Thu | Jan 24, 2019

Giving Ebola a kick in the ass

Published:Sunday | November 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM
AP A health worker prepares to move the body of a man suspected of dying from the Ebola virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, last Friday. The World Health Organization said the rate of infection in Liberia appears to be falling but warned that the response effort must be kept up or the trend could be reversed.

As the troublemaker who first debunked the health ministry’s myth that Ebola couldn’t affect Jamaica, I feel responsible for Jamaica’s awareness and readiness campaign.

I’d better resign because we’re about as aware as we were for 2008’s recession and as ready as we were for chik-V.

Audley Shaw addressing delegates at the Jamaica Stock Exchange Investments and Capital Markets Conference at Rose Hall (January 31, 2008): “Oil price is going to go down if we have a recession. Interest rates are going down; commodity prices are going to moderate; inflation will moderate.”

n On February 29, 2008, oil prices, US$99.29 per barrel in November 2007, were up to $103.05 per barrel; $110.20 on March 12, 2008; $141.71 on June 27; and $147.02 on July 11;

n From January to November 2008, BOJ interest rates increased from 11% to 15%;

n Annual average inflation for 2007 was 9.3%; 22% in 2008 (about 17% in January 2008; peaked at more than 25% in July).

Don’t worry. According to Bill, we’ll soon be recalling Audley ‘Are You’ Shaw for more of the same.

In September, as chik-V swept through Jamaica like a bush fire, Fenton Ferguson was still insisting doctors test for dengue and influenza before diagnosing chik-V. Ethelred would be proud!

Our prime minister talks a good fight against Ebola, but actual readiness is about as visible as disabled-friendly Parliament buildings. The blind panic that reportedly recently overtook Mandeville Hospital required to treat a Nigerian (resident in Jamaica for 30 years) with food poisoning speaks volumes for Government’s readiness. At our airports, my sources say immigration officers are doing minimal screening, taking travellers’ word for their recent whereabouts rather than inspecting passports.

They told him, don’t you ever come around here.

Don’t wanna see your face, You better disappear.

The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear

so beat it, just beat it.

I don’t blame them. Government says Customs/Immigration have finally received latex gloves. As Old Tom Morris might exclaim, “Greeeeat!” But protective clothing won’t solve the crisis. Only systematic training will. Those same health ministry ostriches who insisted Ebola couldn’t reach Jamaica should try to appreciate health-care workers and other front-line soldiers in the war against Ebola need protection from protective clothing.

For example, latex gloves. Why issue latex gloves except to guard against the possibility the wearer’s hands might otherwise come into contact with infectious secretions? Obviously, the issuer of latex gloves must expect worst-case scenarios that these gloves will become contaminated. What prevents contaminated fluids from rolling off the glove on to unprotected body areas? How many pairs should I wear? What length? How to properly seal them at the wrist? Most important, how do I remove and dispose of them so that any contaminant doesn’t infect me?

These protocols can only be perfected by daily practice under the watchful eyes of experts until wearers of protective clothing are seasoned in safe removals.

Hazmat suits, likewise. It’s these suits’ careless removal that infected a Spanish nurse and countless African health workers. Hazmat suits must be removed from the back and dropped forward into disposable bins for incineration to eliminate any chance of skin contact. Hospitals’ air-conditioners must work or doctors/nurses will suffer heatstroke in their hazmat suits.

Individuals must concentrate on essentials: good hygiene; large doses of vitamin D; constant rehydration, especially with clear fluids containing electrolytes; and positive thinking.

Has Government begun such training procedures for health-care workers or education for citizens? Obviously not in Mandeville, where public health-care readiness seems powered by red never-ready batteries.


Nigeria and Senegal were recently declared Ebola free. How? Both launched major public-awareness campaigns to educate citizens, encourage the sick to seek treatment, and dispel rumours. Nigeria installed temperature checks at supermarkets, petrol stations and many other public places, not just at airports. Information was communicated in multiple languages via radio, television, social media, text messages and a large electronic billboard in Lagos’ centre.

In Nigeria, teams were dispatched to more than 26,000 households near people who may’ve been exposed to Ebola. Senegal, who shares a 200-mile boundary with Guinea, closed the border and imposed travel restrictions. In both countries, early coordination was critical. Within days of its first case, Nigeria established an incident-management system that included government officials and international experts. Government and opposition set aside differences and worked together in the war against Ebola.

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it.

No one wants to be defeated.

Showin’ how funky strong is your fight.

It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it.

On this side of the Atlantic, while the US, as usual, throws cash at the problem, only Cuba put Michael Jackson’s lyrics to practical application; recognised the best defence is offence; and pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the African front. But, any Cuban doctor who should become infected won’t be transported to and treated in the US because of a silly 60-year diplomatic squabble long past its sell-by date.

The New York Times reported on October 19:

“Cuba has a long tradition of dispatching doctors and nurses to disaster areas abroad. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina ... , the Cuban government created a quick-reaction medical corps and offered to send doctors to New Orleans. The US, unsurprisingly, didn’t take Havana up on that offer. Yet officials in Washington seemed thrilled to learn in recent weeks that Cuba had activated medical teams for missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.”

This is not an easy one. We can’t just wish this danger away. The big, bad USA is having its own troubles with readiness for a disease it thought would only kill insignificant, poor blacks in Africa. Now that white America is threatened, vaccines that weren’t developed over the past 30 years are being developed in weeks.


Now, horror of horrors, there’s a case in New York City. World champion dunce, Donald Trump, has publicly blamed President Obama for bringing Ebola to New York. Health officials are scrambling around trying to find the many persons who came into contact with a member of Doctors Without Borders who contracted the disease in West Africa but didn’t develop symptoms until returning to New York.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov Mario Cuomo have given the usual platitudinous assurances that New York can handle any outbreak, but chairperson of the Committee to Reduce Infectious Deaths, Betsy McCaughey, says those assurances aren’t credible. McCaughey, who has spent a decade trying to make hospital patients safer from infectious diseases, was quoted by as saying that getting hospitals ready “is not something you can do overnight”. According to McCaughey, New York hospitals “are not ready for Ebola. Hospitals that can’t stop staph and C. diff, and other common infections that are raging through their hallways, cannot control Ebola.”

Waiting for the first confirmed case is NOT an option. Training, education and coordination must start NOW. Instead of buying cheap publicity and securing political brownie points by donating a temperature-screening machine to Sangster International, Sagicor should consider purchasing temperature-screening machines for its banks. Government should coordinate more effective cooperation of community leaders/businessmen and convince businesses that their interest lies in protecting customers.

Businesses, whose duty it is to protect the economy from Ebola, should check customers’ temperatures at the door and install bleach hand-washing stations at entrances and exits. MPs/councillors should hold islandwide community meetings to develop a plan to keep communities Ebola free.

Instead, what’s Jamaica doing? Panicking, shrieking, running for cover, and passing IMF tests.

Peace and love.

n Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to