Category Archives: Class

Quote of the day: America’s imperiled kids


From the abstract of a stunning new analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics:

Children account for 73.5 million Americans (24%), but 8% of federal expenditures. Data on health and health care indicate that child well-being in the United States has been in decline since the most recent recession. Childhood poverty has reached its highest level in 20 years, 1 in 4 children lives in a food-insecure household, 7 million children lack health insurance, a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds, and 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. Five children are killed daily by firearms, 1 in 5 experiences a mental disorder, racial/ethnic disparities continue to be extensive and pervasive, and major sequester cuts and underfunding of pediatric research have damaged our global leadership in biomedical research and hobbled economic growth.

Chart of the day II: Separate and very unequal


From MIT Technology Review. And click on it to enlarge:

BLOG Unequal

Commodified labor: The Internet ate your job


A deft deconstruction from the Guardian:

The internet is after your job

Program notes:

New technology can destroy jobs. In the past, this has mainly affected unskilled jobs, but now it’s hitting the middle classes – cutting a swathe across the creative industries and ‘professions’.

Within a generation we may find that there are no such things as a ‘career’ or ‘job security’. What’s driving this disruption to our working lives – and what can you do about it?

Chart of the day: America’s growing wealth divide


From the Urban Institute via the Washington Post:

BLOG Racial divide

Joel Pett: Now that’s really creative


From the editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader:

BLOG Creative

Chart of the day: Brutal costs of Greek austerity


From the just-released Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2013 [PDF] from the Hellenic Statistical Authority [Elstat], dramatic evidence of the cost of Troika-imposed austerity on the Greek people:

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EbolaWatch: Crisis, Pols, Scares, & Africa


And please do read the African coverage after the jump, featuring stories from newspapers in the Hot Zone. . .

First up, from BuzzFeed, alarms shrieking:

WHO Says Ebola Is The Worst Modern Health Emergency

The World Health Organization calls Ebola “unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times” and says “the world is ill-prepared to respond to any severe, sustained, and threatening public health emergency.”

In a statement emailed to reporters on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed Ebola “unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times,” saying that most countries where Ebola has spread have failed “to put basic public health infrastructures in place.”

Encouraging people and health officials to get informed about how to prevent Ebola, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan explained that 90% of economic losses during the outbreak of any disease comes from “the uncoordinated and irrational efforts of the public to avoid infection.”

“We are seeing, right now, how this virus can disrupt economies and societies around the world,” she said.

More from the New York Times:

W.H.O. Chief Calls Ebola Outbreak a ‘Crisis for International Peace’

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is “unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, said Monday.

Dr. Chan, who dealt with the 2009 avian flu pandemic and the SARS outbreaks of 2002-3, said the Ebola outbreak had progressed from a public health crisis to “a crisis for international peace and security.”

“I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries,” she said in a statement delivered on her behalf to a conference in Manila and released by her office in Geneva. “I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure.”

More from BBC News:

Ebola epidemic ‘could lead to failed states’, warns WHO

The Ebola epidemic threatens the “very survival” of societies and could lead to failed states, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

The outbreak, which has killed some 4,000 people in West Africa, has led to a “crisis for international peace and security”, WHO head Margaret Chan said.

She also warned of the cost of panic “spreading faster than the virus”.

The Nation goes for context:

How the World Let the Ebola Epidemic Spiral Out of Control

  • A swift international response could have contained the outbreak

Despite its frightening virulence, Ebola can be contained through robust public health efforts. It thrives in chaotic and impoverished environments where public health systems are frayed and international assistance weak. Though experts will debate the roots of this current crisis for years, one point on which many agree is that local poverty and global indifference played starring roles. “This isn’t a natural disaster,” international health crusader Paul Farmer told The Washington Post. “This is the terrorism of poverty.”

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are among the poorest countries on the planet, with health systems that have been shattered by years of neglect and conflict. As many as 90 percent of Liberia’s healthcare workers fled the country during its long civil war, and some 80 percent of its health facilities were closed. By the time the Ebola outbreak was declared an international emergency, Liberia had less than 250 doctors. Scientists could not have devised a more nurturing environment for a deadly virus if they had designed it in a laboratory.

But if local conditions created the opening for the epidemic, it was global inaction that helped it to flourish. For months, organizations like Doctors Without Borders begged the World Health Organization to begin marshaling resources to fight the crisis. But after years of budget cuts and the gutting of its epidemic-response unit, WHO failed to act with anything approaching the necessary speed and competence. Nor was it alone: governments around the world have stalled, unwilling to recognize this outbreak as the global humanitarian crisis it is. Even now, far too few have stepped up to provide the medical resources and technical expertise that are so desperately needed.

