Ebola – Pandora’s box is open – What next?

ebolaI can’t pinpoint it, is it arrogance, is it ignorance or is it sheer stupidity. The response of powerful countries such as USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany has been so cavalier to this new threat.

Various people in the government, health agencies have said things like “difficult to transmit,” or “We will stop it in its tracks,” or some such inane platitude. And if you really take a look at what’s going on, you have to think, “Isn’t it already too late?”

I remember watching a newscast about Ebola from West Africa. Sanjay Gupta went into one of the Ebola facilities in Africa, all dolled up in his bio suit, effectively saying it is difficult to transmit Ebola. At one point the camera panned to show a nearby airport and the newscaster said that Ebola could potentially travel to faraway places in a jiffy. That was the truth.

Now Ebola has the potential to be a global disease. Countries in their arrogance have been flying patients out of Africa, bringing them home for treatment. How much do scientists, doctors know about this disease, which till now has never ventured out of remote African locales?

Funding and resources spent on research wouldn’t have been a whole lot as Ebola only affected a microcosm of Earth’s population. So what gives these people the confidence, or perhaps overconfidence to think they can effectively tackle this disease? Their recent actions haven’t inspired much confidence.

The case of a Spanish nurse, who caught Ebola while treating two Spanish citizens brought back to Spain for treatment. News articles have claimed that the team attending to the stricken didn’t have the proper equipment, at times bare skin being exposed at time of treating the patient. Is this supposed to inspire confidence?

Within days we hear of a passenger who travels from Liberia to Dallas, Texas and goes to a hospital, tells them he is from Liberia and is unwell with symptoms of Ebola and he is sent back into the population! Is this USA being prepared to stop this disease in it’s tracks?

He returns a couple of days later, only to succumb to the disease and in turn infecting two nurses who were caring for him. This is even more amazing. Now reports say that during treatment the nurses had their necks exposed. So much for “We are prepared” and “We have protocols in place.”

Let’s not forget, the second nurse actually flew to Cleveland, Ohio while still under a supposed watch. Now CDC says she shouldn’t have gotten on a commercial airliner as per protocol. Who is charged with enforcing this protocol? Isn’t that part of being prepared?

The question is, what next? What can be done to safeguard citizens across the world from Ebola. The cat is out of the bag. The stark reality is that infections are going to show up around the world. They will spread fast in third world countries and they will spread slowly in the west, but they will spread. Had the disease been quarantined to the host countries, the situation would have been different, but that boat has sailed.

One of the key things to talk about is, Ebola is NOT difficult to contract. If nurses in full protective garb aren’t safe, what chance does an average person have? They say Ebola transmits through sweat, they say it can survive for hours on door knobs. So if an Ebola carrier is running just a slight temperature, which is a symptom and which means he is contagious and he happens to wipe sweat off his upper lip and the grab a door knob, the next person could pick it up. So why is it difficult to contract?

There are people who blast saliva out of their mouth when they have normal conversation. If they have symptoms and are contagious, they could infect tens if not hundreds of people just by opening their mouths.

So what can be done?

FOR GOVERNMENTS

  1. Setup a national helpline manned by the best you have to offer in investigative medicine and intelligence.
  2. Individuals calling in should be screened and if they fit the profile of an Ebola infectee, they should be asked to remain where they are.
  3. Dispatch a unit from the nearest facility capable of dealing with the disease to pickup the individual.
  4. Cleanup the place and quarantine any relatives and immediate family for the next 21 days.
  5. Educate Citizens– I can’t stress this enough. STOP saying Ebola is difficult to transmit. You don’t know enough. Transmissions have occurred under your nose and you are still struggling for answers.
  6. Educate Hospital staff – Big or small, educate every hospital and medical clinic on how to deal with a patient who seems live. Immediate isolation, a call to the national help line and a unit from the closest Ebolized medical facility to retrieve the patient with a cleanup and quarantine crew to follow.
  7. Direct workplaces to have an infectious disease policy in place. Dcree that any sick workers must stay at home till their symptoms have worn off. And report to work when they are completely symptom free.
  8. Same goes for school going kids. We all know that traditionally infections spread fastest in a school setting.
  9. Start an advertising blitzkrieg, telling citizens that they are now faced with a difficult foe. This is not a war far away in the Middle East, but a war at their doorstep, one which each citizen has to fight by being aware and alert.

