Follow the Soapbox
LA Times

A proposal that would require more children to be vaccinated in California ran into trouble Wednesday amid objections that it would force thousands of non-immunized students out of public schools.

The measure’s author, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), agreed to delay a vote on it after being warned by the Senate Education Committee chairwoman that it would not win the panel’s approval in its current form.

“If I were you, I would not take a vote today,” said the chairwoman, Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge).

She urged Pan to try to resolve the deep-seated concerns of a majority of committee members. “Otherwise, I don’t think your bill proceeds out of this committee,” she said.

The senators say the bill, which would remove the “personal belief” exemption from the state’s vaccination requirement, would mean that students whose parents refuse to immunize them would be barred from public schools.

“The penalty for not immunizing their kids is you either have to home-school or take your kids out of public schools, and I don't think that’s a solution to the problem,” Liu said during the hearing, which lasted more than two hours as hundreds of parents and children testified.

Many parents refuse to immunize their children because they believe vaccines can have serious negative health effects, including autism. Medical studies say the shots are safe.

Pan said that when many parents don’t immunize their children, it increases the risk to other children who have immune-compromised systems.

“We need to protect children,” Pan told the committee.

Some panel members, including Liu, said they want to preserve California’s exemption allowance for those with religious objections to vaccination.

Committee member and Senate Republican leader Robert Huff of Diamond Bar said he did not see enough evidence of a health risk to justify taking away parental choice.

“When do you take personal freedoms and subject them to government mandates?” he asked, calling it the central question at issue in the immunization debate.

Other members voiced concerns about requiring many children to be home-schooled when some parents cannot afford, or are not qualified, to do so.

“A lot of parents simply cannot home-school their kids,” said Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego).

Pan said he was open to some compromises, such as the possibility of maintaining the state’s existing religious exemption and a stricter limit on the number of required vaccines. He added that he was also willing to make sure children can get home-schooled with the help of public schools.

Before the vote, several parents objected to Pan’s bill, SB 277.

“My son will be pulled from public school if this bill passes,” said Heather Kovac of South Lake Tahoe.

Other parents supported the legislation. They included Carl Krawitt, who arrived with Rhett, his 7-year-old son, a leukemia survivor whose lowered immune system makes him susceptible to diseases transmitted by children who are not vaccinated.

Center for Food Safety
April 27th, 2015
Ruling Denies Big Food’s Preliminary Injunction Motion

April 27, 2015 (Washington, DC)--Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) hailed the just-issued federal court decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont affirming the constitutionality of Vermont’s genetically engineered food labeling law, Act 120. The ruling fully denied the preliminary injunction motion brought by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, Snack Food Association, and other plaintiffs to try and halt the law’s implementation, and granted the State of Vermont’s motion to dismiss on several claims.

“This important ruling affirms the constitutionality of genetically engineered food labeling, as well as the rights of Vermonters and U.S. citizens across the country,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case. “Americans are demanding the right to know if their food is produced through genetic engineering, for health, environmental and many other reasons. This decision is a crucial step in protecting those rights.”

"What a victory for Vermont consumers," said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "From the beginning, we have said that Vermonters have substantial interests in knowing whether their food has been genetically engineered. This ruling brings us one giant step closer to that reality."

Act 120 was signed into law on May 8, 2014. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), which represents the country’s largest food manufacturers and has poured tens of millions of dollars into anti-labeling campaigns in other states, sued Vermont just over a month after the bill was signed into law.

In the denying the Plaintiffs’ injunction, Judge Reiss declared, “Because the State has established that Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement is reasonably related to the State’s substantial interests, under Zauderer, Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement is constitutional.”

The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016. Two other states, Connecticut and Maine, passed GE food labeling laws with effective dates contingent on other states passing similar legislation. Oregon also has a ballot initiative on GE labeling in November 2014.  There are currently 64 countries with labeling laws and 70 state bills were introduced in 2013-2014, in 30 different states.

CFS and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group are Amici in the case, represented by legal counsel from CFS and Vermont Law School’s Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic, and have litigated in support of the State and defending Act 120 since June 2014 (see for example, here and here). Prior to that, CFS advised the State and Vermont groups on the crafting of the legislation for several years leading up to the law’s passage last spring.  More broadly, CFS has led U.S. public interest efforts to secure the labeling of GE foods for nearly two decades, across the country.  In 2012-2014, CFS co-authored GE labeling ballot initiatives in California, Washington, and Oregon, which all narrowly lost.

Among other decisions, the 84-page ruling by the Court specifically:

*Denied the Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction;

*Granted the State of Vermont’s Motion to Dismiss on several grounds, including dismissing claims that Act 120 was preempted by Federal Law, and that Act 120 violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, and that the Plaintiffs’ 1st Amendment Claims were subject to strict scrutiny;

*Held in the State’s Favor on the remaining 1st Amendment claims, but did not dismiss the Plaintiffs’ complaint; and

*Ruled that the Plaintiffs were likely to prevail on Act 120’s prohibition on labeling GE food as “natural.”