And the perspective on the handling of the outbreak from a German specialist on tropical diseases from Deutsche Welle:

The Global Fight against Ebola

Program notes:

Dr. Peter Tinnemann, head of the global health sciences unit at the Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, offers insights into the global fight against Ebola and explains what the World Health Summit can do to help solve global health problems.

The New York Times raises questions:

New Questions of Risk and Vigilance After Dallas Nurse Contracts Ebola

Dr. Joseph McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville, said he was shocked that none of those monitored by officials were hospital workers caring for Mr. Duncan after he was put in isolation. Dr. McCormick worked for the C.D.C. in 1976, when he helped investigate the first epidemic of Ebola in central Africa.

“You know that once this guy is really ill and he’s hospitalized, there’s going to be a lot of contact, manipulation of blood specimens, cleaning up if he’s vomiting or if he’s got diarrhea,” Dr. McCormick said. “You certainly can’t assume that because he’s hospitalized and in this unit that everything is fine and everything that goes on will be without any risk. I mean that’s just ludicrous to think that.”

State and federal health officials seemed to be, in a sense, starting over, two weeks after Mr. Duncan’s diagnosis of Ebola on Sept. 30. They spoke of stepping up precautions and of conducting a new investigation, in order to evaluate and learn more about a group of health-care workers they had initially failed to regard as potentially at risk.

“So in light of this case, we’re looking at the ongoing monitoring of all health care workers and looking at going forward having an epidemiologist see them and more active surveillance for these individuals,” Dr. David L. Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, told reporters Sunday.

The Washington Post assesses:

U.S. hospitals not prepared for Ebola threat

With reports that a nurse who treated Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas has been infected, one thing urgently needs to be made clear: Our hospitals are not prepared to confront the deadly virus.

It is long past time to stop relying on a business-as-usual approach to a virus that has killed thousands in West Africa and has such a frighteningly high mortality rate. There is no margin for error. That means there can be no standard short of optimal in the protective equipment, such as hazmat suits, given to nurses and other personnel who are the first to engage patients with Ebola-like symptoms. All nurses must have access to the same state-of-the-art equipment used by Emory University Hospital personnel when they transported Ebola patients from Africa, but too many hospitals are trying to get by on the cheap.

In addition, hospitals and other front-line providers should immediately conduct hands-on training and drills so that personnel can practice, in teams, such vital safety procedures as the proper way to put on and remove protective equipment. Hospitals must also maintain properly equipped isolation rooms to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff and harden their procedures for disposal of medical waste and linens.

The Associated Press sets the healthcare frame:

CDC urges all US hospitals to ‘think Ebola’

The government is telling the nation’s hospitals to “think Ebola.”

Every hospital must know how to diagnose Ebola in people who have been in West Africa and be ready to isolate a suspected case, Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday.

He said the CDC is working to improve protections for hospital workers after a nurse caring for an Ebola patient in Dallas became the first person to become infected with the disease inside the U.S.

“We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control,” Frieden said, “because even a single infection is unacceptable.”

Fears from the Los Angeles Times:

Louisiana A.G. opposes burial of burned items linked to Ebola victim

Burned items associated with a Liberian man who died from Ebola in a Dallas hospital last week could be barred from a Louisiana landfill if the state’s attorney general gets his way.

Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell said he plans to ask for a temporary restraining order to keep the incinerated items out of Louisiana. The request could be filed as early as Monday, said a spokesman for Caldwell.

In a statement late Sunday, Caldwell cited reports that “six truckloads” of items from the Texas apartment where Thomas Eric Duncan was staying are set to be dumped at a Louisiana landfill after being burned at a Veolia Environmental Services plant in Port Arthur, Texas. Duncan fell ill with Ebola in Texas and died Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that incinerated Ebola-associated waste is no longer infectious.

More of the same from the Associated Press:

Company won’t take ash from Ebola victim apartment

A Louisiana waste disposal facility says it will not accept the ashes generated when a Texas Ebola victim’s belongings were incinerated, at least not until state officials agree that it would pose no threat to the public.

Chemical Waste Management Inc.-Lake Charles said in news release Monday that it is permitted to accept such material and that it poses no threat to the environment or human health.

