Wednesday, 7 January 2015
The Loss Of Quarantine
Pauline Cafferkey, the nurse who contacted Ebola while in West Africa with Save the Children, is still in a critical condition according to the BBC.
She flew from Sierra Leone to Scotland (Glasgow) via Morocco and London and was screened for a high temperature with other returning health workers at Heathrow. She showed no sign of fever but requested further screening. Six subsequent checks were within normal levels and she was told she could continue her journey by commercial flight.
We all know what happened next. Within hours of arriving in Glasgow she phoned the medical service as she felt unwell and was immediately taken back to London via a brief stay in Gartnavel Hospital.
Ebola is a vicious illness and well recorded, yet those aid workers, who have been known to have been in close contact with sufferers, are allowed back to their usual lifestyle on the result of one - or in the case of Ms Cafferkey, several - temperature results. No other test is required. .
Around 60 years ago I was immunised against TB along with all Scottish school children. TB was killing 50% of those who had the disease. It was hoped that by this action TB would be eradicated in the UK, yet 60 years later it’s on the increase. Current tuberculosis tests are only required for those coming to the UK (from certain countries) for a stay of more than 6 months.
According to one of Ms Cafferkey’s colleagues the testing facilities at Heathrow were dreadful.
Fifty years ago isolation units were available at our main entry points and testing was thorough. (My father was a senior civil servant with close association to Customs and Excise. We used to have lengthy discussions about the security of these islands.) Now there is no mandatory testing. Some may say testing on entry is no longer necessary as we have people who enter this country illegally and thus avoid any official precautions. They may be right.
A couple of years ago I watched a television programme about the rise of tuberculosis It concentrated in London and showed a mobile chest X-Ray unit’s day routine of testing homeless people. The medic in charge said it was ‘sad’ job because most were not registered with a doctor or were here illegally even though they weren’t homeless. The chances of any person diagnosed with TB and following through the lengthy treatment was very minimal, but they continued to take their unit on the road in an effort to stem an epidemic.
Why are we not isolating aid workers when the return from treating Ebola patients? Of course money is the answer, but would it not make financial sense to provide such facilities instead of taking the chance of a sufferer spreading the disease far and wide throughout the land?
Unfortunately for Ms Cafferkey the serum used in the treatment of other Ebola aid workers is no longer available and she is being treated with the plasma of two survivors. We have all heard of cures for cancer and other diseases which have never been tried or tested by government authorities. Reasons abound regarding this decision but the one I prefer is that governments prefer to look after the interests of Big Pharma and if any treatments involve natural - rather than chemical - ingredients then the Big Pharma profits are lost. Medics treating Ebola victims in Sierra Leone have been told not to use Ozone Therapy on patients. How successful it is has yet to be proven officially but surely it’s worth a try for Ms Cafferkey? (Please scroll down to see video and script).