GMA represents the country’s largest food manufacturers, which already label GE foods all over the world, but have forcefully fought efforts to label here in the U.S., including California, Washington, and Oregon. GMA has also supported a bill in Congress that would preempt states from pursuing labeling laws, even in the absence of a federal standard.

April 22, 2015

Opponents of a proposal that would require California schoolchildren to be vaccinated vowed to continue their fight after a Senate committee overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday.

The Senate Education Committee voted 7-2 on the bill by Sen. Richard Pan, a Democratic pediatrician from Sacramento, with votes from both Democrats and Republicans.

The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing next week as part of a long legislative process.

"We will continue to show our strength, and we will continue to educate lawmakers and the public about why this is a bad bill," said Jean Keese, a spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Health Choice.

The proposal was among several drafted across the nation in the wake of a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and sickened more than 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico.

It would eliminate California's personal-belief and religious exemptions so unvaccinated children would not be able to attend public or private schools. Medical waivers would only be available for children who have health problems.

Lawmakers had delayed a vote on the bill last week after some on the Education Committee worried it would deprive unvaccinated children of an adequate education.

Pan made changes that let families that opt out of vaccines to homeschool their children together and allowing students to seek independent study.

"It's a strong sign that people want to be sure that we protect our kids, protect our schools and protect our communities from these preventable diseases," Pan said of Wednesday's vote.

By Anita Stewart
Challenging the Rhetoric,  Wise Women Media


Over the past several weeks corporate media has inundated the public with news items, stories, interviews and plenty of rhetoric about the Measles “outbreak” in California. A lot of blame is being placed on the “anti-vaccination” or anti-vaxxer community saying they have created the perfect situation for an outbreak to take place.

An ABC report released today says the CDC has documented 121 confirmed measles cases in 17 states since Jan. 1, 2015. According to health officials, the recent outbreak originated earlier this year by a group of unvaccinated people who visited the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. Is the Measles outbreak becoming the US’s Ebola epidemic?

The Government Already Admitted Vaccines Are Harmful

The fear-factor runs rampant while listening, reading or watching corporate media. They will have you believing you may possibly die from the Measles, but in truth, no one has died from measles in the United States in the past 10-years; while in fact 108 people have died from the scheduled MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine.

Most baby boomers had all of the childhood diseases and remained healthy. We never knew anyone who died from these illnesses. We knew plenty who had been ill in varying degrees from measles, chicken pox, mumps, etc., but none that had died.

Especially disturbing is the hard to find information that consists of pay-outs related to other vaccines, such as the Flu Vaccine that have already been given by the government to those that have been injured and surviving family members of dead victims. By paying out, the government admits the guilt and culpability of the pharmaceutical companies aka PhRMA, but covers for them anyway.


The Flu Vaccine is considered the most dangerous of all existing vaccines.

For veterans, anyone exposed to Agent Orange (Monsanto) during tours of duty in Viet Nam and other locations in East Asia now have Diabetes. Any veteran with Diabetes that walks into a VA (Veterans Administration) Facility anywhere will be asked if they were stationed in Viet Nam and exposed to Agent Orange during their tour of duty. At least 24% of Veterans have Diabetes compared to the 8% of the general population. That statistic should cause pause.

It is already widely known among veterans yet still debated and theorized that Gulf War Syndrome was caused by the vaccinations that active duty members received before deployment to the Middle East during Gulf War I (Operation Desert Storm). And, certain conditions such as CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Fibromyalgia were also caused by vaccinations that the active duty get during Basic Training and/or before deployments to a wartime theatres both before and since Gulf War 1.

What Is Corporate Media Saying?

Corporate media has rolled out their pundits, experts and doctors — who in some cases have a vested interest in the pharmaceutical companies and the stocks they own and perhaps have gotten wealthy on.

Dr. Paul Offit, author of “Autism’s False Prophets” has a lengthy resume and is a holder of a rotavirus vaccine patent that has been taken off of the market. After doing a bit of research, it is also revealed that he is a consultant with pharmaceutical company, Merck. Just this past week he was on Democracy Now pushing and hard selling the mandating of vaccines. These conflicts of interest are systemic with these “experts” and many of the doctors and other health care professionals that are pushing vaccines on a mostly unsuspecting public who do not do adequate research and merely trust their doctors.

Dr. Paul Offit and many others would also like to abolish all waivers and religious exemptions.

Hmmm …

The newest rhetoric in the corporate media is a plethora of articles about “measles parties.” Some have stated measles parties took place in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s to build immunity for children and that they exist even now in the homeschooling/anti-vaccination communities. Now the corporate media says these parties are taking place nationwide even though there is currently no evidence of that happening anywhere.

What Do We Already Know?

The pharmaceutical companies cannot be sued. They have had legal immunity since 1986 and this was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2011.

Many parents believe that the vaccinations their children have received have caused sickness, conditions such as autism, disabilities and irreparable physical and mental damage. In spite of that knowledge, many parents choose to vaccinate their children because they are afraid not to. The laws differ in every state regarding waivers to the vaccination mandates such as for religious purposes, for example and on the requirements for attendance in public schools and daycare centers.

What’s Next?

