Cost of disease, suffering escalates with ignorance and fear

October 17, 2014
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The Ebola crisis makes obvious the interconnectedness of the human race. Such dread diseases — and all manner of human issues — are never “distant” in an age of mobility, especially among frequent business flyers.

The Ebola crisis is not unlike that of TB (aka tuberculosis, White Plague, consumption), which was the single most common cause of death in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, with more than 80 percent of the population infected. In 1938, there were more than 700 TB hospitals (or sanatoriums) in the U.S. A vaccine was not discovered until after World War II.

One must ask why health departments and the medical community across the country must continue to beg adults to get a flu shot or parents to vaccinate children against diseases that now can be prevented: polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis. The cost in dollars and lives is enormous. The vaccine for pertussis (aka whooping cough) was, in fact, discovered in the Michigan Department of Health lab in Grand Rapids.

The Kent County Health Department last week issued reassurances of its preparedness should Ebola find a victim in the region. Grand Rapids Business Journal notes that employers, too, must be vigilant in regard to health matters, whether Ebola or, more likely, one of the flu viruses, which pass quickly from the front door to the back cubicle. Business owners also are wise to have at the ready listings of emergency contacts, plastic gloves — and facts. Health care issues can have an immediate impact on a business’s bottom line.

Area hospitals have made fervent preparations and precautions. All health care providers recently were immersed in public education efforts for childhood vaccinations and flu shots for the general public. And while some choose to ignore prevention efforts, there is a huge uptick in the Ebola fear factor as the world awaits a magic pill. The vaccines developed in Grand Rapids and around the world were assuredly magic pills for those who suffered in those times from no less a threat.

The county health department last week re-established a community-wide partnership and cooperation. Together with local health care institutions, it re-established the Metropolitan Medical Response System to ensure coordinated efforts. Participants include Grand Rapids city manager’s office, the GR police department, fire department, Kent County administrator’s office, Kent County EMS, Spectrum, Mercy Health and Metro health care systems. The Oct. 1 “scare” that a patient at Spectrum might have the deadly disease (which proved false) served to reassure the public that the health systems are prepared and have drilled the CDC guidelines.

Business owners, too, would be wise to be proactive.

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