Ebola Epidemic: Good news from Africa & Texas; Political Games in New York Threaten to Spread Epidemic Globally

Unidentified Nigerian man and World Health Organization rep celebrate victory over Ebola in Nigeria

Unidentified Nigerian man and World Health Organization rep celebrate victory over Ebola in Nigeria, 20 October, 2014.  Source: World Health Organization/Andrew Esiebo

There was good news this week from the World Health Organization (WHO): both Nigeria and Senegal were declared by WHO to be free of Ebola virus transmission! We congratulate the heroic health care workers in both countries and from around the world who contributed to stopping those outbreaks in spite of tremendous obstacles beyond their control.

Nigeria’s outbreak, thanks to strenuous efforts by the government and health care workers was limited to only 19 people infected, of whom 7 died.  Senegal was more fortunate: it had only 1 case of Ebola and that man survived and has since returned to Guinea where the epidemic continues to rage.  The World Health Organization, in an update published on 25 October 2014, states that as of that date, “There have been 10,141 EVD cases in eight affected countries since the outbreak began, with 4922 deaths”.   There is much to celebrate, but this epidemic is far from over and threatens the lives of thousands of people in West Africa.

Breaking down the numbers, WHO points out that “[a] total of 450 health-care workers (HCWs) are known to have been infected with EVD up to the end of 23 October: 80 in Guinea; 228 in Liberia; 11 in Nigeria; 127 in Sierra  Leone; one in Spain; and three in the United States of America.  A total of 244 HCWs have died.”  These women and men are heroic workers who gave their lives selflessly in this battle against Ebola in order to prevent the epidemic from spreading out of control globally – we honor their memory!

We mourn all of the victims of this largely preventable disaster and send condolences to the friends and families of all who have died.  They were and are our sisters and brothers!

Good news came in the form of the recovery from Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) of another heroic health care worker, Ms. Nina Pham, the Texas nurse who has completely recovered from her bout with the disease. Just 15 days after she contracted the disease she was declared to be “Ebola-free” and was allowed to travel to Washington D.C. this week for a meeting with President Barack Obama during which, to prove to the nation that there was nothing to fear from survivors of the disease, he awkwardly hugged her at a press conference.

Yes, kids: there’s no need to worry; head Democrat and Wall St. puppet Barack Obama’s on top of the Ebola epidemic: he just appointed a new “Ebola Czar” – Democratic Party spin doctor Ron Klain, “a longtime political hand with no apparent medical or health care background. He did, however, serve as chief of staff to Al Gore and later Vice President Biden.”  By choosing party hack Klain, Obama pointedly ignored the fact that he already has another person who is supposed to oversee the same work as Klain – but, unfortunately for her, she’s not male.  And you can’t have a female “Ebola Czar” now, can you?  “Ebola Czarina” sounds too “girly”.  We’ll have more to say about this later.
[Source:  Fox News, “Obama to name longtime political aide as ‘Ebola czar,’ bypassing senior health official“, 17 October 2014]

In spite of the major success stories there was bad news as well: The first case of Ebola was reported in Mali;  and an American, Dr. Craig Spencer, who works for the French international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB) returned to his home in New York City from his work in the hard-hit West African nation of Guinea and… tested positive for the Ebola virus a few days later. His case has set off a bipartisan, politically-motivated festival of slander and fear-mongering as Democratic Party Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo and Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie declared “a mandatory quarantine for any individual who had direct contact with an individual infected with the Ebola virus while in one of the three West African nations (Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea), including any medical personnel having performed medical services to individuals infected with the Ebola virus. Additionally, all individuals with travel history to the affected regions of West Africa, with no direct contact with an infected person, will be actively monitored by public health officials and, if necessary, quarantined, depending on the facts and circumstances of their particular situation.
[Source: Press release, “Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie Announce Additional Screening Protocols for Ebola at JFK and Newark Liberty International Airports”, Governor’s Press Office at http://www.governor.ny.gov/press/10242014-ebola-screening-protocols%5D

While announcing their politically-motivated quarantine, the scientifically illiterate, allegedly God-fearing, self-aggrandizing coward, Democratic Party Governor Andrew Cuomo, took the time to slander the truly heroic and selfless Dr. Spencer, announcing to the world that Dr. Spencer had wantonly exposed the citizens of New York City to the Ebola virus by refusing to obey the quarantine protocols he was to follow under the protocols established by MSF/DWB: “He’s a doctor, and even he didn’t follow the guidelines for the quarantine, let’s be honest” Cuomo was quoted as saying.
[Source: New York Times: “Cuomo, Shifting His Policy on Outbreak, Opens Up Public Rift With de Blasio,” 24 October 2014]