The US does not have a history of treating its citizens well or operating in their best interests when it comes to medical issues. Think Tuskegee Airmen, Agent Orange, Depleted Uranium and more. Parents should explore both sides and do their own research in order to make educated decisions on behalf of their children’s well-being.

The government does not own our bodies. We do not have to do as we are told by the media. Just like with other issues such as abortion, Americans have a right to determine and make decisions about what happens to their bodies. With the recent corporate media regurgitation of  the measles story repeatedly, there seems to be another agenda at work. Possibly the mandating of vaccines to everyone in the US?

Don’t even think  this couldn’t happen.

Words Of Wisdom 

No doubt about it: without vaccinations, Big Pharma would lose an important profit center…” ~ Mirela Monte

“Last year 1 in every 500,000 Americans came down with the measles. Nearly all recovered in a few days without serious consequences. At the same time 1 in 68 American children were diagnosed with autism or for every case of measles there were 7000 cases of autism. I ask myself which is the real epidemic here?” ~ Dr. Elice. 

“Whether you’re pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine, or fall somewhere in the middle, the questions you need to ask yourselves are as follows:

Do you want to live in a world, where you cannot freely refuse a medical procedure that carries risk of injury or death? I’m not questioning your comfort level with today’s vaccine schedule, because today’s vaccine schedule will change. New vaccines and additional doses are added all the time. children today receive as many as 49 doses of 14 vaccines before they reach age six, which is roughly 12 times higher than the number of vaccines administered to children back in 1940. With more than 220 new vaccines in the developmental pipeline for children and adults…and no end in sight..the question you must ask yourself is ARE YOU CERTAIN you will be 100% comfortable with vaccines that are added to the mandated list in the future? If you say that yes, you’re comfortable, then you’re either a) not expecting to be a parent or grandparent, b) don’t have to worry about it because your kids are grown and out of the house, or c) lying to prove a point. No critical thinker, no honest person, would ever sign off on the sight-unseen vaccine schedule of the future. And yet that’s what you’re doing when you condemn the people who are fighting for your right to refuse. YOU have the right to refuse, should you ever choose to use it, because the very “anti-vaccine” people you demonize have been fighting for us all.”

“Right now, the burden of “herd immunity” falls on small children, but that is changing. Vaccine manufacturers see an untapped market in adult vaccines and are coming for you next. What will you do if your state, your employer, or your insurance company forces you to get a vaccine that you simply don’t want? It hasn’t happened to you yet, but if the right to refuse is eroded, it will happen to you sooner than you might think. Who then will you turn to? Your legislators who get campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies? The CDC that has former pharma executives sitting on the board? Who will you turn to if you ever want to say no? There will be no one.” 

“Once we enter the slippery slope of removing and individual’s right to refuse medical procedures that carry a risk of injury or death, once we remove an individual’s right to speak for him/herself and his/her children, we open ourselves up to an insidious new era, where other drugs and other procedures can be mandated. I heard (on NPR, interestingly enough) that there are people who want to test for a gene marker that’s been found in mass shooters in the hopes that they can put the carriers of that gene on medications in early childhood. Sounds great, right? But many of us carry genes that will never be expressed. You could be a carrier of that gene. Or your child could be a carrier. So if we follow the “for the greater good” mentality behind vaccines (or the Nazi’s “for the greater good” mentality behind eugenics (breeding out illness), we are looking at forcing people who may never express a sociopathic gene to take antipsychotics, just in case. Because that’s what forced vaccination does. It asks children who may never come into contact with a particular virus to accept a vaccine just in case. And that’s what eugenics was all about. It sterilizes people who can pass on a genetic disease just in case. Forced vaccination is a human rights violation, and to support it when you know that the government’s own Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System exists and lists people who have died as a result of vaccines is unethical at best, sociopathic at worst.”

“The ethical thing to do is to allow people their right to refuse and leave it up to doctors and big pharma (who have marketing budgets larger than the GDP of some countries) to do a better job of convincing parents that vaccines are safe. We can start by reversing the law that grants vaccine manufacturers total immunity from vaccine injury lawsuits. Because as it stands, you can’t sue a vaccine manufacturer if your child is injured or killed by a vaccine, even in cases where they could’ve made a safer vaccine and chose not to or when they failed to recall a contaminated lot# in a timely manner. Think about that. You can’t sue the manufacturer. That immunity from liability does more to shake parents’ confidence in vaccines than anything else out there.” Author Unknown. 

AUTHORS NOTE: Nothing stated in this article is meant to take precedence over the counsel readers can receive through their primary care doctors and/or healthcare providers neither of which this writer of the entity, Challenging the Rhetoric, is. For more information on the MMR vaccine: click here

The Guardian 
Seumas Milne

From Ebola to earthquakes, Havana’s doctors have saved millions. Obama must lift this embargo Illustration: Eva Bee Wednesday 3 December 2014 15.07 EST

Four months into the internationally declared Ebola emergency that has devastated west Africa, Cuba leads the world in direct medical support to fight the epidemic. The US and Britain have sent thousands of troops and, along with other countries, promised aid – most of which has yet to materialise. But, as the World Health Organisation has insisted, what’s most urgently needed are health workers. The Caribbean island, with a population of just 11m and official per capita income of $6,000 (£3,824), answered that call before it was made. It was first on the Ebola frontline and has sent the largest contingent of doctors and nurses – 256 are already in the field, with another 200 volunteers on their way.

