Monday, July 9, 2012


Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play

From The Palm Beach Post: Worst TB outbreak in 20 years kept secret

Parts of this article read like the opening pages of The Stand by Stephen King. Apocalyptic overtones in spades.

The story goes a little something like this. Amid an apparent struggle to restructure in the wake of some large health care budget changes in the state of Florida, which included the closing of the state's specialist Tuberculosis treatment hospital, a very important memo has gone unnoticed. Nine days after the ink had dried on the papers detailing all of these changes, a CDC officer finished a report detailing the largest outbreak of TB in the area for over 20 years. The CDC report details how, aside from the 13 deaths and 99 contracted illnesses from TB reported, "3,000 people in the past two years may have had close contact with contagious people at Jacksonville’s homeless shelters, an outpatient mental health clinic and area jails. Yet only 253 people had been found and evaluated for TB infection, meaning Florida’s outbreak was, and is, far from contained."

Apparently the infection originally was spreading through areas like homeless shelters, which increased the difficulty of providing proper treatment to those afflicted. According to the article, to treat TB one must undergo a steady regiment of multiple antibiotics, and any faltering in treatment will result in a hardened, resistant strain of the virus. In most cases, hospitals send nurses to homes to ensure patients are properly taking their medication because of the possible consequences for relapse and transmission. One can easily assume the complications that might arise in a situation where TB was spreading through hub sites like a homeless shelter, making it difficult to ensure those afflicted properly complete their antibiotic regimen to ensure the ailment won't further complicate and spread.

And spread she has. Again, from The Palm Beach Post's article, "Furthermore, only two-thirds of the active cases could be traced to people and places in Jacksonville where the homeless and mentally ill had congregated. That suggested the TB strain had spread beyond the city’s underclass and into the general population. The Palm Beach Post requested a database showing where every related case has appeared. That database has not been released."

There's the kicker, boys and girls. If only the flow of information was as evolved a mechanic as the spread of a virus. According to The Palm Beach Post, at the writing of this article many important Florida health officials have not been made aware of the publication of this CDC warning. But furthermore, I find the detailed handling of the flow of information from the officials to the public to be eye-opening. The Post article details how when the infection was thought to be largely contained among the "underclass" of Jacksonville, there was no effort to inform the general public of the outbreak. The article mentions a desire to prevent any "turning away" from the homeless population of the city, at a time when they would surely need a helping heart and hand from the community. OK, that's a nice sentiment, but ultimately doomed.

Would it not be more prudent, especially once the spread of the strain had been noticed as far from Jacksonville as Miami, to dutifully inform the public of the danger? After all, I'm no medical professional, but my understanding of the situation goes that the reason so many of these deadly diseases have quietly died out in America is due to a combination of excellent medicine, and educating the public on ways they can help to stop the spread the disease. The original core of the infection in the "itinerant homeless, drug-addicted, mentally ill" section of Jacksonville's population would likely not be known for following the best sanitary practices, nor could they honestly be expected to recognize the symptoms of this disease. In my eyes then, the clear decision would then be to inform the public. Allow the general populace to keep an open eye for individuals displaying symptoms and try to defeat the hydra before it spawns too many heads.

But fuck, I'm not the CDC. I'm sure they have a million reasons why they knew about this outbreak in April and it wouldn't be a good idea to tell the public until June. Mass Panic. Anarchy. General Disarray. It's bad for business, you know.

And you know what's worse for business? All those damn homeless people sullying the delightful image of Downtown America. After all, who wants to dump money into the tourism industry when there's a bunch of unwashed vagrants clogging the streets.

Ah-Ha! So that's the plan! Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more. I hear you loud and clear.

Three Monkeys Say: All systems go to kill the poor tonight

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