It turns out in fact that Dr. Spencer was under no such quarantine order and had scrupulously followed – and perhaps even exceeded – the protocols set by MSF/DWB: “As per the specific guidelines that Doctors Without Borders provides its staff members on their return from Ebola assignments, the individual [Dr. Spencer] engaged in regular health monitoring and reported his first symptoms immediately to MSF […] “ ‘Extremely strict procedures are in place for staff dispatched to Ebola affected countries before, during, and after their assignments,’ said Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF. ‘Despite the strict protocols, risk cannot be completely eliminated. However, close post-assignment monitoring allows for early detection of cases and for swift isolation and medical management.’ “As soon as he developed a fever, the MSF staff member was immediately isolated and referred to Bellevue Hospital.”
[Source: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.orgEbola: MSF Staff Member in U.S. Hospital“. 24 October, 2014]

In fact, Dr. Spencer had been so careful about checking his own temperature, he notified MSF/DWB when it reached just 100.3F rather than waiting for it to reach the 100.4F threshold set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (originally the CDC had set the threshold at 101.5F).
[Source: New York Times: “Ebola Patient in New York Is Called a Doctor at Ease in Danger“, 24 October 2014]

Both Cuomo and Christie are engaged in election campaigns and are cynically using the Ebola crisis to “enhance” their political careers at the expense of the health of the citizens of their respective states and of the entire United States. To top it off, “[t]he city’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, was not informed in advance of the Cuomo-Christie mandatory quarantine order and was ‘furious,’ a senior city official who spoke to her said.” Dr. Bassett had also praised the actions of Dr. Spencer, telling reporters that he had “handled himself really well,” adding, “I don’t want anyone portraying him as reckless.”
[Source: New York Times: “Cuomo, Shifting His Policy on Outbreak, Opens Up Public Rift With de Blasio,” 24 October 2014]

This public degradation of the top woman allegedly in charge of New York City’s response to the Ebola crisis is entirely in character for the politicians of male-chauvinist Democratic and Republican parties, who routinely use women’s rights as poker chips in their political games to win votes from the reactionary right wings of both parties. Dr. Bassett was not even asked to appear at the press conference announcing the new mandatory quarantine guidelines. What women think is just not important to the men running the twin political parties of US imperialism – not even in an election year.

The panic-mongering capitalist-owned bourgeois press; the under-funded, broken US health care system and the hired politicians of the US capitalist class can be counted to do only one thing regarding the US response to the Ebola crisis: fuck it up. The US capitalist class has created a situation in which ignorant, scientifically illiterate and superstitious politicians are in charge of the response to a major international health care crisis. They pose and posture as being “in charge” and immediately engage in rampant fear-mongering in response to political polls that show that they might obtain a few more votes from the even more ignorant and backward American voters if they would only take actions that are likely to do more to create panic and even sabotage the efforts to stop the spread of the Ebola epidemic in Africa. Many health-care professionals have criticized the new policy, pointing out the hardships that it will impose on medical personnel considering going to West Africa to help stop the spread of Ebola.

Yesterday’s (October 24) New York Times quoted Dr. Dan Kelly of the Wellbody Alliance, an organization he founded, who is currently fighting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone: “I think we are just digging the grave deeper […] [c]ome on, that’s exactly the move to push people away from going to Sierra Leone and other affected areas. It’s going to escalate the epidemic and not help solve the crisis. If we’re going to get in front of it, we need health care workers from abroad. They cannot feel shunned or discriminated against.”

[Source: New York Times: “New Ebola Quarantine Protocol Seen as Barrier to Volunteers“, 24 October 2014]

 

Of course, the new quarantine rules in New York and Newark will not apply to rich capitalists flying to and from West Africa in their private jets.  They’ll just be waved through customs as usual; the people most likely to be profiled and placed under quarantine will be… you guessed it! – black medical workers and travelers to and from the nations hardest hit by the epidemic.

Under socialism, a quarantine would be made easy for returning medical workers: they would be paid full salary to stay in an isolated retreat in the country they are working in, and it would be impossible for them to lose their jobs due to an unexpectedly long absence.  Or, they could come home and take an extra 21 days off with full pay and lay low until they were completely out of harm’s way and then could go back to work with no problems.  But under capitalism?  What are travelers supposed to do if they are placed under a 21-day quarantine?  Where will they stay and who’s going to pay for it?  What will happen to their jobs?  How will they pay their rent and utilities and take care of their families?  They’ll all just have to fend for themselves – and that is going to lead to people getting sick and still going to work, just as happens now when people get the flu – they go to work because no one can afford to take time off for fear of losing their jobs, cars, homes, etc.  Life under capitalism in the USA is like a dream come true for a virus seeking to spread as widely as possible.  Every year the flu kills an estimated 40,000 US workers thanks to our lack of a comprehensive socialist medical plan for everyone as well as the lack of paid sick days for workers and the constant fear of losing one’s job that is the plight of every working woman and man who lives in any capitalist country.

 

After the twin debacles of the CDC screwing up its protocols for protecting health care workers from Ebola and then the hospital in Texas refusing to hospitalize and sending home a now-deceased Ebola patient, you might think that the government-appointed medical professionals and the for-profit hospitals would have learned something and finally properly trained their workers to handle Ebola cases, right?  WRONG!

