Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ebola Hysteria: The New Socially-Acceptable, Least-Helpful Trend in Politics

Oh, no!  It's Ebola!!
This morning I started reading the news and learned that New York and New Jersey want everyone who travel to West Africa to undergo a 21-day quarantine upon coming to the United States.

Everyone.  Not just people showing possible symptoms, or people at risk, such as a nurse or doctor accidentally stuck with a needle that had been in an Ebola patient.


I cringed reading this.  We have become such cowards, such worry-warts, so concerned with appearances and appearing to care that we hurt more people that we help.  I mean, the United States is not the only country outside of West Africa facing the possible spread of Ebola, but we certainly are the only country acting as if a major outbreak is merely around the corner, despite any evidence to the contrary.

Let me be clear - no one is contagious before showing symptoms.  That means that even if someone returning from West Africa somehow contracted Ebola, they are not contagious - meaning that he or she cannot pass on the virus - until they have symptoms.

To quote Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health, "When you start getting the viral load that is enough to be able to be transmitted, you're feeling very, very poorly."

Basically, you are even contagious when the very first symptoms appear.  You have to be getting rather ill before you can spread the disease.

And still, Americans and American media seem to be intent on making Ebola into the next zombie apocalypse, despite the fact that out of the over 10,000 cases of Ebola worldwide, only four people on American soil have been diagnosed with Ebola, of which only one person died. Mind you, as of 2011 approximately 6,884 people die every day due to a variety of causes.  So why get so upset over one singular death that might have been prevented had the hospital followed the proper procedures?

In the end, all we are doing is looking foolish and hurting the people who have the courage to go to West Africa in the first place. If we really want to prevent an Ebola outbreak, than we need to invest the time and money into either finding a cure, finding a vaccine, or helping rid West Africa of the virus. But standing around and acting hysterical accomplishes nothing.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Type of Obscenity? I Hope Not.

Earlier this month, Adam Lamparello from the Indiana Tech - Law School published a research paper titled "'God Hates Fags' is not the same as 'Fuck the Draft': Introducing the Non-Sexual Obscenity Doctrine".  Basically, Mr. Lamparello wants to create a new class of obscene language out of hate speech.

On the surface, this doesn't sound too bad.  I mean, everyone is against hate speech, right?  I can hear some people now, thinking to themselves that they would like statements like that to be illegal.  Everyone knows what hate speech sounds like, why don't we call it obscene and be done with it?

The problem comes from the fact that obscene language is legally not protected by the First Amendment.  So expanding the definition of obscenity restricts everyone's right to free speech.

If I never hear the words 'God hates fags' again, I will be quite happy.  But that doesn't mean I consider the words obscene, just obnoxious. But we need an example that explains my position better.

Let's say the words "<person> hates <object of hatred>" is considered obscene.  Then every kid who in a moment of anger shouts "I hate you!" to her parents is now using obscene language.  Or saying "God hates Marry Poppins" becomes obscene language.

Really, KatFrog, aren't you being a bit ridiculous?  After all, Mr. Lamparello only means phrases that we all consider obscene.  He even says, "In short, we not only know obscenity when we see it. We know where we see it as well.".

I can hear you saying this now.  But a quick look at history shows that that relying on the general public's common sense is a slippery slope down to witch trials, book burning, sterilization of innocent people, and other shameful events.  

In other words, give the general public an inch, and it turns into a raging mob that tries to one-up itself in how restrictive it can be.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Halloween Princesses

Isaiah Stephens from deviantArt created a series of Disney princesses as superheroes and such.
Here is Mulan as Xena, Warrior Princess.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola: The Facts

I've heard a lot of people talking about the Ebola outbreak in Africa, worrying about such an outbreak happening here in the United States.  My gut reaction is that we are basically safe due to our health care system and standard safety practices, but sometimes a gut reaction is wrong.  So I did some research as to what we know about Ebola.

In the beginning...

Ebola first appear in 1976 in two outbreaks:  one in Sudan and one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo next to the Ebola river, hence the name.  Scientists believe that local fruit bats are carriers of the virus, and that it jumped from the fruit bats to humans through careless handling of dead fruit bats or dead animals who were bitten by the fruit bats.

Transmission Vectors

Transmission vectors are the ways and methods which a virus uses to travel from one host to another.  Some viruses trigger coughing and sneezing, using the air as a transmission vector to travel.  The Ebola virus relies on bodily fluids to infect a new host.  These fluids include blood, saliva, sweat, semen, and other secretions.  In fact, a man may carry the virus in his semen for almost two months after recovering.

In layman's terms, you need direct contact an infected host's fluids to get the infection.  That means either touching an infected person, an infected animal, or an object that contains a fluid, such as sweaty sheets.

You CANNOT get the Ebola virus through:

  • Air
  • Water 
  • Casual contact (e.g. walking next to someone)
  • Food grown or legally purchased in the U.S.

The Danger

Why are we so worried about Ebola, unlike the common cold or a host of other viruses?  Because Ebola is almost certainly deadly for people who don't get any treatment, and averages about a 50% death rate for people who do get treatment.  Actually, the range is 20% - 90% for various outbreaks over the years.  Still, that means a person with Ebola in the hospital still has a 1 in 2 chance of dying.


The Ebola virus starts out like any other viral infection, first you get a fever with muscle aches.  It then ramps up to one or more of these possibilities:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Rash
  • Internal and external bleeding, e.g. bleeding gums or bloody stools
  • Symptoms of limited liver and kidney functions, such as swelling of the hands, feet, or legs; shortness of breath; weakness; confusion,...
  • Low platelet count, low white blood cell counts, and elevated liver enzymes in lab work
Symptoms appear anywhere between 2 and 21 days after exposure to the virus.  If a person remains symptom-free after 21 days, he does not have the Ebola virus.  Also, a person is not contagious until he develops symptoms.  

Why We Shouldn't Worry

Despite the fact that two nurses in Dallas contracted the Ebola virus, generally speaking it is not easy for a person to contract this disease due to the limited transmission vectors, unlike the 1908 flu which spread through the air.  Plus, a person needs to be showing symptoms to be contagious, unlike Fifths Disease where a person is contagious until symptoms appear.  

We already have procedures in place in all healthcare environments to eliminate contact with another person's bodily fluids.  These procedures began in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic, and have continued since.

The real reason there is an Ebola outbreak in Africa lies in their handling of dead bodies and the deliberate denial of the problem by local governments.  It is tradition to wash a dead body to prepare it for burial.  Sadly, the washers are the ones who contract Ebola and then pass it on to other people.  Because the local governments deny any problem, people are unaware that a simple fever and muscle aches can turn into something much worse, leading people to ignore the first symptoms.

In the United States, we tend to err on the side of caution.  In most hospitals outside of Dallas, if a patient shows up in the E.R. after being in Africa with symptoms that might be Ebola, that person is immediately put into quarantine and watched.

So calm down and carry on.  The Ebola virus might be running rampant in Africa, but we are safe.