Panic, Paranoia, and Public Health — The AIDS Epidemic’s Lessons for Ebola — NEJM.
Please read this because we have to remember our history to learn from our history.
Various politicians called for quarantining of anyone who tested positive for HIV, and commentator William F. Buckley infamously penned an op-ed in the New York Times saying that “everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed.”
Let us pump our collective brakes.
I mentioned in an earlier post that as an infectious disease, Ebola is a slam dunk for a country with a robust public health system. It poses far fewer challenges then, say, a really bad respiratory virus. This technically-but-really-not-an-epidemic has shown that there are some weakness in public health. Particularly in leadership. I’ll leave you with a parting tweet:
For the time being the news cycle won’t let go of Ebola in the US. I’m not interested in that, but thanks to Ebola you no doubt have heard of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) at NIH. Dr. Fauci took that post in 1984 and the man has a special place in my heart because of the progress the institute made on his watch thanks to the venerable AIDS activist group, ACT UP.
Really this is just a plug for the best documentary in years and best health-related documentary probably ever, How to Survive a Plague. Watch it and weep. These activists are responsible for the restructuring of the FDA drug approval process to allow fast tracking for AIDS and cancer drugs. They forced their way onto previously closed committees at NIH, creating transparency in the clinical trial process and giving a voice to patients affected by whatever the disease in question. I get teary at the protest scenes outside of the NIH and the FDA and the march at the first AIDS quilt (which I will be forever thankful to my mother for dragging me to though I had no idea what it meant at the time). This documentary stokes the dying embers of my heart. Truth to power. Policies can be changed. Advocacy makes a difference.
Sorry for the preaching but you have to love 80s Dr. Fauci.
So far this semester of nursing school we’ve spent less than an hour talking about Ebola in America. There is legitimate concern for good guidance on PPE. CDC guidelines have been in evolution, which makes health care workers nervous.
BUT, epidemiology views the population as the patient. And right here right now we are looking pretty healthy. Ebola is an epidemiologist’s dream since you are not contagious until you are showing symptoms (no latency), and the course is long (outbreaks spread from patient to patient relatively slowly). It is fairly easy to find people who may have been exposed and quarantine them before they have a chance to pass along the virus. Contrast these characteristics with those of the flu, and you can see why the CDC isn’t sweating too much.
Also, what does this even mean? No.