 

In spite of Democratic Party clown, NY Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s fatuous and vastly delirious statement that “We have the finest public health system, not only anywhere in the country but anywhere in the world”, the fact is that in New York, just as in Texas, hospital workers report that they have received little or no training to handle the crisis.

At Bellevue Hospital, where Dr. Spencer has been taken and is being treated in a special isolation ward used for tuberculosis patients, a “veteran nurse” who works at the hospital told the New York Times: ““We’re wondering how Ebola is being spread. Is it airborne? There is a lot of concern about it.”

 

The head of occupational safety and health for the New York State Nurses Association – who has been working with the for-profit hospitals “for months” preparing them for the Ebola crisis – told the Times that much of the worry of nurses over Ebola was coming from workers who had received “no training” because they weren’t going to be assigned to work in Ebola wards!

[Source: New York Times, “Bellevue Back on Front Line in Another Crisis” 24 October 2014]

To a hospital worker, that might seem to be a strange way of looking at things seeing that medical workers can only work in Ebola wards wearing the oppressively ponderous protective gear for only a few hours at a time; they also suffer from the disease itself as a result of their handling of infectious fluids from Ebola patients and many have given their lives fighting the epidemic.  But to a capitalist owner of a hospital, every penny not spent on properly training hospital workers to safely treat Ebola patients is a penny he or she can put in one of their offshore bank accounts!  Now doesn’t that make sense?

As if that’s not bad enough: a Canadian company actually developed an Ebola vaccine years ago that was proven effective in monkeys – indicating that it had great promise as a vaccine for humans, seeing that humans and chimps – being closely related members of the same branch of the tree of evolution –  share 99% of the same genetic information in their genes.

A human vaccine was developed by researchers in Canada in the early 2000’s and tested by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) in 2005 where it “protected all the monkeys injected with the virus”.  The Canadians tried to sell the vaccine to a number of major pharmaceutical companies so that it could be prepared for human trials –  but to the capitalists running the show at Big Pharma “an Ebola vaccine didn’t look like a profitable undertaking”.   The people who were mostly affected were poor Africans living in impoverished nations – how could the capitalists make big money developing a vaccine for them?  So it was never done, and only NOW – after some 4900 people are dead from Ebola and the epidemic is spreading uncontrolled – are human trials of the vaccine being scheduled by WHO.  The small US pharmaceutical firm that had purchased the contract to develop the human vaccine never moved forward with it, so the Canadian government canceled the contract and gave it to WHO instead.

“‘If this vaccine had been developed on time, probably people would be living now who are dead,’ said Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa.”

“Heinz Feldmann, who developed the vaccine, complained angrily:  ‘It’s  a farce; these doses are lying around there while people are dying in Africa,’ he told Science Magazine.”

[Source: Canada.com (via Postmedia News), “Canada’s Ebola vaccine delays may have cost lives, professor says” 21 October 2014]

The US Government and the US Military have long studied Ebola and Marburg virus for possible use as biological weapons; they have also sponsored development of vaccines for Ebola.  One of the new vaccines had its development halted in 2012 when the US Defense Department cut funding for the project; another vaccine development program was halted by the US Food and Drug Administration on July 3 of this year in order to ensure that proper protections for subjects participating in the human trials would be in place before the trials began.  When the lives of poor workers are in the balance, the capitalist class and their agencies are in no hurry to do anything to save them.  Only after a major disaster takes place is the capitalist class government stirred into action. This happens time and time again with such predictable events as famines, earthquakes, hurricanes and transmittable diseases.  Human life means nothing under capitalism, when it comes right down to it, compared to profits.

[Source: Science magazine, “Ebola Drugs Still Stuck in Lab” 25 July 2014]

The longer the working class allows the US capitalist class and their worthless political cretins in the Democratic and Republican parties to run the country, there is only one possible trajectory for the handling of the Ebola epidemic: it’s going to go from bad to worse.

ATTENTION: Workers of the United States!  You need desperately to put down your TV remotes and your joysticks and start taking control – not of the cable box or the video game but of your future and the future of your children! Get up off your couches and start fighting the capitalist system before it kills us all! You have sat by for far too long, expecting that someone else would come along and save your sorry asses! It is up to every working woman and man in this country to get involved in the fight for a better future for our kids and grandkids and to build revolutionary socialist workers parties – like ours – so that we can not merely pressure the Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing but to take power from the hands of the greed-infected capitalist class and their paid shills in every state capital in the country and place it in the hands of people who give a damn – the political leaders of, by and for the US working class! As the sudden appearance of the medical crisis of Ebola shows, the long-running US working class “strategy” of hiding your heads in the sand and/or voting this year for a Republican and next year for a Democrat just isn’t going to save your asses when Ebola comes to your town! Does half of the country have to die from Ebola while the capitalist class and their politicians run around like headless chickens before you working-class wage-slaves wake up? Will you sit there watching reality TV shows while your children die? What is wrong with you? WAKE UP AND JOIN US!

Workers of the World, Unite!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago

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