But, the company says, “we do not want to make an already complicated situation, more complicated.”

The Hill covers troops dispatched:

‘Surge’ of Ebola personnel sent to Dallas

A “surge” of personnel and other resources has been sent to Dallas to help discover how a nurse was infected with Ebola, top health officials told President Obama during an Oval Office meeting on Monday.

The president stressed that the investigation into the second U.S. infection “should proceed as expeditiously as possible and that lessons learned should be integrated into future response plans and disseminated to hospitals and healthcare workers nationwide.” He said officials should move “as expeditiously as possible,” according to the White House.

Obama was briefed on the Ebola case by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department; Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, and Lisa Monaco, the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, participated via telephone.

From The Hill, but of course:

GOP amplifies calls for Ebola czar

At least six lawmakers, including one Democrat, are now calling for a single Ebola authority to oversee the government’s efforts at home and abroad. The U.S. plan to combat Ebola costs at least $1 billion and crosses multiple layers of government, from the Department of Defense to airport security staff to local health departments.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who has worked closely with federal officials on the city’s Ebola cases, told reporters last week that the response had been “at best, disorganized.”

The White House maintains that it has a clear chain of command about how to confront Ebola, and it starts with Obama’s top homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco. But Republicans believe the lack of a prominent point person who can focus solely on Ebola has slowed the nation’s response to the epidemic.

Salon lays some blame:

The right’s scary Ebola lesson: How anti-government mania is harming America

  • It’s time to admit the truth: People who cut health funding and don’t like government have not helped this crisis

If not for serial budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health, we would probably have an Ebola vaccine and we would certainly have better treatment, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins tells the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein. This comes on the heels of reporting that the Centers for Disease Control’s prevention budget has been cut by half since 2006, and new revelations about how botched protocols at the Dallas hospital that turned away Thomas Eric Duncan and then failed to treat him effectively also led to the infection of one of Duncan’s caregivers.

Yet most of the media coverage of the politics of Ebola to date has centered on whether President Obama has adequately and/or honestly dealt with the disease. “I remain concerned that we don’t see sufficient seriousness on the part of the federal government about protecting the American public,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters. Cruz is probably the wrong guy to talk about seriousness: his government shutdown forced the NIH to delay clinical trials and made the CDC cut back on disease outbreak detection programs this time last year.

I find myself wondering: When, if ever, will the political debate over Ebola center on the way the right-wing libertarian approach to government has made us less safe?

A Dallas patient update from Sky News:

Ebola Infected Dallas Nurse Nina Pham ‘Stable’

  • Barack Obama urges health officials to quickly investigate how Dallas nurse Nina Pham became infected despite precautions

An American nurse who contracted ebola while treating a dying patient is in “clinically stable” condition, US health officials have said.

The healthcare worker, identified as 26-year-old Nina Pham, has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas since Friday.

Ms Pham was one of several caregivers who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who succumbed to ebola on 8 October.

The White House said that the president wants an update on steps under way to ensure the national health system is prepared to deal with the disease, which has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa.

A video report from Reuters:

CDC: Infected nurse “clinically stable,” others possibly at risk

Program note:

Dr. Thomas Frieden says CDC doesn’t know how nurse became infected with Ebola, and says staff are assessing care protocols, and materials used for protective suits and equipment.

Reconsideration from the New York Times:

C.D.C. Reviewing Procedures After New Case of Ebola in Dallas

Health authorities have expanded the number of health care workers who were part of a group that may have had contact with Mr. Duncan to at least 50 people, which doubles the number of those being monitored to more than 100.

The action comes as questions were being raised about why the hospital workers who had been caring for Mr. Duncan from Sept. 28 until his death last Wednesday had not been on the initial list.

Officials had previously never made it clear that the 48 people being evaluated did not include those treating him after his admission to the hospital.

On Monday, health authorities said they were conducting interviews with employees at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to try to determine who might have come into contact with Mr. Duncan and were monitoring their health to ensure that they had not contracted the virus.

Unlike Spain, where the dog of a nurse who contracted from a patient was put down, via Reuters:

Dog of Ebola-infected Dallas nurse to be cared for, officials say

The dog of the Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola when treating a patient infected with the virus is still in the woman’s apartment and will be kept safe while its owner is in isolation at a local hospital, officials said on Monday.

The 1-year-old King Charles Spaniel will be moved to an undisclosed location where its health can be checked, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ office said in a statement.