 

FOR INDIVIDUALS

 

  1. Travellers from affected areas
    1. You are at risk – Tell these people that “You are at risk” and then tell them that you are risking the lives of your family and those you love by undertaking this travel.
    2. If they still decide to travel, then suggest that they should stay under voluntary quarantine inside their homes for 21 days. Else they risk their family and loved ones.
    3. Paid leave from work – Everybody needs to play their part, even corporations. Does a CEO really want an Ebola stricken worker reporting to work and standing next to him by the water cooler?
    4. Risk of transmission – Do not play down the risk of transmission, instead play it up so people will think twice before risking the lives of people they love.
  1. Relatives of those traveling from affected areas
    1. You are at risk. Your loved one is a possible carrier of Ebola. He can potentially infect you and you have a 70% chance of dying from it.
    2. Relatives should help their loved ones through their 21 day quarantine.
    3. They should call local authorities on the first sign of symptoms and then quarantine themselves

At various times in the human civilization, a disease has reared its ugly head and wiped out millions. We, with all our technology and modern medical advances have a unique opportunity to prove to our future generations that we are capable of facing such a disease and stopping it in its tracks, but we can’t do that through denial and mollycoddling the population.

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The Beauty of Winter!

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Oakville is a part of the GTA, the Greater Toronto Area. The southern part of Oakville rests on Lake Ontario. The Lakeshore Road running through Oakville Downtown is bustling with independent shops, restaurants and cafe’s. A short walk from Lakeshore … Continue reading

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Texting or using your phone at the movies? Die you fiend…

movie-theater-popcornAnother gun related tragedy in America. This has become the norm rather than an exception these days. As moviegoers in a Florida movie theatre watched the previews, a man sitting behind a rude texter argued with his nemesis. He then left the movie theatre to complain to the theatre staff.

So far, so good. I too would go to this extent if someone bothered me at the movies by being silly with their phone. When the irritated guy returned, the altercation resumed. It ended when he pulled out his gun and shot the rude phone man and hurt his companion as well.

One guy is dead, the other will be behind bars for a long time (hopefully). What is wrong with people these days? People on both sides of this story. The texter, if he had such a busy life should have decided not to go to the movies, or maybe could have got up and headed outside to attend to his phone?

But under no circumstances does rude behaviour give anyone the right to shoot that person. How angry are you? How incensed and mentally tortured a person are you to kill someone over using a phone in a movie theatre.

Had the texter not been killed, I would have no sympathy for him. If he had just been roughed up, got his nose broken with a well timed punch, I would probably root for the attacker, but shooting a guy? Taking a life over a movie ticket. This is what happens if the general populace has easy access to guns. Unfortunate.

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Superman! My Hero…

He has always been my true hero! As a child, reading comic books was my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a book worm but I loved comics. My mother used to take me along to make social calls on our relatives and I religiously carried my comics with me.

We would get to their place and as she went about chatting and gossiping with family and friends, I buried by nose in the pages of fantasy. Superman had it all, a strong moral compass, the ability to do the right thing when faced with the most difficult choices.

He never lied, he never killed another, no matter how vile a villain the other was. He always found a way to thwart the wrong with a resounding right. I wanted his super powers so bad. But somewhere inside me I knew that those I couldn’t have.

For one I knew I wasn’t an alien. So I went about building my moral compass to match his. I try to see the good in people. I try my best not to judge others. I do not like crooks and corruption and try to stay true to myself. At the end of the day I feel one has one’s own conscience to answer to.

There have been moments when I have fallen short of my own expectations; at those times I haven’t felt so super. Luckily for me, I am answerable to myself for those lapses and not to the justice system!

Thanks to Superman, and now that I am older, thanks to the creators of Superman I have had a good role model to grow up with.

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Fast Forward

Life today feels like it is on fast forward. In about four days half of January will be over. In my line of work, we liaise with retailers to plan their product assortments, so we are currently planning winter 2014 shipments while we are still not halfway through with winter 2013!

I turned forty last year! That too feels like fast forward to me! I still remember when I was back in grade school, the carefree days. Seems like it was yesterday and now when I look at myself in the mirror I say to myself “Forty? Really?” I don’t feel it in my mind, I do in my body!

I don’t think I am alone in feeling that life is passing by faster than it ever has. In speaking to friends, colleagues and family, all seem to be experiencing the same swift passage of sand through the hourglass.

I did feel a little bit of a slowdown last year between July and August. I had taken some time off to go away to England and then to India. It was a holiday and I had absolutely nothing to do, except spend time with family and friends. Those few weeks it seemed that life was slow motion.

That says something. In today’s connected world, we are doing something every waking moment. That is what makes time zoom by. If only I could get myself to stop, to do the things I love doing, things which make it feel like the world has slowed down.

Sorry I haven’t been able to fast forward to a day in the future, I have just about managed to convey my sense of FAST FORWARD!

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Diplomatic Affairs – The Devyani Kohbragade case.

There are always multiple points of view for any disagreement. This particular story as it unfolds threatens to snowball those differences into a permanent freeze in relations between India and America.

