Friday, October 19, 2007

Dangerous Incompetence

It's not just that the new Super Bug is stalking us that is so scary. The real nightmare on Elm street is that our government is.... er.... masking the problem.... and when finally unmasked offers nothing more than a "boo!"

Take yesterday's headline for instance, "Drug-Resistant Staph Germ's Toll is Higher Than Thought." (WaPo) Why aren't we surprised?

Because, undoubtedly someone you know who has had surgery in the last few years has contracted a serious infection from their stay. The prevalence of new antibiotic resistant infections has been widely reported. That the public is just now being alerted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC).... undoubtedly because it is now increasingly striking our astounding.

The new Super Bug, referred to as MRSA, is now called "a significant public health problem," by Scott K. Fridkin of the CDC. He adds that "We should be very worried."

Worried for good reason. It now seems that the CDC is just discovering that MRSA has been killing more people than AIDS. Those especially at risk are blacks (67 people per 100,000) and those older than 65 (128 in 100,000). And, it is now spreading to our schools.

Although it is estimated that MRSA is yearly responsible for 94,000 serious infections and nearly 19,000 deaths, "It's really just the tip of the iceberg," according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.... the statistics include only the most serious infections.

As troubling as the CDC's inability to identify widespread MRSA-type of infections is the gaping hole of unaccountability, by not only the CDC, but the department of Homeland Security to spot deadly contagions.

"Man crisscrossed border with TB" (WashingtonTimes) documents the case of a Mexican national infected with a highly contagious, multi-drug resistant form of tuberculosis (MDR-TB) who crossed the U.S. border 76 times and took multiple domestic flights in the past year!

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency warned Homeland Security on April 16 that this frequent traveler was infected, but it took Homeland Security officials more than six weeks to issue a May 31 alert, and then a further week to tell its own Transportation Security Agency!

Finally, on June 7, Homeland Security officials notified the Transportation Security Administration "that a person infected with MDR-TB may be attempting to use the U.S. transportation system."

And, to add real insult to the whole alarming situation, it turns out that the Mexican government had known for more than five years of the condition of their citizen, Amado Isidro Armendariz Amaya, a businessman from Juarez, which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Want to know the reaction of Homeland Security in June after they finally got their act together.... their employees were told that they would be fired if the situation went public.

Just where did this Mexican national fly with this deadly form of TB that can be transmitted with a single cough? He flew on Delta Airlines to Atlanta and Salt Lake City, he flew on US Air/AM West to Phoenix during 2006 and January and May of 2007. May of 2007! Weeks after the CBP agency alerted Homeland Security!

Lots of questions come to mind.... why couldn't the CBP just take action on April 16 when they discovered the infected frequent traveler? Why isn't Mexico sharing information about their infected nationals? What are the Iraq-obsessed Bush government and the profit-bloated drug companies doing to develop antibiotics for these monstrous diseases?

And.... why aren't Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security and CDC officials being held accountable?.... people should be fired, starting with Chertoff.

As Allen Greenspan noted in his recently published memoir, Washington is "harboring a dysfunctional government.... Governance has become dangerously dysfunctional." Emphasis on "dangerously."

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