Well, as many of you know… This week this purportedly highly unlikely event actually occurred: the CDC confirmed that a man showed up in America, Texas to be exact, and was diagnosed with Ebola. You would think that public health officials would be concerned over this unexpected happening… However it seems as though there is another virulent pandemic sweeping through the ranks of the CDC: a refusal to alert the public as to the real possibilities involved in this recent development. At a press briefing discussing this occurrence, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden stated: “I have no doubt that we will stop this in its tracks in the U.S.” (3). He went on to say that only a “handful” of people are in any real threat of catching the disease (ibid).
However, I believe that unless Dr. Frieden’s handful is big enough to hold over 313.9 million people, the current US population, he is optimistically denying the possibilities. Here are some of the reasons why: 1) According to United States Army Research, the Zaire Ebolavirus has been shown to potenitally cause full-blown infections via aerosolized droplets in environments with low relative humidity (4); 2) Many people infected with Ebola show no signs and symptoms at all (5); 3) As colder weather comes upon us and the influenza virus reemerges, it will be impossible to tell between a bad case of the flu and Ebola unless verified via blood test. Coupled with the fact that nearly 20% of the population may get the flu this season it would make testing everyone a virtual impossibility (6); 4) Our healthcare system is capable of handling relatively few actual respiratory isolation patients; and 5) Researchers are counting on being able to pull off a miracle and fast track, through bypassing normal safety testing, a vaccine to the US population before the spread of Ebola worsens – even though researchers have been working on this same project since 1976 to no avail (7).
So here is my big question… Why aren’t Americans being told that they should be getting healthy and boosting their immune systems in preparation for a possible pandemic? Studies examining how the virus interacts with the human immune system advise that: “therapeutic agents that bolster the innate immune response, including activation of NK [Natural Killer] cells, should be the target of future studies” (8). What are some of these “therapeutic agents?” In reality, simply making healthy choices are the most effective ways of improving the function of the innate immune system. For instance, smoking cessation should be widely advised to the US population due to the fact that benzopyrene, a carcinogenic substance found in tobacco products, kills human Natural Killer cells (9). Furthermore, most Americans are ingesting benzopyrene-laden foods on a daily basis due to poor dietary choices (10). And this is just one single chemical effecting immune system function! What about other aspect of a healthy lifestyle: such as adequate sleep, hydration status, exercise and exercise intensity, moderate sunlight exposure, etc.?
The answer is simple: it’s really all about the “Benjamin’s.” If Americans became increasingly healthy three things would happen: 1) many trillion dollar industries would be bankrupted (tobacco, alcohol, beverage, unscrupulous food producers, etc.); 2) we would no longer need to patronize our burgeoning medical system as frequently (in turn bankrupting hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, and putting many well paid health professionals out of a job); and, 3) the average American would be happier and more productive.
So there you have it… I believe the reason we are not all hearing the call to improve our health is because we are valued more as merchandise than human beings and a “miracle” vaccine or “wonder” drug would keep everything going on perfectly as it has been in the past…
My fellow Americans, Ebola is not actually the enemy… In fact, the biggest threat to our security and economic prosperity today would be for us to continue on in this sort of denial and prideful obstinacy. Thus, the biggest enemy to the US, in verity, is us…
So, pandemic or not, I believe it’s time for a different direction: towards truth, towards health… Onward Prebola©!
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4) Int. J. Exp. Path. (1995), 76, 227-236
5) Clin Exp Immunol. 2001 Jun;124(3):453-60.
8) J Exp Med. Jul 19, 2004; 200(2): 169–179.
9) Arch Oral Biol. 1989;34(4):283-7