New Laws not National Conversations

It is the normal course for politicians and national leaders to call for a national conversation on race in America when a racially infused incident occurs. The call has become filler with no real intention of being carried out. What would such a conversation look like?  What would it accomplish? Nothing. Americans are having conversations on race every day but not across race, not engaging in those uncomfortable confrontations that we hope might lead to the real change. We do not need conversations on race. We need new laws.

In the face of the slayings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN by police officers, the problem of racially motivated violence against blacks by police is again in the headlines. When President Obama addressed these killings, it was obvious he wasn’t talking to black people. He was trying to convince whites that these killings were wrong, essentially saying that black lives matter. He quickly assured law enforcement that they were honored, celebrated, and appreciated for the work they did daily. The president’s quick pivot to celebrating law enforcement was telling. After peaceful protests in Dallas, a lone gunman, Micah Johnson, fired on police, killing 5 officers and injuring others. The shooter was black and he expressed anger at the recent shootings and the desire to kill white people and officers as his motivation. This disturbed individual’s horrific act was a deadly exclamation point on this week. Violence is never the answer.

It has always been the job of black folks to justify their right to keep their lives, not to be killed. Unfortunately, this sort of explaining is still required even when videos clearly show the victim powerless, non-threatening, and in many cases dying while the police officer brandishes a gun and fails to render in aid. The only way this will begin to stop is if the bar is lowered for prosecution of these police. Currently, it is too difficult to get a conviction when a police officer kills while on duty. That needs to change. There needs to be meaningful gun reform in this country. The paralyzing hold the NRA has on politicians stands in the way of this reform. This needs to change. National conversations won’t work.




Ebola Rewind

ebola4I am interested in origins. Where did Ebola come from? What is its history?

My first introduction to this disease was the film, “Outbreak.” In the movie, I remember the level 4 trauma ward of the CDC where the dreaded virus was housed. One of my favorite parts of the movie was when one character proclaimed, “It’s airborne!” I remember the scary images dramatizing those affected, bleeding from every opening. The virus in the movie was reported to be worse than Ebola.

I saw “Outbreak” when I was a sophomore in college attending Emory University and living a stone’s throw from the CDC, not that the proximity mattered. The CDC could have been housed on Mars at the time for how far fetched the movie’s premise was to me at the time. I’ve never forgotten about those fictional images or the movie.

Where did this virus come from? Fruit bats. The World Health Organization warns people in affected regions in West African countries against eating bushmeat to prevent animal to human transmission.

The first known case of the virus occurred in 1967 in Marburg, Germany. The origin of that small, contained outbreak was a group of green monkeys imported from Africa to be used for research and vaccine production. The monkeys were euthanized. There were only 31 human cases.

In 1976, the next known outbreak occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Yambuku near the Ebola river, later becoming the virus’ namesake. The aforementioned outbreak in Germany was referred to as the Marburg Virus. The Marburg and Ebola viruses are from the same virus family, Filoviridae. There were 318 cases and 280 deaths. In 1977 and 1979 there were small outbreaks in Sudan, Zaire (DRC), and London (laboratory incident). In 1989 the virus was introduced in a Reston, VA primate facility by infected monkeys imported from the Philippines.

From 1989 to 2013, there have been 30 relatively small outbreaks in the world, mostly in West African countries. The largest fatal cases–in the hundreds–were all in this region. The 2014 outbreak is horrifying because the number of human cases are over 4500 with deaths edging toward 2500.

This is the brief origin story of Ebola before the recent American cases. I’ll write about those in a later post.

Second Person in US Contracts Ebola

It has been confirmed that a second person has tested positive for Ebola in the US. A healthcare worker who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola in the US, has tested positive for the disease. The worker was following CDC protocols including taking body temperature twice daily when an elevated temperature was discovered. After reporting the temperature, the worker was tested and found to have the virus.

How did this worker contract the virus? The worker, whose identity has not been released, was reportedly wearing full protective gear. What happened then? Officials continue to say that it is extremely difficult to contract the disease yet cases continue to crop up. They say you can’t get it through the air, only by contact with bodily fluids. Aren’t droplets of water passed through the air with a sneeze? Their assurances are not helpful in light of this latest development. Did the worker not handle the protective gear correctly?

More questions need to be answered. This makes me want to dust off my science knowledge. What is the difference between a viral infection and a bacterial infection?