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“Today we are going to focus on two aspects of the response to Ebola: First, what we are doing to improve the safety in our healthcare settings, and second, what’s going on with contact tracing in Dallas.” With those words, Dr. Tom Frieden, Director for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, began an event that I never – not in a million years – thought would ever take place on U.S. soil: a press conference discussing what was being done to ensure the safety and protection of citizens and medical personnel alike in Dallas, Texas, the site of the first cases of the deadly Ebola virus contracted in the United States.
That Ebola is even here boggles my mind. I do not understand it. I cannot fathom it. I cannot grasp it. Yet I must. It is here and I fear that it will do tremendous damage during its stay.
The arrival of Ebola has already resulted in one death. It will almost certainly result in many more before it is contained. This is a serious development, one that our government and our healthcare system, including the venerable CDC, have been far too cavalier about addressing. Thought to be a virus of the jungles and undeveloped nations, Ebola is apparently quite at home in the U.S. and it is showing no signs of slowing down.
By now you more than likely know the symptoms of Ebola. They are rather mundane and mirror countless other far less serious ailments, which can make it difficult to diagnose, particularly in places where Ebola is not typically found. It is also easily transmissible and kills the overwhelming majority of those it infects, often in gruesome ways.
And yet it is here, over 5,000 miles from its homeland, infecting and almost certainly killing our citizens.
But why is Ebola here? How did it get to the United States? I am treading on thin ice here. I do not like to see events such as this politicized and used for one party to attempt to gain advantage over another. That is not my intention. Yet it is an area through which we must wade, for it is yet another example of our chief executive’s carelessness with the people of the United States.
Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has consistently placed his political agenda ahead of the well-being of the American people. Almost everything he has done has been out political expediency instead of what is best for the country. His decisions on foreign policy have placed Americans in danger and weakened the United States on the world stage. When the economy was floundering and people were out of work, he pushed through the Affordable Care Act that has cost Americans their jobs and their existing health insurance. His appointments jeopardized national security, divided the nation, and created unsafe environments in a variety of arenas.
And now decisions made by the president have brought one of the most dreaded diseases known to man to our shores. According to Liz Peek of The Fiscal Times, President Obama pledged American resources to fight the Ebola epidemic as a way of boosting his approval rating throughout the African continent. It is an interesting – and damning – theory. Peek writes that President George W. Bush was wildly popular in Africa. The continent saw him as a compassionate and concerned leader, someone whose foreign policy made a positive impact on the African continent. According to Peek, President Bush was far more popular in Africa than he was here.
By contrast, Obama is not as well thought of on the continent. During his presidency, writes Peek, he has taken little action to help the African people. His commitment to fighting Ebola is his attempt to win the African continent.
By doing so, however, he is placing the American people at tremendous risk. In Africa, the Ebola outbreak has been going on for quite a while. Many nations across the globe have placed bans on traveling to and from these virus-stricken nations. The United States has not. Obama pledged 4,000 American troops to go to the affected areas to help construct medical facilities and support those who are fighting the disease. And now we have had one Ebola death and we are treating two current cases, both of whom contracted the disease from the deceased.
In Africa, Ebola outbreaks end when the virus kills off its hosts. It is an unstable, vulnerable virus that doesn’t live long outside of a host. Unlike anthrax, which can infect people for years in the right conditions, Ebola is dangerous for a relatively short period of time. It is so deadly and kills so fast in its home range that eventually it runs out of hosts.
While we have better medical technology and more sophisticated facilities, we also have more people. And our citizens are mobile and transient. An infected person will come in contact with hundreds of people before symptoms begin showing. We are already seeing that now. The United States provides a fertile environment with plenty of potential hosts for the virus.
Add to those factors the rather reckless attitude the CDC and other healthcare institutions have displayed during this growing crisis and it should become readily apparent that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb.
Ebola should not be here. Our president, no matter what his reasons, should not place American citizens in direct danger of contracting this disease, much less bring it to our country. Ebola is a formidable opponent, one that we do not understand and one that we are ill prepared to fight.
Just when it appears that the president cannot make a worse decision, he manages to do so. Plenty of events and developments these days leave me scratching my head and wondering just where we are headed. This one, however, angers me. Every single person in the United States is now in danger. While the likelihood of contracting the disease remains slim, it is indeed a possibility. Ebola is now in Georgia, in our capitol, a city many of us visit regularly. There is no good reason for Ebola to be here. We have been placed in harm’s way for politics and nothing else.
It is beyond my understanding. It is inexcusable. And I am absolutely infuriated.
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We must demand changes before this goes any further, and it is going to take everyone, not only nurses.
Nurses across the country are demanding that President Obama take all action within his power to protect healthcare workers and the public from Ebola.
Please send the below letter to President Obama at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also send to your representatives in Congress. If you are not certain who your representatives are, you can look up that information here: http://scores.nationalnursesunited.org/healthcare/
Also send a copy to your governor. Governors’ email addresses can be found here: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Governors.shtml
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Via Electronic Mail
October 15, 2014
On behalf of registered nurses and other health care workers across the United States we understand that the only way to adequately confront Ebola crisis, that the World Health Organization has termed the most significant health crisis in modern history, is for the President to invoke his executive authority to mandate uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers, and the public. Every healthcare employer must be directed to follow the Precautionary Principle and institute the following:
• Optimal personal protective equipment for Ebola that meets the highest standards used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center
• Full-body hazmat suits that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F1670 standard for blood penetration, the ASTM F1671 standard for viral penetration, and that leave no skin exposed or unprotected and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved powered air purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of at least 50 — or a higher standard as appropriate.
• There shall be at least two direct care registered nurses caring for each Ebola patient with additional RNs assigned as needed based on the direct care RN’s professional judgment with no additional patient care assignments.
• There will be continuous interactive training with the RNs who are exposed to patients. There will also be continuous updated training and education for all RNs that is responsive to the changing nature of disease. This would entail continuous interactive training and expertise from facilities where state of the art disease containment is occurring.
• If the Employer has a program with standards that exceed those used by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the higher standard shall be used. The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of health care workers to the virus represent a clear and present danger to public health. We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk. They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons.
In conclusion, not one more patient, nurse, or healthcare worker should be put at risk due to a lack of health care facility preparedness. The United States should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus. Nothing short of your mandate, that optimal safety standards apply, will be acceptable to the nurses of this nation.
National Nurses United
Cc: National Nurses United Executive Committee