Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quarantined! It's not just for computer viruses any more

From The Washington Post:

The federal government last week detained and quarantined an Atlanta man who had spent nearly two weeks traveling in the United States, Canada and Europe with "extensively drug-resistant" tuberculosis, a rare and often fatal form of the infection, officials said yesterday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed an "order of isolation" on Friday after catching up with the man, who had flown into Montreal the day before and then driven to New York City. He was flown in a government plane on Memorial Day to Atlanta, where he is now undergoing treatment.

Although states occasionally use their authority to forcibly detain and treat patients with infections, this was the first time since 1963 the federal government has done so. The last case involved suspected importation of smallpox, a disease eradicated in the 1970s.

Some thoughts, in no particular order, about this:

1. If the public health authorities had been this proactive in dealing with HIV/AIDS thousands upon thousands of lives could have been saved. It is a good thing that TB doesn't have its own civil rights lobby (nobody tell the ACLU or it will).

2. These new drug resistant forms of old diseases are our fault. Doctors who over-prescribe antibiotics and patients who do not follow directions and stop taking antibiotics when they feel better have bred these little monsters.

3. There are no new "miracle drugs" on the horizon.

4. America, and the world, was better off when its public health agencies worried about controlling infectious disease and improving sanitation. The current focus on "lifestyle issues" like obesity and smoking reflect a truly bizarre ordering of priorities.

5. A measure of how bizarre the public health authorities priorities are is seen by the fact that when smallpox was finally declared to be eradicated the doctor who had directed the international effort was a virtual pariah at the World Health Organization and WHO was treating the whole smallpox eradication program as an embarrassment to live down, rather than a model to be copied.

6. When a new disease or a more dangerous form of an old disease shows itself where to the WORLD'S eyes turn seeking the cure? To the socialized medical establishments of Canada or Old Europe? To the communist medical establishments of Cuba or the People's Republic of China? To the nations of Africa or Central or South America? Of course not. To ask the questions is to invite hysterical laughter. The world looks to the United States, the last industrialized and technologically advanced nation on the surface of the earth with anything like a capitalist free market in health care. And the left wants to destroy that free market.

7. If the left does manage to destroy the American medical system through socialism who will find cures for the new drug resistant diseases. Who will identify and develop treatments for the new sexually transmitted diseases constantly being incubated by the libertines of the left? Who will step up and take our place?