“We are working to remove the dog from the apartment this afternoon,” the office said. Jenkins, the chief executive for Dallas County, is working to share photos of the patient’s dog with her family, it added.

American network talking head goes AWOL, gets whole crew confined, via News Corp Australia:

NBC News crew under quarantine after correspondent Dr Nancy Snyderman snuck out for soup

AN NBC News crew was ordered under mandatory quarantine for possible Ebola infection after the network’s chief medical correspondent was allegedly spotted on a food run to a New Jersey restaurant, according to a report.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman and her crew had agreed to a voluntary quarantine when they returned to the United States from West Africa last week following their exposure to a cameraman who contracted the deadly virus, The New York Post reports.

But Snyderman, who lives in Princeton, New Jersey, was spotted outside the Peasant Grill in nearby Hopewell on Thursday afternoon, according to Planet Princeton.

A screening update from The Hill:

CDC: 91 passengers at JFK airport flagged for Ebola screenings

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden said Monday that 91 passengers had been flagged for additional Ebola screening at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“Ninety-one such individuals were identified, none of them had fever,” Frieden said during a press briefing. “Five of them were referred for additional evaluation for CDC. None were deemed to have exposure to Ebola.”

Kennedy airport is one of five in the U.S. where passengers arriving from West African countries battling the deadly disease receive extra checks for symptoms. The Obama administration has also implemented the additional screenings at Newark Liberty, Washington Dulles, O’Hare in Chicago and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

From RT, vaccine hopes:

70-90% efficiency: Russia to send Ebola vaccine to W. Africa in 2 months

In two months, Russia is planning to send a new experimental vaccine against Ebola to Africa, according to the country’s health minister. The efficiency of the drug, which is to be tested on the ground, is about 70-90 percent.

“Today we are discussing that we will have enough of Triazoverin vaccine in two months so that we can send them to our personnel in Guinea and test its efficiency in clinical conditions,” Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said.

The vaccine has so far proved efficient against various hemorrhagic fevers, including the Marburg virus which is very similar to Ebola. “The efficiency ranges between 70 and 90 percent and this is a very good indicator,” Skvortsova said.

Russia’ Virology Institute is preparing a whole group of drugs.”They are basically genetically engineered drugs which can work both for disease treatment and prevention,” Skvortsova said.

Another vaccine, via the Guardian:

Canadian-made Ebola vaccine begins human trials in US

  • Experimental vaccine has shown to be ‘100% effective’ in preventing spread of Ebola when tested on animals

An experimental Canadian-made Ebola vaccine that has shown promise in tests on primates is beginning clinical trials on humans in the US.

The vaccine will be tested on healthy individuals Monday to see how well it works, whether there are side effects and what the proper dosage is, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said.

“The Canadian vaccine provides great hope and promise because it has shown to be 100% effective in preventing the spread of the Ebola virus when tested on animals,” she said.

From the Guardian again, a defense:

Spain defends Ebola repatriations

  • We did what we had to do, says foreign minister, despite nurse becoming first person to contract virus outside of west Africa

Spain’s foreign affairs minister has defended the government’s decision to repatriate two Spanish nationals with Ebola, despite a nurse who treated them becoming the first person to contract the virus outside of west Africa.

“The government did what it had to do,” José Manuel García-Margallo told El País newspaper. “The duty of a state is to protect its citizens – and even more so when they are in difficult circumstances far from Spain. All the developed countries who have had this problem have done the same.”

The two missionaries, Miguel Pajares, 75, and Manuel García Viejo, 69, died in August and September, days after being evacuated to Madrid for treatment. Spanish nurse Teresa Romero Ramos tested positive for the Ebola virus shortly after. She remains in a stable but serious condition.

An Aussie nurse returns to Africa after a false alarm, via the Guardian:

Cairns nurse in Ebola scare urges volunteers to fight virus in West Africa

  • Sue Ellen Kovack says medical professionals thinking of travelling to West Africa to help in public health crisis should not be deterred

The nurse at the centre of the Australian Ebola scare has urged other health professionals to travel to West Africa to help fight the virus.

Sue Ellen Kovack, 57, was released from Cairns hospital on Monday after returning a second negative result for the virus. Kovack returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone last Tuesday and was taken to hospital on Thursday after developing a low-grade fever, sparking fears she could have brought the virus to Australia.

In her first public statement since being admitted to hospital Kovack urged Australians to donate to the Red Cross to send more help to West Africa.

