Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Breathtaking!

Image: University of Virginia Health Sciences Library
In today’s news we read that a man chose to fly against medical advice, knowing full well that he has extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), the very worst, most dangerous sort of TB to have, and with the full understanding that he is infectious.

Just what was so all-fired important that he would deliberately put the lives of hundreds of strangers and family members at risk? Why, it was his wedding! And surely, that important social event (and the subsequent honeymoon) had to take precedence over all other considerations!

So, off he sped, to his wedding and honeymoon in Europe. Once there, he was contacted by someone from the CDC who “told him in no uncertain terms not to take a flight back.” But again, this edict interfered with the man’s own plans, so in a deliberate evasion of his CDC-ordered “no fly” status, he modified his itinerary to make Canada his destination, and then drove into the U.S.

What breathtaking disregard for the well-being of others! He took his sorry germs onto those flights and seeded the entire plane with a major life-threatening illness, merely so that he could enjoy the social events he had planned?

Ah, but it gets worse:
‘I’m a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person,’ he told the [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. ‘This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I’ve cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary-confinement-in-Italy thing.’
Well, mister, an armed guard is apparently what it takes to force you to behave responsibly.

This little vignette makes clear that voluntary quarantines are a thing of the past. When self-declared “well-educated, successful, intelligent” people take such brazen anti-social actions, and clearly cannot even comprehend that it even matters, it does not bode well for how an epidemic, natural or human-caused, will be controlled in this country. Yet in the event of such an epidemic, short of locking everyone up in “relocation” camps, there will be no way to ensure that quarantines can be effected. And this realization makes me even angrier: Because of idiots like this man, all of us may be made to suffer the consequences, of relocation instead of home quarantine, if or when an epidemic rolls through our midst.

At this point, this man should be treated as the pariah that he is. He should be identified and publicly castigated for his utter selfishness and his deplorable disregard for the safety of others. And if there are not laws forbidding such actions as he took, such laws should be written and passed. No one has the right to deliberately disseminate severe infectious diseases, simply for their own social convenience.

Oh yes: yet one more reason to stay off of airplanes (as if I needed any)…

UPDATE (h/t: commenter crfullmoon at Effect Measure):

In stark contrast to the privacy and accommodations accorded to the mystery XDR-TB patient who chose to fly hither and yon in commercial airliners, is the story of another, presumably less “well-educated” or “successful” man:
“[Robert Daniels] agreed to a voluntary quarantine in residential care. But Daniels violated his agreement when he went outside without a mask. [Therefore] Daniels has been forced to live in a hospital cell in complete isolation. His only visitors are medical staff. Sheriff's deputies have taken away his television, radio, phone and computer. He is under 24-hour surveillance and the light in his room is never turned off, even at night. His only contact to the outside world is a pay-phone.”
He is deprived of hot showers, and receives treatment “as any other prisoner,” and he could be there for the rest of his life. Keep in mind: Daniels has not committed any crime, and has not been convicted, and will not be tried. But he is, nonetheless, in jail, in solitary confinement, possibly for life, simply because he is sick and neglected to wear a mask when he went outside his home.

Breathtaking, is it not, the difference that a little “success” can have in one’s treatment by public health officials…

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