Here we are, in the middle of summer, and our kids have now been swimming in community pools and possibly attending water parks. I’m excited for the kids. That’s what summer is all about. My kids are all in, but some cautious reminders should still be considered.
The theme of this interview was “Summer Safety Tips,” but it was broadcast as “Dr. warns parents….” “Warn” is such a strong word. I was just promoting common sensibilities. The message is valid nonetheless.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually – more than half of whom are children. Over the past five years, dog bite injuries are reported to be the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury in children ages 0-14 in America. “
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is the leading organization for informing and educating Pediatricians in the US.
Like https://www.facebook.com/healthychildren to stay up to date.
Here are 2 (of many) links discussing newly published data showing that measles vaccination may be even more important than previously thought.
The fear and alarm caused by the news about Ebola overseas, and in particularly the handful of cases here in the US typifies and illustrates the irrational fears we experience better than any other recent example. The ingredients are all there.
1. Risk of a painful and gruesome death.
2. Potential to infiltrate into any community unnoticed.
3. Lack of trust in the organizations and individuals responsible for preventing, containing and eliminating the risk.
4. Not knowing if the experts know everything they need to know about the threat.
5. Constant media reminders.
As parents, we’re left wondering, “how can I protect my little ones? Can anybody guarantee safety for my family and my community? Can my doctor do anything about it if we seek help early?” (“Early” can mean when anxiety peaks and not necessarily the point in time when unique circumstances point to an objective suspicion of Ebola exposure or infection.)
As a pediatrician I’m left searching for the words to clearly reassure parents when the high fevers and vomiting from influenza will scare my clients enough to seek Ebola evaluations, while I must stay vigilant and focused on the very probable and real complications of influenza. Preparedness and caution are important, but irrational fear and panic can paralyze the system altogether.
So it’s time for a nice mathematical and simple reality check. There have been four publicized cases of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. Two individuals contracted Ebola though direct contact in Africa, and 2 other individuals, both health care workers, contracted Ebola while providing direct care for one of the previously diagnosed cases. There were also two highlighted individuals whose stories were plastered all over the news. Both ultimately never had Ebola, the individual on the Cruise ship, and the Nurse coming back from volunteering in Africa. So in summary, there were 4 confirmed cases, 0 spread in the community.
I cannot stress enough how small this number is. During those few weeks countless unsuspecting individuals were diagnosed with cancer and heart disease. There were motor vehicle fatalities, suicides, and homicides. These are the “Clear and Present” dangers to our civilian community. Conversely, we were never told about the hundreds of other health care providers that have been in contact with Ebola patients both in Africa and in the few outlined U.S. hospitals. What were they doing? Did they go out to see the latest “Hollywood Blockbuster” in a crowded theater? Did they vacation at Disney World for some R&R? Yet as of today, there have been no other known community transmissions of Ebola in the U.S. Admittedly, I don’t know what tomorrow’s headlines will be.
Yes, we gasped at the thought of a febrile nurse taking commercial flights shortly after having cared for the tragic individual in Texas, and the physician riding the subways of New York prior to developing Ebola illness. Those stories clearly shook the small amount of confidence we may have had in the experts expected to take the proper precautions to protect us. But they proved to be no less human than the thousands of otherwise sensible people who every day text while driving, despite knowing the risks. BTW, those people killed more Americans than Ebola and ISIS combined.
It should not have been a surprise to anyone that prominent politicians in the midst of mid-term campaigning capitalized on the public’s fears to showboat their “man of action” public images. Their actions served only to get them free publicity.
With all due respect folks, in the end, numbers matter. Drama and emotions may color our experiences, but fate and outcomes are very much linked to real numbers and probabilities. Ebola is a very serious disease, and as a species we need to utilize our best efforts to make sure that the numbers are driven to zero at the source.
As a parent I feel comfortable in not traveling to Africa with my children at this time. When in public places with my family, I would avoid any scene where an individual may appear very ill, vomiting or showing signs of bowel incontinence. As a physician I will continue to exercise the best judgement I can in assessing risk. It would be ludicrous and harmful to my patients if I were to approach every influenza case in an Ebola suit for fear of a possible but improbable exposure.
I’d like to start my first entry by revealing that first & above all, I’m a father and a husband. My children are currently both still school-aged and my wife is also a practicing health care professional. We are aware that having two Medical Doctors in the household changes our parenting experience. It does not however change our parental instincts nor our gut reactions. We’re also not immune to the unexpected, inconvenient, and unwanted circumstances parents confront on a regular basis. While I have every intention to provide clinical and scientific clarity for my readers, I will do my best to share my parental perspective whenever appropriate.
While I do not hold any specific financial investments in any particular pharmaceutical companies, like many employed individuals who save for their retirement by utilizing their employer’s 401k/403b retirement benefits, the mutual funds in my retirement benefits very likely contain various pharmaceutical holdings. I do not micromanage these, and my readers can be assured that my advice will not be influenced by any such conflicts of interest.