While western media interest has faded with the receding threat of global infection, hundreds of British health service workers have volunteered to join them. The first 30 arrived in Sierra Leone last week, while troops have been building clinics. But the Cuban doctors have been on the ground in force since October and are there for the long haul.

The need could not be greater. More than 6,000 people have already died. So shaming has the Cuban operation been that British and US politicians have felt obliged to offer congratulations. John Kerry described the contribution of the state the US has been trying to overthrow for half a century “impressive”. The first Cuban doctor to contract Ebola has been treated by British medics, and US officials promised they would “collaborate” with Cuba to fight Ebola.

But it’s not the first time that Cuba has provided the lion’s share of medical relief following a humanitarian disaster. Four years ago, after the devastating earthquake in impoverished Haiti, Cuba sent the largest medical contingent and cared for 40% of the victims. In the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, Cuba sent 2,400 medical workers to Pakistan and treated more than 70% of those affected; they also left behind 32 field hospitals and donated a thousand medical scholarships.

That tradition of emergency relief goes back to the first years of the Cuban revolution. But it is only one part of an extraordinary and mushrooming global medical internationalism. There are now 50,000 Cuban doctors and nurses working in 60 developing countries. As Canadian professor John Kirk puts it: “Cuban medical internationalism has saved millions of lives.” But this unparalleled solidarity has barely registered in the western media.

Cuban doctors have carried out 3m free eye operations in 33 countries, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, and largely funded by revolutionary Venezuela. That’s how Mario Teran, the Bolivian sergeant who killed Che Guevara on CIA orders in 1967, had his sight restored 40 years later by Cuban doctors in an operation paid for by Venezuela in the radical Bolivia of Evo Morales. While emergency support has often been funded by Cuba itself, the country’s global medical services are usually paid for by recipient governments and have now become by far Cuba’s largest export, linking revolutionary ideals with economic development. That has depended in turn on the central role of public health and education in Cuba, as Havana has built a low-cost biotech industry along with medical infrastructure and literacy programmes in the developing countries it serves – rather than sucking out doctors and nurses on the western model.

Internationalism was built into Cuba’s DNA. As Guevara’s daughter, Aleida, herself a doctor who served in Africa, says: “We are Afro-Latin Americans and we’ll take our solidarity to the children of that continent.” But what began as an attempt to spread the Cuban revolution in the 60s and became the decisive military intervention in support of Angola against apartheid in the 80s, has now morphed into the world’s most ambitious medical solidarity project.

Its success has depended on the progressive tide that has swept Latin America over the past decade, inspired by socialist Cuba’s example during the years of rightwing military dictatorships. Leftwing and centre-left governments continue to be elected and re-elected across the region, allowing Cuba to reinvent itself as a beacon of international humanitarianism.

But the island is still suffocated by the US trade embargo that has kept it in an economic and political vice for more than half a century. If Barack Obama wants to do something worthwhile in his final years as president he could use Cuba’s role in the Ebola crisis as an opening to start to lift that blockade and wind down the US destabilisation war.

There are certainly straws in the wind. In what looked like an outriding operation for the administration, the New York Times published six editorials over five weeks in October and November praising Cuba’s global medical record, demanding an end to the embargo, attacking US efforts to induce Cuban doctors to defect, and calling for a negotiated exchange of prisoners.

The paper’s campaign ran as the UN general assembly voted for the 23rd time, by 188 votes to 2 (US and Israel), to demand the lifting of the US blockade, originally imposed in retaliation for the nationalisation of American businesses and now justified on human rights grounds – by a state allied to some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

The embargo can only be scrapped by congress, still stymied by the heirs of the corrupt US-backed dictatorship which Fidel Castro and Guevara overthrew. But the US president has executive scope to loosen it substantially and restore diplomatic ties. He could start by releasing the remaining three “Miami Five” Cuban intelligence agents jailed 13 years ago for spying on anti-Cuba activist groups linked to terrorism.

The obvious moment for Obama to call time on the 50-year US campaign against Cuban independence would be at next April’s Summit of the Americas – which Latin American governments had threatened to boycott unless Cuba was invited. The greatest contribution those genuinely concerned about democratic freedoms in Cuba can make is to get the US off the country’s back.

If the blockade really were to be dismantled, it would not only be a vindication of Cuba’s remarkable record of social justice at home and solidarity abroad, backed by the growing confidence of an independent Latin America. It would also be a boon for millions around the world who would benefit from a Cuba unshackled – and a demonstration of what can be achieved when people are put before corporate profit.


Fidel Castro has expressed Cuba’s readiness to cooperate with the US in the global fight against Ebola. Cuba has been on the frontline of international response to the worst outbreak in the disease's history.

In his article “Time of Duty,” which was published on Saturday, the retired Cuban leader said that medical staff trying to save lives are the best example of human solidarity. Fighting together against the epidemic can protect the people of Cuba, Latin America, and the US from the deadly virus, he added.

