Ebola Updates · October 25, 2014
October 25, 2014 • 10:04AM

Crisis-Wracked Caribbean Governments Warn of Vulnerability to Ebola: "We Have No Capacity To Deal with This"

Heads of state of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) are warning that their region is highly vulnerable to Ebola, and do not have any capacity to deal with it. Cuba, and the nations of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which held an emergency Ebola conference in Havana Oct. 20, are offering them crucial assistance, although that by itself won't suffice.

Speaking from Havana on Oct. 20, on the sidelines of the ALBA conference, Caricom's chairman, Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne, warned that the region is at higher risk, given the presence of Ebola in the United States. St. Lucia's Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, also at the ALBA conference, added that "many of the Caricom member states are very vulnerable. We have no capacity to deal with these crises." Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (S.V.G.), warned that "in Caricom we are very unprepared to confront Ebola," CubaSí reported yesterday. Eight Caribbean nations have imposed travel restrictions on travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

From the standpoint of public health and immunity, the Caribbean population is highly vulnerable. Over the past decade, as the global economy disintegrated, the drug trade has replaced productive economic activity, reflected in the growth of horrific drug-related crime in these tourism-dependent nations and the regional drive to legalize marijuana as a new "growth industry." True to the British Empire's legacy in the region, this year the European Commission is phasing out its bilateral economic assistance to every Caribbean country except Haiti, on grounds that they are all now "middle-income nations."

Disease is rampant, as seen in the current Chikungunya epidemic sweeping the region. Four years after Haiti's devastating January 2010 earthquake, and the cholera outbreak that followed in October of that year, Haiti still lacks the most minimal health, water, and sanitation infrastructure. Thanks to Barack Obama's criminality, cholera in Haiti today is still considered by the United Nations to be an emergency.

The tourism industry on which these nations depend is languishing, and governments are terrified of the effects of an Ebola outbreak. As the Jamaica Observer reported on Oct. 20, Browne warned that "even if we end up with a single case of Ebola, it has serious consequences for our tourism product. Most of our countries are dependent on tourism, and I can assure you that if any of our respective countries has a single case of Ebola, then you can see potentially, maybe a 30-50% drop in tourism. This means immense hardship for our people."

First Ebola Case Reported in Mali

The first confirmed case of Ebola in Mali was reported on yesterday, making it the sixth West African country to be affected.

Mali's Health Minister Ousmane Kone told state television that the patient in the town of Kayes is a two-year-old girl, who has just arrived from neighboring Guinea, one of the three core West African countries where the Ebola outbreak has been centered.

Apparently, the girl's mother died in Guinea a few weeks ago, and the child was brought by relatives to the Malian capital Bamako, where she stayed for 10 days before heading to Kayes.

Doctor Returning from Guinea Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

Dr. Craig Spencer, who returned from Africa via Europe on Oct. 17 after treating Ebola patients in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders, tested positive for Ebola yesterday in New York City. Spencer is being treated in isolation at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Center.

Since returning from Africa, Spencer rode the A, L, and No. 1 subway lines, went running, used an Uber livery cab, and went to a bowling alley in Williamsburg on Wednesday night. He began exhibiting a fever and diarrhea on Thursday morning. His most recent subway ride came just hours before his Ebola test.

Spencer reportedly exposed four people: his fiancé, a cab driver, and two friends he went bowling with. Spencer's fiancé and two friends are in quarantine at Bellevue.

However, the driver was told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, that neither the driver nor any of his subsequent passengers are at risk.

Dr. Spencer is on staff at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. The bowling alley in Williamsburg that he visited, the Gutter, was closed on Thursday night, and a scheduled concert there was canceled. Health workers were scheduled to visit the alley today.

At Dr. Spencer's apartment building, his home was sealed off, and workers distributed informational fliers about the disease.

Obama's Incompetent Ebola Policy Is Scored at House Committee Hearing

Despite the fact that Congress is out of session, a well-attended hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Ebola crisis was held today. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in his introduction that under the Obama Administration, the health system to protect the population from Ebola is bumbling along, and is not working properly. He also said that the Obama appointment of Ron Klain as czar for dealing with Ebola did not put a recognized leader or medical professional in the position, a criticism that was repeated by several Committee members, and several members also said Klain should have been at the hearing. He had turned down the invitation.

Ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said that the latest infected American, Dr. Craig Spencer in New York City, will not be the last such victim, and emphasized that it is the moral obligation of the U.S.A., as well as in our interest, to address the problem at its source in Africa.

The strongest testimony was delivered by Deborah Burger, R.N., co-president of National Nurses United (NNU), who listed the shortcomings and inadequacy of protocols in the present for-profit American hospital system, and emphasized that all the discussion about protocol guidelines, and their improvement, is meaningless as long as the guidelines are not made mandatory by President Obama or by legislation by Congress to "mandate optimal national standards." She was asked several questions by Cummings following the testimony of the witnesses.

Burger noted:"The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of health-care workers to the virus in Texas, and the real threat that it could occur elsewhere in the U.S., represent a clear and present danger to public health.

"We know that unless uniform optimal standards are universally required for all health-care facilities, we are putting registered nurses, physicians, and other health-care workers at extreme and unnecessary risk."

Burger noted that "inadequate protocols in hospitals can lead to public exposure outside of health-care facilities."

Burger's testimony included detailed documentation of the inadequacy of training and equipment of health care workers. In a survey done by NNU of over 3,000 nurses from over 1,000 hospitals in all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands:

  • * 68% still say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola;

  • * 84% say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola in which nurses can interact and ask questions;
  • * 44% say their hospitals lack eye protection;
  • * 46% say their hospitals have insufficient supplies of impermeable gowns;
  • * 41% say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use;
  • * only 8% said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place.

She underscored that the shortcomings at Texas Health Presbyterian, which led to the infections of Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, were the result of insufficient and voluntary guidelines. She stated that the revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are still inadequate. As for the fear of Americans of Ebola being spread in their neighborhoods: "The only effective way to stop the spread of fear is to ensure full preparedness in every U.S. hospital.

"And our long experience with U.S. hospitals is that they will not act on their own to secure the highest standards of protection without a specific directive from our federal authorities in the form of an Act of Congress or an Executive Order from the White House."

Her message to the Obama Administration and Congress is that if the United States cannot protect all its health-care workers, no citizens will be protected:

"We are your first line of defense. No leader would ever contemplate sending soldiers into the battlefield without armor and weapons. Why would we send nurses into the battle with Ebola and other infectious diseases without the protection, training, and treatment protocols necessary to defeat this enemy?"