“It has been so inspiring and it has really kept me going in the past few days to know there’s growing public support for action to help people affected by Ebola in West Africa,” she said.

The British numbers, via the Independent:

Jeremy Hunt: UK Ebola victims won’t exceed ‘a handful’

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended Britain’s response to the Ebola crisis which was described by the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the biggest danger posed by a disease in modern times.

Unveiling new measures designed to halt the spread of the deadly virus from arriving in the UK and to identify those in the early stages of infection, Mr Hunt told MPs that he did not expect the number of victims to exceed a “handful of cases” – fewer than 10.

He was challenged by Labour to describe the “worst-case scenario” and sought to reassure the public that the risk posed by the disease was low. However he said it was possible that the number of infections could rise and the situation was likely to get worse before it improves.

Screens up, via BBC News:

Heathrow Ebola screening from Tuesday

Ebola screening will begin at London’s Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says.

Passengers from at-risk countries will have their temperature taken, complete a risk questionnaire and have contact details recorded.

Mr Hunt said screening at Gatwick and Eurostar terminals would start in the coming week.

The Chief Medical Officer says the risk to the UK is low, but expects a “handful” of cases.

Aerial Ebolaphobia, via the Guardian:

Ebola: UK cancels resumption of direct flights to Sierra Leone

  • Department of Transport cites deteriorating public health for revoking Gambia Bird’s licence to fly to Ebola-hit country

The first direct flights to resume from the UK to Sierra Leone have been cancelled after the British government revoked Gambia Bird’s recently granted permit because of fears over Ebola.

The Department of Transport cited the deteriorating public health situation for the revocation when it notified the German-owned airline on Friday evening.

The airline said it would appeal against the decision, especially as its licence was only granted on 26 September.

Spanish reassurance from El País:

Ebola outbreak is under control, says government spokesman

  • Scientific committee confirms that only nursing assistant can now transmit virus in Spain

“The patient is still in a very serious condition.” That was the latest news from the authorities on the health of Teresa Romero, the Spanish nursing assistant who was diagnosed with Ebola last week and has been receiving treatment in Carlos III Hospital in Madrid ever since.

The person delivering the message was Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, a member of the scientific committee put in place by the government late last week, during a press conference at midday on Monday at La Moncloa prime ministerial palace.

Rodríguez went on to confirm that none of the people with whom Romero had come into contact, and who have been voluntarily put into isolation at Carlos III for monitoring, are showing any symptoms of the virus.

“Right now there is no other person in Spain who is capable of transmitting the virus other than the patient,” he said in reference to Romero, who contracted Ebola while caring for a Spanish missionary who had been repatriated from west Africa after becoming infected. “We are in a situation of total calm,” Rodríguez added.

TheLocal.es gives the date:

‘Spain Ebola-free in two weeks if no new cases’

Spain will be free from the threat of further contagion from Ebola on October 27th if all those who had close contact with an infected nurse remain without symptoms by then, a hospital director said on Monday.

Concerns that Ebola could spread in Spain have been high since the nurse, Teresa Romero, on October 6th became the first person diagnosed as having caught the deadly haemorrhagic fever outside of Africa.

A Czech Ebola alarm from RT:

Suspected Ebola carrier wrapped in plastic after Czech police seal off rail station

Czech police and hazmat suit-wearing doctors have seized a traveler from Ghana at Prague’s main railway station. The man, suspected of suffering from the Ebola virus, was wrapped in black plastic by the authorities and taken away.

The police dispatched some 15 officers from the capital’s rapid response squad to cordon off the station’s lobby, iDNES.cz news website reported. The operation didn’t interrupt the normal operation of the railway station, but probably scared passengers who were in the vicinity.

Footage from the scene showed a man wearing biohazard suit pushing a luggage cart with a person sitting on it almost completely covered by black plastic.

The target of the police operation was a student from Ghana, who arrived in Prague earlier Saturday evening. He managed to get through medical screening at the airport and was caught later at the railway station.

Here’s the raw footage, via Media News:

After the jump, on to Africa with a bankster’s alarm and a regional economic alert, on to Sierra Leone and football affected, Liberia next, with journalistic accusations, a strike averted — or was it?, an account from one facility, a protest over dismissals, clinic expansions, a new outbreak reported, an innovative clinic covered, justices pledge salaries to the Ebola fight, And a warning against healthcare worker abuse, then on to Nigeria and anti-Ebola measures in schools, and an Ebola drugs medical trial, plus high praise in Gambia. . . Continue reading