Quarantine Protocols and Civil Liberties

When mandatory isolation reeks of benevolent dictatorship.

As technology and globalized markets reach further into previously inaccessible regions, our world veritably shrinks and we risk exposure to exotic diseases. Sometimes, as is the case in recent years, the diseases of old return for an encore performance. I’m sure we all remember the recrudescence of Ebola in West Africa in 2014 and the concomitant fearmongering by public health officials here in the United States; Thomas Frieden, then-director of the CDC, compared the Ebola outbreak to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s. Yes! He seriously said that.

Foolish comments notwithstanding, let’s not be mistaken. Ebola—otherwise known as Ebola virus disease (EVD)—is extraordinarily deadly with, according to the World Health Organization, an average fatality rate of 50%. And Ebola isn’t the only wee-beastie out there. Indeed, many health agencies worldwide acknowledge a category of communicable diseases that don’t receive their due attention and thrive in tropical and subtropical climes—appropriately named neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)—causing considerable hardship to more than a billion people. That’s quite frightening, but as I adamantly maintain: fear is the one true contagion.

Many admirable healthcare workers and volunteers returned from relief efforts in West Africa only to be imprisoned in their homes for twenty-one days, the incubation period for EVD. This is a scandal.

I don’t know as many of my rights as I ought to and I suspect this is true for a lot of people, not just Americans. We are all familiar with legal buzzwords like “freedom of speech,” “human rights,” “due process,” “informed consent,” and “probable cause.” Law & Order—and recent publicized encounters by police with people of color—have been rather instructive. Nonetheless, our civic and legal ignorance can leave us in rather precarious situations which perpetuate negative attitudes towards the justice system, and the government generally.

Would we, when stopped by airport security or customs agents, know whether our rights were being violated? Whether we could be detained based on a list of ambiguous symptoms?

Continue reading “Quarantine Protocols and Civil Liberties”

When Books Burn

Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.

With the emergence of the reprehensible term “alternative facts”—we can thank Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, for this affront to truth—I couldn’t help but recall my reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It would seem I was not alone. I implore those who haven’t read the book to pick up a copy and compare the fictional work to our current reality under the Trump administration.

What a time to be alive.

With each passing day, we find ourselves in a world that more closely approximates the society in which Winston Smith lived, where Newspeak and doublethink are distressingly palpable. For example, the vetting of EPA information. The Trump administration ordered all information released to the public by the Environmental Protection Agency be reviewed. By whom, you ask? By bias politicians with little to no background or understanding of science, of course. It’s possible that the administration instituted this totalitarian edict only for the duration of their transition into power. Or perhaps this is an attempt by Big Brother and his cult to quash information against their interests, rewriting facts and history to fit their agendas.

I tend to think the latter is more likely. Get a load of this:

The only references to rising temperatures on the new Trump White House site are a commitment to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan”.

On top of the review process imposed on the EPA, the Trump administration would peruse all EPA webpages—especially those with information and data related to climate change—to remove anything unsightly. Can’t wait for Trump to hold a press conference where he declares, “no one does science better than me.”

I’m a member of the American Public Health Association and I subscribe to all their newsletters and emails. I awoke this morning to an explosion of cellphone notifications as my Gmail inbox was overcome by a deluge of exigent business. The emails contained various factsheets, links, and documents regarding climate change and its health implications, intended to create an offsite repository of crucial information lest it be extirpated by the current administration.

Did I wake up in the Oceania? What the fuck is happening?

Well, it’s not bibliocide in the classical sense, but a conflagration has started. The Trump administration is making big moves, some proving to be inimical to health and science—this much should be painfully obvious. With broad swipes, funding for important reproductive health services has been cut and the canker of fossil fuels can now spread unabated. And now, they want to get rid of climate change science altogether.

Although the Trump administration has abruptly halted its “book-burning” enterprise, we can only wonder for how long. As the Terminator warned us: “Judgment day is inevitable.” This is only the beginning. We would do well to remember that “it is there, where they burn books, that eventually they burn people.”

