When I was a young lad in South Boston,, during the Great Depression and World Wart II, a not uncommon sight in our neighborhood of three-decker wooden tenements, was the arrival of the Public Health nurse in her dark blue military uniform and her yellow quarantine cards which she attached to various apartment doors to warn us that a contagious disease, perhaps Spanish Flu, was being held at bay there. QUARANTINE! We all knew it well.
Remembering those days made me wonder about the care of the coronavirus sufferers. I think they are not doing as well today as flu patients did in 1918 when the Public Health Service uniform was not an unusual sight on Boston streets. Certainly, many of the contagious diseases ofthe earlier part of the 20th century such as measles, mumps, hepatitis, etc., have either been eradicated or now have vaccines to prevent contagion.
Originally, the US Public Health Service had numerous quarantine institutions throughout the country, though most were at major port cities. The reason for that was that immigrants could be evaluated as they debarked the ships for the possibility of carrying contagious diseases into the country. Of course, today, people arrive by every possible form of transportation, so not only port cities are so blessed with quarantine facilities. The Public Health Service maintained a quarantine facility in Boston. It had been used there during the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, known as the Spanish Flu. (The Swine Flu of 2009 was the same strain – H1N1.) It infected 27% of the world population, killing as many as 100 million people.
Jumping ahead — today the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) lists 18 quarantine facilities throughout theUSA, including Hawaii and Alaska. The one in Los Angeles, which serves a very large area in several western states, is at Tom Bradley terminal on the grounds of Los Angeles International Airport. It is principally a monitoring operation and could not possibly handle a planeload of travelers suspected of being contaminated by the current flu virus. Infected people must be sent to other federal or state facilities for quarantine. Thus, we have the problems at Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, where local citizens are protesting the transfer of patients to their cities. As far as I can tell, there is a nearly complete lack of knowledge among most citizens of how such situations as quarantining contagious patients are handled. How can the citizens be assured that their safety is a concern and that the most stringent controls are in place to prevent spread of the virus? NIMBY has no place during such an emergency as the development of a flu epidemic. But, a paucity of information for the general population breeds fear and chaos.
We get damn little real information from our federal government beyond the daily notices that another service has been curtailed or eliminated and the daily spew of tweets from our Apprentice President as he and his lackeys go about shredding long-standing federal agencies and policies. My outreach to the CDC and Public Health Service were met with government-speak and no real information. So, I am left with questions as is the rest of the country. If the two agencies mentioned above are in the same condition as so many other federal agencies, we’ll not be well served during a possible pandemic.
Newspapers, other print media and TV or online resources tell only what they have been given by the feds. Their own research brings in a cascade of both good and bad information. We need to know, not be required to guess at the coronavirus situation. Details!
Of course, the virus will visit this country. How, when, etc. is still conjecture. However, being prepared even at a low level is important.
CDC: produce pertinent, concise, true information which can be copied by our newspapers and other news media. Prohibit the news media from diluting or rewriting your dispatches. Keep us current with info as it develops.
Here are some items every houssehold should have anyhow:
- An ANSI tested respirator such as 3M #8271, with an exhalation valve
- Lysol or other disinfectant spray
- Disinfectant wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Nitrile gloves
- A simple thermometer
Always wash hands when returning home from outside. Washing one’s hands is the best frontline effort to prevent infection.
- Children’s faces always need to be carefully cleaned as well.
- Workplaces should have hand cleaning facilities even if only soap and water.
- Use common sense in public gatherings by avoiding new groups, cutting back on movies, etc. simply to reduce exposure. Above all:
Do not panic unless told to do so!