“We will gladly cooperate with American [medical] personnel in this task – not for the sake of peace between the two states which have been adversaries for many years, but for the sake of peace in the world,” wrote Castro.

As the Ebola death toll currently stands at more than 4,400, the United Nations is urging the global community to help tackle the outbreak. Even to simply slow down the virus' spreading pace, international aid would have to increase 20-fold, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“We need at least a 20-fold surge in assistance – mobile laboratories, vehicles, helicopters, protective equipment, trained medical personnel, and medevac capacities,” he said.

Cuba was one of the first countries to send medical staff to the West African nations fighting the epidemic. A group of 165 health workers arrived in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, and several more groups are expected there. The Cuban team consists of 100 nurses, 50 doctors, three epidemiologists, three intensive care specialists, three infection control specialist nurses, and five social mobilization officers.

This is the largest foreign medical team from a single country to take up the call since the beginning of the outbreak.

“Cuba is the only one that I know is responding with human resources in terms of health doctors and nurses,” said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman for the African Union.

Although Cuba is far from being a prospering economy, it boasts one of the best medical systems in the world, and often lends a helping hand in the aftermath of natural disasters and epidemics.

Cuba provided care to about 40 percent of the victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and almost 50,000 Cuba-trained health employees work in many countries across the globe.

On Monday, Havana will host a summit of leaders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), aimed at ramping up Ebola response support.

In the past, Cuba had close ties with many African states. It previously sent troops to Angola and helped Nelson Mandela in his fight against Apartheid. It has also sent doctors to conflict-affected countries around the world.

US State Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday spoke about Cuba as one of the "nations large and small stepping up in impressive ways to make a contribution on the front lines."

By Coleen Jose  October 17, 2014 SHARE TWEET

The news: Senegal is now Ebola-free after 42 days without a new confirmed case, the World Health Organization announced Friday, noting the nation has surpassed double the virus's incubation period.

"Senegal's response is a good example of what to do when faced with an imported case of Ebola," the WHO said in a statement.

The country reported its first case of Ebola on Aug. 29, when a young man journeyed from Guinea to Senegal's capital, Dakar. In March, the country closed its borders with Guinea and later with other high-risk countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone.

How Senegal did it: The WHO's announcement is a major relief amid the historic epidemic that has now taken 4,500 lives. Senegal's strategy for defeating the virus could serve as a model for other countries to protect themselves against a potential outbreak. 

As Fortune notes, the government began taking proper precautions to combat the disease well before the first case was reported:

Before the first confirmed case, the Senegal Ministry of Health had been training health care staff on infection control, laboratory testing, case investigation, and contact tracing, with an oversight committee organized for response. "Prompt notification through an interagency collaboration in Guinea was crucial in this case because the patient did not report recent travel or contact with an Ebola patient," says a study on the CDC's website. At the same time, health officials acted swiftly to efficiently identify, contain and monitor potential Ebola cases in order to cut down on transmission. Once the government has identified some 67 contacts who may have contracted Ebola, officials swung into action to efficiently isolate patients and stem the spread of the disease. Lo and behold, it worked:

In total, 67 contacts were identified: 34 residents of the home where the patient stayed and 33 health care workers. All contacts, including health care workers, were subjected to 21-day monitoring. This included in-home voluntary quarantine. They were seen twice daily by Red Cross volunteers. Symptoms and temperatures were recorded twice daily. Food was provided.

Some healthcare workers resisted monitoring by Red Cross volunteers. Alternative solutions were sought, including having the local hospital monitor healthcare workers. This resulted in increased compliance. All 67 contacts completed the 21-day follow-up. The single confirmed case survived. "The government's response plan included identifying and monitoring 74 close contacts of the patient, prompt testing of all suspected cases, stepped-up surveillance at the country's many entry points and nationwide public awareness campaigns," the WHO said.

Nigeria, which has been relatively successful in combating the country's Ebola problem, is taking a page from Senegal's playbook. Nigerian epidemiologists and health officials produced a list of 894 people potential Ebola patients — and visited every one of them. WHO officials have described the country's efforts to fight the illness "word-class epidemiological detective work."

"The result was that officials and volunteers embarked on rounds of visits that would take them to an extraordinary 26,000 households," the BBC reports. "A key policy throughout this arduous process was to involve the communities and to encourage people to be as honest as possible about their movements and contacts."

But despite the good news, it's still possible that Ebola could return to the country if authorities do not take the proper precautions. "While the outbreak is now officially over, Senegal's geographical position makes the country vulnerable to additional imported cases of Ebola virus disease," the WHO said. "It continues to remain vigilant for any suspected cases by strict compliance with WHO guidelines." 

"Any country eradicating Ebola is great news right now," writes Vox's Sarah Kliff. "Not just for the health and safety of its citizens, but because reducing the number of countries with Ebola outbreaks frees up much needed resources to fight the disease in places where it continues to spread. And it shows what public health workers have know for decades: this disease is stoppable."


By Preston Wood RN Oct 08, 2014 2472826 Ebola virus

As the grave news spreads around the globe about the recent surge in Ebola infections, including an African man who has died in Dallas, Texas, fear is taking hold. Families terrified about contracting the disease are pulling their children out of schools as a poor immigrant community tries to cope with the unfolding situation, where more than 80 people are believed to have been exposed to the virus and are being monitored under quarantine.

