If it weren’t for the coincidental circumstances, I wouldn’t have thought about it at all. But almost exactly two weeks from the day my wife got back from England I found myself suffering from flu-like symptoms: dry cough, fatigue, aches and pains. Now admittedly this is my normal for daily life, so it makes it a bit difficult to determine whether there’s actually something more wrong or I’m just having a downside to the cycle. When the fever spiked I knew it was beyond the usual muscular whatever.
Now consider that the Mrs. had been to England, a known hot spot for the media’s darling virus, as well as a couple of large airports full of people traveling hither and yon. Never mind the oriental fellow she sat next to on the flight back who was obviously sick with something; he didn’t even have to be there to make it a possibility. So out of the goodness of my heart and concern for the public good and all that, I decided to contact the health authorities and see what was what.
Public Health Line: (Automated nonsense that takes so long you could get an actual medical degree before they figure out what you’re on about. Another fine example of the failure of artificial intelligence.)
Doctor’s Office: Gosh, we don’t know. You should call the hospital and ask for Sharon. She’s the infectious disease expert there.
Hospital: Sharon isn’t here. Just stay in and don’t go anywhere. We probably don’t even have the ability to test for it.
And there was me thinking the government was actually concerned about the possible spread of this virus and they would be eager to send a public health nurse out to test any potential cases. I guess not. Oh well, whatever. I’d been all over town the day before so everyone is probably infected now anyway. Or not (I’ll explain the virus stuff later).
Hospital calls back: Um, actually we’d like you to put on an N95 mask and come in at a specific time for testing. (Hmm. Seems kind of contrary to what they said before.)
Twenty minutes later, clad in one of my wildfire masks (good thing I still had some, eh?) I walk in to the ER – and get stared at. A nurse in full surgical garb comes out to greet me and quickly usher me past the other patients into what passes for an isolation room at a this ‘cottage’ hospital. From the looks on everyone else’s faces you’d think I was Death walking among them; they all knew damn well what the mask meant.
Usual routine of history, symptoms, and taking vitals. No fever at the moment (I wouldn’t have driven in if there had been) but my blood pressure sure was up. Gee, I wonder why? Anyway the nurse disappears and I start waiting. Fever decides to spike a bit and I try not to dissolve into a puddle on the floor.
In comes my own doctor, unrecognizable because he is in full surgical garb too. Yes they want to take a sample, and since he had to read the instructions on the sampling package I guess this was the first time they’d done it there. They should warn people how it is done, as that alone would prevent anyone from admitting to symptoms. Sort of like having an oil drilling rig shoved through your nose. Okay, my nasal passages aren’t nicely straight and open as they should be. It was painful, and it bled.
Home I go to await the results.
Next day. They were going to call, weren’t they? They didn’t. Okay, I’ve got this on-line access to my medical records; maybe something has turned up there? It had: partial results. In 24 hours they were able to determine it is not influenza A or influenza B. That’s good! Or is it? Because if it’s not either of those, what is it? I mean we are concerned about it being the new and nasty one.
Oh, that test takes longer. How much longer? Well by the time they know if it is you’re either over it or dead from it.
It seems to me there’s room for improvement here. I’ve had a lot of medical tests, and they are all pretty far from Dr. McCoy’s tri-corder scan giving results in seconds. They’re more like: “It could be this; let’s see. (Take sample, run test, get results.) Nope. What else? It could be this; let’s see. (Take sample, run test, get results.) Nope. What else? (Lather, rinse, repeat.)” One test won’t tell you what it is, but will tell you what it isn’t. It’s a slow process of elimination, and there has to be a better way. You could run out of blood before they manage to try every test they’ve got (my record draw is 27 vials in one sitting).
It’s days later now and I’m writing this, with no more knowledge than I had at the start. If I was infectious and deadly I could be blithely spreading it all over as people do since we tend to largely ignore any illness symptoms we may have, overcoming them with willpower as the need to get on with daily life’s demands overrules the need to recover.
Meanwhile the world has gone nuts about this disease. The general information given is often grossly inaccurate, the statistics hyperbole, and the government response a joke. For example on January 26 our provincial government said the risk of the virus here was “low”. Less than two months later we’re over 20 cases, that they know of. Considering the amount of travel between BC and China the risk was obviously high, not low, and it’s only the fact that it is not as easily transmitted as most people think that the results aren’t worse. The federal government is just getting around to creating a task force to deal with it. Can you imagine? First of all, such protocols should have been in place years ago: it’s not like this is the first time we’ve had to deal with disease outbreaks (SARS, H1N1 to name two in recent history). Second, the last thing we need is politicians thinking they are capable of understanding medical issues and dealing with them. Nothing in the history of the world would support that conclusion, right up to Trump’s claim that it will all go away once the weather warms up.
You’ve got bunglers everywhere, people, and they are in charge of everything.