Photo of the day

I often end up being quite underwhelmed by photo galleries in the New Yorker, but this one of very early (i.e., mid 19th century) aerial photography is pretty cool:

“Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It, 1860.”


Do you have Ebola?

Love, love, love, this Sarah Kliff piece on the NY doctor with Ebola.  Let’s start with this awesome flowchart:

ebola quiz

Okay, and the main points:

There are rules. Spencer followed them.

Doctors Without Borders has a five-point procedure for doctors returning from West Africa, to monitor for signs of Ebola.


(Doctors Without Borders)

There is no evidence that Spencer failed to follow these guidelines. Nor is there evidence that requiring doctors to quarantine for three weeks, if they are non-symptomatic, would do anything to stop the disease’s spread.

“It’s completely unnecessary,” says Harvard University’s Ashish Jha, who has been studying the outbreak. “I’m a believer in an abundance of caution but I’m not a believer of an abundance of idiocy.” [emphasis mine]

There are hundreds of doctors in New York City who spend their days treating patients with infectious diseases. At the end of the day, they change out of their scrubs, wash their hands, and leave the office. Some go to bowling alleys. They do so because they enjoy bowling, probably — and know that, while there is a risk they could transmit the disease to other patrons, it is very low.

We do not ask that doctors who treat patients with infectious disease spend their lives in quarantine — and for good reason. If the cost of treating infectious diseases was to give up everything else you love in life, no doctors would treat infectious diseases, and we would all be at much greater risk. Imagine how much worse the HIV/AIDS epidemic could have been if any doctor seeing patients weren’t allowed to interact outside of the hospital. Few, if any, physicians would take that trade off.

So we don’t ask doctors to isolate themselves. Instead, we simply ask them to take appropriate precautions. Hospitals post checklists of appropriate steps, like washing hands and safely removing their protective gear. By all accounts, Spencer did that too.

From what we know, there just isn’t a way that Spencer put New Yorkers at risk. One reason Doctors Without Borders doesn’t ask its returning workers to quarantine is because they’re incubating a disease that is difficult to spread.

We’ve seen that with the four other Ebola patients in the United States who spent time outside of quarantine. One, Liberian national Thomas Duncan, did so when he was extremely symptomatic. Nobody who came into contact with these patients — not the passengers who rode on a flight with Amber Joy Vinson, nor the family members who cared for Duncan — caught the disease. That’s partly because Ebola patients aren’t very contagious before they become intensely symptomatic and partly because the disease itself is fairly difficult to spread.

There is no reason to think that Spencer’s actions were dangerous. Yes, he was carrying a disease that is very deadly. But at the first sign of his symptoms — the moment he knew he could be contagious — he quarantined…

Doctors Without Borders, another volunteer physician told Bloomberg, is at “a breaking point.” “There’s a sense that there’s a major wave of infections that’s about to wash everything away,” the same doctor says.

Now is the exact moment we need more doctors like Spencer to treat patients in West Africa to contain the outbreak there — and stop more cases from coming to the United States. Mandatory quarantines are an unjustified and cruel punishment for doctors who put their lives at risk. Perhaps more to the point, by giving doctors one more reason to avoid treating Ebola patients and stemming the spread of disease, they would end up putting the rest of us at risk, too.

Actually heard a snippet of Cuomo’s press conference yesterday where he basically made it sound like you could catch Ebola just by sharing a subway car.  Shame on him.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I told myself if I found time yesterday, this would get it’s own post.  It didn’t.  So make sure you read it.  Great Garret Epps post on John Roberts and race.

2) Really enjoyed this New Yorker article on the director of the Susan B. Anthony list (a pro-life PAC).

3) Not surprisingly, “ancient grains” are for suckers.  I’m sure the people who buy this are plenty scared of GMO’s.

4) Paul Farmer says that with first-world health care 90% of Ebola victims should actually survive.  We’re doing pretty well in the US so far.

5) I must admit to always being a little more fascinated by Mormon sacred undergarments than I should be.  Now the church is coming clean on the topic.

6) A nice PS study that shows how the Tea Party has moved the Republican party to the right.

7) Emily Bazelon on the complications of yes means yes on college campuses.

8) Vox summarizes a Pew study demonstrating that there are basically no swing voters in this year’s election.

9) FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub came to my class a couple weeks ago.  That was pretty cool.  Here’s a nice piece about her and her visit to NC.

10) NYT with one of the better pieces I’ve read on the UNC athletics scandal.  I went to Duke and teach at NCSU, but UNC is a flagship for our whole state and this is so unfortunate for the whole state.  And as an academic, I hate to see academic integrity so undermined.

11) When is a debate not a debate?  How about when one candidate never  agrees to it but one organization basically pretends otherwise.

12) Peter Beinart putting Voter ID into the long American tradition of trying to keep poor people from voting.

13) Two nice takes on Iowa Senatorial candidate Jodi Ernst and welfare.  The idea that private charity can make up for government is not just wishful thinking, but simply preposterous and ahistorical.

14) You can never have too much fun with Kansas‘ supply side experiment gone awry.  Seriously, it’s not like anybody who’s not a complete drunk-the-kool-aid ideologue didn’t see this coming.

15) Republicans would really just prefer college students don’t vote at all.  There’s been all sorts of news about the on-campus voting at Appalachian State, but meanwhile nobody has talked at all about the large inconvenience for NCSU losing it’s polling location.

16) While helping Evan practice piano, I haven’t been able to get this tune out of my head for a couple of days.  Took me forever to figure it out because I was thinking it was Beethoven. Than I realized it must be some Chopin.  This is one of many Chopin pieces I loved to play back in the day.

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