Health Literacy

Among an ocean of literature

What is health and what does it mean to be in good health? These questions and more have beset humanity prior to classical antiquity, as we continually struggle to combat disease and chronic ailments.

There are perhaps too many books and articles about health and wellbeing. Or are there?

One’s life could be spent dedicated to the singular task of reading every article and book published related to the topic, and one would only be at the outer margins of the field. Unfortunately, one must read quite a lot about to learn what constitutes good health and wellbeing. And that will always entail the capacity to discriminate between accurate, evidence-based information and unsubstantiated, false claims. Basically, one must be able to sift through the shit to arrive at the truth (or as close to the truth as possible).

I’m not going to tackle the first two questions I opened with. Instead, I want to address what it means to be health literate. As we approach the dawn of 2017, it behooves us to reflect on this as we prepare to craft our New Year’s resolutions.

Continue reading “Health Literacy”

The Black Snake

Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides, Who cover faults, at last shame derides.

It would seem we are quite forlorn of adequate news coverage concerning the atrocities being committed on Native American land. Please don’t misunderstand me; a number of articles have been published in print and online that have covered some aspects of the events taking place just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. However, the mainstream media seems to be all too concerned with the tweets of the President-elect and the tirades of Kanye West to take notice of the roiling tumult that now besets North Dakota.

However, with the events that have transpired in the last twenty-four hours, I hope that the mainstream media will shift their attention towards this pressing matter.

As with all topics, we must do quite a bit of research so we can properly discuss this contentious pipeline, lest we are accused of intersecting any modicum of truth too briefly or accidentally.

Continue reading “The Black Snake”

How to Move Forward in a World With Zika

The Once and Future Virus

As this U.S. election cycle should demonstrate—as is true of all election cycles—the problems that besieged society prior to the election still persist, and our concerted efforts are still required should we hope to solve them.

Disease outbreaks are one such problem.

Although I had previously admonished the media for giving too much time to the cousin of dengue, Zika still worries public health officials around the globe, worries that aren’t supported by a substantial amount of causal evidence, and our future in relation to Zika—among other diseases—needs to be discussed. What also needs to be discussed are possible alternatives to the cause of Zika. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to dwell on Zika for too long.

Continue reading “How to Move Forward in a World With Zika”

What is a Superfund Site?

Why care?

What is a Superfund site?

It is self-evident that safe drinking water is vital for the survival and good health of all populations. Regrettably, poor management of hazardous materials endangers the health of humans everywhere. I have hitherto made a small commotion about these tragic and dangerous sites. Alas, I know I could do more to raise awareness about Superfund sites and the potential dangers they pose to human health. I have chosen to do so for three reasons:

  1. the media seldom reports anything related to Superfund sites
  2. few know what Superfund sites are and where they are found
  3. public health officials have done little to assuage my concerns about potential health risks associated with Superfund sites

I have provided a brief overview of the topic and why I think this issue deserves more attention.
Continue reading “What is a Superfund Site?”

A Zika State of Mind

Going for a Three-Peat

It is important to scrutinize all ideas and opinions and arguments one encounters in daily life, even those adduced by the humble author of these words. Questioning the validity of a proposition is the first step towards discovering whether it is tenable and, in the parlance, worth its weight in salt. This becomes especially true of assertions made by authority figures, as those individuals tend to proffer meretricious baubles in lieu of assertions backed by reason and evidence.

My followers will undoubtedly be familiar with my scorn for the Zika virus and my contempt for the public health practitioners that promulgate the tenuous proposition: Zika causes microcephaly. The reader may also be aware that I have been dissecting and criticizing the statements and conclusions made about Zika. I’m not convinced Zika causes microcephaly.

Not.

One.

Bit.

Since the whole of the public health community endeavors to stop the spread of Zika, I fear the true cause of microcephaly will remain undiscovered for a considerable time. And this could have harmful consequences.

Continue reading “A Zika State of Mind”