola is about to break out badly in this country, even though health professionals insist that is not the case.

What can be done? How about giving the NIH the resources it needs to find a vaccine for Ebola before it becomes a crisis in the United States?

Hysteria czar? Why not?

Todd Roberson’s blog for the Dallas Morning News is spot on.

The United States doesn’t need an Ebola czar as much as it needs a “Hysteria czar.”


The worst fomenters of the hysteria gripping some Americans appear to be the cable news networks. Roberson singles out CNN, with its endless “Breaking News” alerts and its ominous-sounding music.

He writes about images of men walking around in hazmat suits, helicopters flying over Dallas-area housing complexes and a Nigerian student being denied admission to Navarro College because the school no longer accepts applications from students who come from countries with confirmed cases of Ebola.

I don’t think I’m going to say much more about this hysteria nonsense. I’m spent. No one at CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNBC or the broadcast networks are paying attention. I feel as though I’m talking to myself.

Ebola is not a “crisis” in the U.S. of A. We’ve had precisely one death of someone who came into this country from a country infected with the deadly disease.

I’m with Roberson. President Obama needs to appoint a Hysteria czar.

Let's quell the Ebola fear

Will we listen to the president of the United States on this one?

Let us not allow fear to overtake the nation as the world seeks a way to head off Ebola, the deadly virus that has killed thousands of people in West Africa.

It has taken the life of precisely one person in the United States. But the media are making it seem as though it is running rampant throughout the country.


President Obama used his weekly radio address today to try to put this issue into its proper perspective.

“Meeting a public health challenge like this isn’t just a job for government,” he said, just days after two Dallas nurses were diagnosed with the disease. “All of us — citizens, leaders, the media — have a responsibility and a role to play.”

That role shouldn’t be to push panic buttons.

“We can’t give in to hysteria or fear, because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need,” Obama said.

As for the administration’s response to this situation (I refuse to call it a “crisis” in the United States), it needs to be tightened up. To that end, the president has selected an Ebola “czar” who is tasked with coordinating the national effort. Ronald Klain is that man. He’s a trusted aide and friend of the president. He is known as a fixer.

I’m willing to let the man do his job. No, he lacks a medical background, but he has access to the best medical minds in the world.

Meanwhile, let’s keep our cool.

Perry is MIA when Ebola hits two Texans

Honest to goodness, I am not going to beat up on Texas Gov. Rick Perry over this situation.

Politico reports that Perry, seeking to burnish his foreign-policy credentials, was out of the state when Ebola turned up in two health care workers who’ve been quarantined.


He rushed back from Europe seeking to take charge of the situation, but now he’s been, well, sort of caught flat-footed.

Democrats (imagine that!) have been critical of Perry for trying to “look presidential” while a medical emergency was unfolding here at home. Yes, Democrats are trying to make political hay out of this so-called “crisis,” just as Republicans are trying to taint a Democrat, the president of the United States, in much the same way.

Do you think politicians of both parties need to mindful every waking minute of every day to be sure their every move passes the “smell test”?

Gov. Perry is a likely candidate for president in 2016. He tried it once already, but fell on his face before the campaign ever got off the ground. He wants to assure Americans that he’s now immune from future “oops” moments and wants to look like a man in charge.

If that’s the image he wants to project, he’d better be sure he’s in charge of every single issue — large and/or small — right here … in Texas.

My advice to Perry? Stay close to home at least for a little while, governor. The presidential campaign will be there when this Ebola thing passes.

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.