This is the neighborhood where now-deceased Thomas Eric Duncan came to the United States from Liberia to re-unite with his fiancée and their child, only to succumb to the deadly virus days later.

As in the case of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, there is no established pharmaceutical cure for Ebola viral infection. Medical teams can only struggle to treat symptoms as a patient is ravaged by the virus. The virus is transmitted through body fluids of persons infected with the virus plus in the bodies of those who have succumbed to the disease. The fatality rate of the disease is approximately 50 percent.

In Spain, a nurse employed at a major hospital has been diagnosed with Ebola virus. How this well-trained nurse could have become infected in a state-of-the-art hospital has prompted questions about the disease and standards of care in urban hospitals in Europe and the United States. Many labor unions and nurses’ organizations are pointing to the government’s recent draconian cuts in funding for health care and other social services as the root of the problem.

Ebola, which has claimed over 3,400 lives in West Africa, has starkly unmasked many of the lies and myths about the role of the United States globally and at home regarding health care and other issues affecting people’s lives. Foremost, imperialist U.S. policies have brutally exploited and plundered countries throughout Africa. At the same time, in the United States, the racist foundations of U.S. society, and the deprivation of basic human rights for poor and working people to health care, can be seen in the meager and callous response to this crisis by the power structure in Washington.

In Dallas, African immigrants are being turned away from restaurants and their jobs. Anti-immigrant rhetoric is everywhere in the news. Instead of a government campaign aimed at uniting people to help heal those suffering and to mobilize the scientific community to find a cure, the Obama administration is standing by while racist demagoguery is escalating.

Racist denial of care

Thomas Eric Duncan was sent home from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after going to the hospital with a fever, diarrhea, decreased urine output, and other symptoms. Rather than being admitted for treatment and further testing, he was sent home.

Hospitals are required to admit anyone regardless of ability to pay or nationality. In practice, though, such discrimination happens routinely all across the United States. Due to financial pressures, hospitals and clinics are always looking for ways to ensure they get paid, relegating poor people without insurance to a lower and wholly inadequate level of care, including exclusion from hospital care.

The denial of care to Thomas Eric Duncan has reverberated through the African community in Dallas and has prompted many African-Americans to speak out, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. Duncan’s fiancée, Louise Troh, and other family members have charged that Duncan had been discriminated against by the hospital.

“When they listen to your accent, they treat you different,” said Troh’s daughter, Younger Jallah, a 35-year-old nursing home worker who helped care for Duncan before he was hospitalized. “They didn’t treat him right.”

Her husband, Aaron Yah, agreed: “That’s what everybody thinks. One, he’s from Africa. Two, he didn’t have insurance.”

Racist blame game

The U.S. popular media, owned by giant corporations, has reverted to their usual racist blame game, targeting the now deceased victim himself, even calling for his arrest shortly before his death for allegedly lying to authorities on having come into contact with someone infected with the Ebola virus.

Right-wing pundits have been busy making racist remarks about people in Africa, calling for a ban on flights from countries in West Africa, a step that would only drive the epidemic deeper underground and enhance the spread of the disease all over the globe.

Ebola is not a newly discovered disease. If action had been taken sooner, if funds and resources had been allocated to the countries in Western Africa, the necessary treatment centers, pharmacies and health care personnel could have been developed to prevent the current crisis. But because of centuries of colonial exploitation, oppression and plunder, the region has been exploited and only used as a base of operations for U.S. and European powers, which have never spent funds to help develop those countries.

While the World Bank, the United States and Europeans are now promising to build hospitals and clinics, it is unlikely that many such projects will come to fruition. The United States has explicitly stated that U.S. personnel would not staff the centers.

Clearly, the U.S. medical system once again has shown itself to be unable and unwilling to prepare to cope with a major epidemic, where, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1.4 million people will be infected by the year 2015. Under capitalism, reserve cadres of trained health care workers are not available to be mobilized to combat an outbreak of such a disease, whether it is due to the spread of a virus or the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake. There’s no profit in treating people in need.

While vast sums of money flow into the U.S. war machine, where endless billions are spent on weapons of mass destruction aimed at civilian populations around the world, the inequalities of the society come into stark view when a large medical crisis occurs. Racism, denial of access to poor people to health care without adequate insurance, uneven levels of care, inadequate staffing and training of health care workers, all come into play.

Surrounding the recent surge of Ebola infections, people in Africa and people living overseas from Africa are being blamed, scapegoated and demonized across the span of television, radio and social media.

In the capitalist world, science, reason, compassion and care are submerged while hysteria, bigotry, fear and panic flourish.

Instead of mobilizing the scientific and health care community to find organizational pathways to control the spread of the virus, instead of supporting those infected, and instead of educating and mobilizing public opinion towards a collective effort to combat and stop the epidemic, chaos rules and suffering flourishes.

Quarantine, a necessary means of controlling a highly contagious pathogen, becomes a brutal lock-down. In Dallas, the family of the deceased was locked in their tiny apartment, unable to leave.