Devyani Khobragade, an Indian Diplomat posted as Vice Consul in New York was accused of paying less than minimum wage to her domestic help, Sangeeta Richard. Devyani was then arrested and treated as a common criminal when booked for the offence. She was subjected to a strip search, and locked with unsavory criminals.

One would think this is a simple matter, what’s all the hue and cry about? But it isn’t so simple. Devyani is an Indian Diplomat and enjoys immunity based on the Vienna Convention. The American’s disagree though, saying she did not have full immunity because she was Consular staff and not a full diplomat. Indian’s say otherwise.

khobragate_0102.jpg?w=480&h=320&crop=1Devyani’s Story:

She was paying the fair minimum wage to her employee. Part of the salary was being sent to India to Sangeeta’s family at Sangeeta’s behest and the balance was being paid directly to Sangeeta. A second contract did exist but that was only entered to on the insistence of Sangeeta so funds could be sent to her family back home.

Devyani alleged that Sangeeta wanted a new passport so she could work elsewhere, that she blackmailed Devyani and eventually left her home.

Sangeeta-Richard-300x225Sangeeta’s Story:

Sangeeta has alleged that she was a mis-treated domestic worker. Paid below minimum wage and forced to work all hours. She eventually couldn’t take it anymore and one day left, connecting with Safe Horizons an anti-traficking program which brought her story to light.

The Diplomatic fallout:

This isn’t a story of two individuals anymore. India and USA are involved as sovereign nations. India because Devyani was a representative of that Government in USA, and America because it is the host country that went out and arrested a diplomat of a friendly country.

Critics of America are quick to point out the case of Raymond Allen Davies, who shot two Pakistani citizens in cold blood and was blatantly bailed out by America using Diplomatic Immunity as a shield against strong protests from Pakistan. India feels that their Diplomat is entitled to no less of immunity than Raymond was.

Today, Devyani has been granted full immunity by the US government and has returned to India. She still maintains her innocence. Richard on the other hand has stayed back in the USA, in fact her family has been brought to America.

There are a few points in this entire story that are strange.

If Devyani claims that Sangeeta was being paid minimum wage, why is that so difficult to prove? If she was remitting part of the funds to India, that should be easy to substantiate and if the balance was being paid in New York then that should be easy to account for as well?

In the US vs Devyani Kohbragade complaint, the officer mentions that the visa form which was submitted mentions the salary for the maid to be US$4,500. That is insane, no maid makes that kind of salary. If you consider $9.75 per hour as minimum wage for a 40 hour workweek, then the wages due to Sangeeta should be $1,560. Did the US Government really expect that Sangeeta be paid $4,500? That was probably Devyani’s own salary as has been reported in the media.

Why was Sangeeta’s family extracted from India? Her spouse and children were granted visas for America and whisked away. US visas are not easy to come by? Sangeeta is not a US citizen to deserve such preferential treatment? Under which US law was all this orchestrated?

We common folk will probably never know what really went on. The two Governments involved will come to an agreement and sweep the whole ugly mess under the carpet.

If Devyani has indeed underpaid Sangeeta, then she deserves to be tried in USA. As an Indian Diplomat however, she shouldn’t be any less protected from foreign prosecution as Raymond Davies was. Now that the Indian Government has secured her release, they should conduct a transparent formal investigation of Devyani and charge her should she be found guilty.

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Syria – Here we go again….

The leaders of the world are up in arms as they allege that chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian regime against its citizens. They claim hundreds have been affected. The Syrian regime however claims that their opponents are the ones using chemical weapons.

The internet is rife with contradictions and there is no real consensus on who is fighting who in Syria. Amidst all of this, how wise is it for select governments to begin a military attack against Syria?

In the name of protecting the citizens of this country, we are all ready to bomb them, causing deaths of innocent civilians. And please, don’t say that civilians won’t die, that the attacks are going to be precise as USA has strong intel because that is a joke. America went to war in Iraq, causing irreparable damage to Iraqi life on a false pretext based on faulty intelligence.

There must be other ways to deal with this:

Fix the UN

The veto powers resting with members of the mighty security council are the biggest impediment to a true democratic worldwide body. Do away with veto powers and then seek solutions from the UN so that truly democratic decisions are returned in time of crisis as opposed to the free for all that takes place right now.

Open your borders to Syrian refugees and take them in

If you are so concerned about the well being of the Syrian people and this isn’t just a ploy to attack another oil rich nation, then invite Syrian refugees into your countries, provide them with escape from this regime. Not too many will go for this solution isn’t it. Very inconvenient, easier to just bomb them!

Think of solutions other than war

There are a few billion people in this world. Can no one come up with a solution that is non violent? Does it always have to be guns and soldiers and the shadow of death? Lets all wake up people, we only have one life, to lose it so cheaply is a shame.

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