Are we ready? Of course not

Do these come in red?
Do these come in red?

I don’t want to cause panic, folks, but reading stories like the one about the nurse who contracted the ebola virus in Madrid doesn’t help quell collective nerves. Heck, even in Dallas they appear to have screwed up.

These stories brought me back to a conversation I had the other day with a friend who owns a diagnostics lab in central Venezuela.

“There are no test tubes,” he told me.

He explained that the machines they use at the lab for all sorts of tests – centrifugal machines – are calibrated to use special plastic test tubes. A few months ago, the government decided they would not allow the import of said test tubes anymore, and are only importing glass test tubes. Problem is, they don’t work well in the machines.

Add to this the fact that currently solutions to test for things like HIV are very hard to find in the country, and one has to wonder: when ebola comes to our shores, will we have the necessary medical equipment to treat the patients? Will we have the inputs to effectively diagnose it? What will our long-suffering health workers say when asked to treat ebola patients in subpar conditions? Will Maduro allow international organizations to take part?

In a country where you can’t find paracetamol, what will we do if ebola breaks out? The government will surely blame the usual suspects (FUD – meaning fascistas, Uribe, derecha). But will they actually … do their job and contain the spread? Will they allow our public sphere to debate this issue freely? Or will they continue showering us with crazy ideas? (I can see it now – Maduro saying that “colectivos” and “consejos comunales” will be in charge of containing the spread)

Again, I don’t want to spread panic. The threat is real for everyone, and we would be wise to take precautions and pray. But the least we can do is demand that our government show us that it is prepared. It doesn’t help that the only news item on “Venezuela preparada ébola” is a vague statement about vigilance in airports.