Cuba’s example

Contrast this with the quarantine of people infected with HIV in Cuba, who were given the finest housing, food and care possible, in spite of the difficulties caused by the U.S. blockade of Cuba.

Socialist Cuba was in fact the first to send large numbers of medical workers to Africa to help fight the epidemic. Embarrassed by this, and having ignored the Ebola crisis for years, the Obama administration finally committed to sending some support to Africa. What that support will be remains to be seen.

Truly humane quarantines; desperately needed medications to provide comfort and treatment; nurses, doctors and other medical workers, transport and equipment—all this costs money, and that cuts into profits for a system based on the bottom line.

As the epidemic grows and more are infected, a civil rights emergency that could have been prevented will also continue to grow. A movement for full access to free and quality health care for everyone, a movement that says no to racism and yes to research and development—not of weapons that kill—but of treatments and cures for disease and suffering will be required to fight back and demand justice. The root cause is systemic, the profit system. The answer is a socialist world where the priorities are health care for all, healthy food, clean water, housing and education, with equality and justice for all.

Reuters--By Lisa Maria Garza and Terry Wade--DALLAS Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:45am EDT
(Reuters) - A second Texas healthcare worker who tested positive for Ebola after caring for a patient with the virus had traveled by plane a day before she reported symptoms, U.S. and airline officials said on Wednesday.

The worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas had taken a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland, Ohio, to Dallas-Fort Worth on Oct. 13, the officials said.

She was isolated immediately after reporting a fever on Tuesday, officials of the Texas Department of State Health Services said. The health worker had treated Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola and was the first patient diagnosed with the virus in the United States.

At least 4,447 people have died in West Africa in the worst Ebola outbreak on record, but cases in the United States and Europe have been limited. The virus can cause fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, and spreads through contact with bodily fluids.

"Health officials have interviewed the latest patient to quickly identify any contacts or potential exposures, and those people will be monitored," the health department said in a statement.

During the weekend, 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham became the first person to be infected with Ebola in the United States. She had cared for Duncan during much of his 11 days in hospital. He died in an isolation ward on Oct. 8.

The hospital said Tuesday that Pham was "in good condition".

News of the second worker's diagnosis follows criticism of the hospital's initial handling of the disease by its nurses, in a statement Tuesday by National Nurses United, which is both a union and a professional association for U.S. nurses.

The nurses said the hospital lacked protocols to deal with an Ebola patient, offered no advance training and provided them with insufficient gear, including non-impermeable gowns, gloves with no taping around wrists and suits that left their necks exposed.


Basic principles of infection control were violated by both the hospital's Infectious Disease Department and CDC officials, the nurses said, with no one picking up hazardous waste "as it piled to the ceiling."

"The nurses strongly feel unsupported, unprepared, lied to, and deserted to handle the situation on their own," the statement said.

The hospital said in a statement it had instituted measures to create a safe working environment and it was reviewing and responding to the nurses' criticisms.

Speaking early Wednesday on CBS "This Morning," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell declined to comment on the nurses’ allegations.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said at a news conference Wednesday that the second infected healthcare worker lived alone and had no pets.

He said local health officials moved quickly to clean affected areas involving the second healthcare worker and to alert her neighbors and friends. There was a decontamination team on its way to her residence, Dallas officials said.


Residents at The Bend East in the Village apartment complex were awoken early Wednesday by text messages from property managers saying a neighbor had tested positive for Ebola, and pamphlets had been stuffed beneath doors and left under door mats, said a resident, who asked not to be named.

Other residents were concerned enough that they were limiting time spent outdoors.

"Everybody thinks this won't happen because we are in the United States. But it is happening," said Esmeralda Lazalde, who lives about a mile from where the first nurse who contracted Ebola resides.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital is doing everything it can to contain the virus, said Dr. Daniel Varga of Texas Health Resources, which owns the hospital. "I don't think we have a systematic institutional problem," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

At the same briefing, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county's chief political officer, said authorities are anticipating additional possible Ebola cases.

"We are preparing contingencies for more, and that is a very real possibility," Jenkins said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement it was performing confirmation testing of Texas' preliminary tests on the new patient.

CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said Tuesday the agency was establishing a rapid-response team to help hospitals "hands on, within hours" whenever there is a confirmed case of Ebola.

Frieden has come under pressure over the response and preparedness for Ebola, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said U.S. President Barack Obama was confident of Frieden's ability to lead the public health effort.


Burwell, in a series of television interviews on Wednesday, said officials were adding staff to ensure the hospital in Dallas followed procedures to prevent transmission of the virus.

He said there would be round-the-clock site managers to oversee how healthcare workers put on and remove the protective gear used when treating Ebola patients.

In addition to extra CDC staff on site, two nurses from Emory University, in Atlanta, which has a specialized hospital that has treated other Ebola patients flown in from West Africa, were in Dallas to train staff.

U.S. health officials were working with local clinicians to make sure patients are getting the best care possible and that healthcare workers are protected, Burwell said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation, and our people are on staff on site doing that right now," she told NBC's "Today" show.

Obama is due to hold a video conference Wednesday with British, French, German and Italian leaders to discuss Ebola and other international issues, the White House said.

