Friday, October 10, 2014

Texas Liberian Ebola patient wasn't left to die

Many Africans are suspicious, sometimes understandably so, of western action, inaction or insufficient action -- perceived or real. But suggesting that an African diagnosed with Ebola was left for death in a hospital in Texas is, in my perspective, unfounded and, patently absurd. Here's why.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola, according to BBC News, died in a hospital in Texas on 8 October 2014. Duncan, 42, reportedly contracted the deadly virus in his native country Liberia before traveling to the U.S. -- where he tested positive 10 days after he arrived from Liberia's capital Monrovia.

The death of Thomas Duncan sparked outrage and criticism among Africans on social media and elsewhere. Many criticized the way Duncan's case was handled by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, and expressed suspicion of U.S. policy in relation to the Ebola virus. On Facebook, some people claimed, amongst other things, that Thomas Duncan was "left to die" of Ebola. Someone speculated that Duncan was "an index case" that had to be "eradicated". Another suggested that the U.S was sending a message to discourage Africans from traveling to the U.S. to receive treatment for Ebola. Others suggested that racism had something to do with his death.

In fact, there seems to be consensus among good number of Africans online that Thomas Eric Duncan was left for death, and that enough wasn't done to save his life -- whereas enough was done to save the lives of American aid workers who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia.

In my view, it doesn't make sense to claim -- without evidence or enough data to support the claim -- that Thomas Duncan was left for death. The fact that he's the first casualty of Ebola on U.S. soil is insufficient grounds to arrive at such a bizarre conclusion.

Ebola has no proven cure as of the time of this writing. Hence anything can happen to anyone -- black or white, African or American -- who contracts the virus. It's true that the two American aid workers who survived in a hospital in Atlanta received an experimental drug called ZMapp, but Duncan wasn't given the drug. However, it's also true that ZMapp isn't a medical breakthrough -- as evidenced by the fact that ZMapp was, according to Reuters, given to three other Ebola patients who later died, including a Spanish priest.

Experimental drugs like ZMapp are therefore no guarantee. By the way, Thomas Duncan was given an experimental drug called brincidofovir.

I share the view that anti-Ebola protocols weren't respected in the onset of the Thomas Duncan case. It's inconceivable that the deceased was sent home with antibiotics after going to the hospital a few days after he arrived in the U.S. Someone in the hospital was negligent. The initial negligent response warrants an investigation to make sure it doesn't happen again.

However, I don't think hospital staff willingly sent an infected Ebola patient back into the streets in the U.S. I don't belong to the category of people who think Duncan was left for death.

Conspiracy theories related to Ebola or any other pandemic disease are counter productive, and endanger the lives of health workers and infected people in affect communities. Eight Ebola workers were killed in Guinea. Why? According to Time, an angry mob in a remote village thought the workers came to spread the disease. In my mind, conspiracy theories incited the violent attack.

The simple truth in my perspective is that the world is yet to get a grasp of Ebola. And even the most medically advanced countries are vulnerable, including the U.S. and European countries like Spain, that are reportedly well-equipped to contain the Ebola virus. If the "usual suspect" - the West - had a secret treatment or vaccine for Ebola, I think westerners like the two Catholic missionaries who died of Ebola in Madrid would've been saved. Authorities in Spain killed a dog belonging to a nurse infected with Ebola. Frantic efforts are employed to contain the Ebola virus.

Allegations that Eric Duncan was treated differently on grounds of nationality or race would've made sense to me if there was a clear way to treat Ebola, and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital didn't follow the tested and proven medical protocol. Unfortunately there's no known treatment at the moment hence hospitals attempt to deal with the virus in different ways -- yielding different results.

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