Prospects for a quick end to the contagion diminished as the World Health Organization predicted that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three worst-hit countries, could produce as many as 10,000 new cases a week by early December.

(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington D.C. and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Curtis Skinner; Editing by Mohammad Zargham, Doina Chiacu and Bernadette Baum)

Reuters/By Julie Steenhuysen/CHICAGO Mon Oct 13, 2014 11:46am EDT
(Reuters) - Some healthcare experts are bristling at the assertion by a top U.S. health official that a “protocol breach” caused a Dallas nurse to be infected with Ebola while caring for a dying patient, saying the case instead shows how far the nation’s hospitals are from adequately training staff to deal with the deadly virus.

    Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the declaration on Sunday at a news conference and called for an investigation into how the unidentified nurse became infected while caring for Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States. Duncan died last week at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Healthcare and infection control experts said that hospital staff need to be coached through the stages of treating an Ebola patient, making sure they have the right safety equipment and know how to use it properly to prevent infection.

It was not immediately clear whether the Texas hospital prepared its staff with simulation drills before admitting Duncan, but a recent survey of nurses nationwide suggests few have been briefed on Ebola preparations. Officials at the hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Some experts also question the CDC’s assertion that any U.S. hospital should be prepared to treat an Ebola patient as the outbreak ravaging West Africa begins to spread globally. Given the level of training required to do the job safely, U.S. health authorities should consider designating a hospital in each region as the go-to facility for Ebola, they said.

"You don't scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak," said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and a disaster relief expert at National Nurses United, which serves as both a union and a professional association for U.S. nurses. "We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct."    

    More than 4,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that began in West Africa in March.

    In recent months, the CDC has published detailed guidelines on how to handle various aspects of Ebola, from lab specimens and infectious waste to the proper use of protective equipment.

    How that information gets communicated to frontline workers, however, varies widely, Castillo said.

    In many cases, hospitals "post something on a bulletin board referring workers and nurses to the CDC guidelines. That is not how you drill and practice and become expert," she said.

    CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency is still investigating the case of the Dallas nurse, but stressed that "meticulous adherence to protocols" is critical in handling Ebola. "One slight slip can result in someone becoming infected."

    Skinner said the CDC is going to step up its education and training efforts on how to triage and handle patients, and may consider designating specific hospitals in each region as an Ebola treatment facility.

"We've been doing a lot over the past few months, but clearly there is more to do," he said. "The notion of possibly transporting patients diagnosed with Ebola to these hospitals is not something that is out of the question and is something we may look into.”


Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, an expert on public health preparedness at Pennsylvania State University, also disagreed with the talk of a breach of protocol, saying it just puts the onus on the nurse.

"I think that is just wrong," said Macgregor-Skinner, who helped the Nigerian government train healthcare workers when a traveler from Liberia touched off an outbreak of Ebola this past summer.

“We haven't provided them with a national training program. We haven't provided them with the necessary experts that have actually worked in hospitals with Ebola," he added in reference to U.S. hospital staff.

    Legal experts said the Dallas nurse may be entitled to compensation if the hospital carries workers' compensation insurance. If it doesn’t, she would have the right to sue the hospital for damages under Texas law, said Jay Harvey, a lawyer in Austin, Texas.     

    Her ability to show that the hospital was negligent by, for example, not providing proper training, would be key to winning such a suit, Harvey said.

    Sean Kaufman, president of Behavioral-Based Improvement Solutions in Atlanta, helped train healthcare staff at a special isolation unit at Atlanta's Emory University which treated U.S. aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the first two Ebola patients to be treated on U.S. soil.

He would observe the nurses and doctors as they cared for patients and keep detailed notes when someone would accidentally touch their sleeve or mask with an infected glove.

    He then helped coach them through the process of carefully removing their infected gear. Facilities caring for Ebola patients are encouraged to use a buddy system so that colleagues are watching each other to make sure they don't take risks.

    "Doctors and nurses get lost in patient care. They do things that put themselves at risk because their lens is patient-driven," Kaufman said. In Dallas, "I suspect no one was watching to make sure the people who were taking care of the patients were taking care of themselves," he said.

CDC and Texas health officials said the nurse who became infected had been wearing the recommended personal protective gear for Ebola, which consists of gloves, a gown, a mask, and a shield to protect the eyes from possible splatters from the patient.

    According to experts, that gear offers the minimum level of protection. When an Ebola patient enters the latter stages of the disease, as Duncan did, they become so-called fluid producers, Kaufman said.

    "Towards of end of the illness, the virus is trying to live and thrive. It's trying to get out of the person's body. It's producing massive amounts of fluid," he said.

    At that point, caregivers need to add more layers of protective gear, such as double gloves and a respirator or a full bodysuit. Those kinds of decisions need to be made by managers who are constantly assessing the risk to healthcare workers, Kaufman said.

    Macgregor-Skinner said all U.S. hospitals must be ready to identify and isolate an Ebola patient, but should also be able to turn to a regional facility that is better prepared to receive them.

“Every hospital can then prevent the spread of Ebola, but not every hospital in the U.S. can admit a patient in the hospital for long-term care,” he said.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Additional reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Martin Howell)