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.

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  1. It is a matter of time before they announce that the airline situation is purposeful. The government in all its wisdom decided to reduce air traffic to lower the probabilities of Ebola spreading. Just wait for it.

    • remember when chabe announced plans to build a nuclear plant in Venezuela? he stood by this laughable promise until the Fukushima meltdown, which he named as the reason why the nuclear plant would not be built… good times.

  2. Fortunately, the government had the foresight to shut down air travel well in advance of domestic contamination. An epidemiologically sound decision.

  3. It doesn’t help that the regime persecutes people who raise legitimate concerns, like the recent case of the hospital chief in Aragua. Public health in Venezuela is going back to the time of Galileo.

  4. We all know the answer to this. Why even ask? This government is currently hiding from an outbreak of a non lethal mosquito bourne disease. To pretend that they could handle something like Ebola is a farce.

    • Yeah, of the ALLEGED 768 reported cases of chikungunya, a nephew of mine is one of them; remarkably, from an area that has no such reports that I am aware of. Imagine the chances of that? They are doing an excellent job of preventing the spread of necessary public health information….

      • I come from a pro Chavista discussion event in Frankfurt. 1 of 4 Venezuelan on stage and one oppo girl among the crowd, possibly the only Venezuelan in the audience, mentioned parents with chikungunya. That makes 2 out of 5.
        This time I was all peace and understanding. Needed 1 liter of beer to not starting to heavily discuss their theories. Those on stage were more like chavistas de base. Persons from factory occupations. Some used the chance to finish their studies. You may say that they belong to the profiteers of the regime. Well, in a way I am kind of profiteer, too, from development in the job markets, the fact that my parents were able to support me a bit – not much – during studies, or that to study is free in my country and of a better quality than my English.
        During the discussion a 19 year old venezuelan girl talked very long and made a lot of critical points. In her own words she mentioned price controls and the overreaching of state companies as reasons for the current shortages. She came to Germany as an Au Pair and wants to stay here, because of the problems in her home country. The guys on the podium treated her with full respect and offered remote damages of neoliberalism as an explanation. They were no way bully. In their mind they are connecting the dots the way, that this is their reality.
        I started my contribution with saying that I admire some parts of the opposition, but I don’t want to start aggressive discussion. They absolutely loved me for that. Then I mentioned some points in their talks, which didn’t appear logical to me. They treat me with respect and so did I.

        I have no destroyed family business, need to exile or other sufferings because of chavismo. I am german.

        I believe that some day the problems will be so big, that Chavismo will end.
        In a way they seemed to be very tired of polarization. Maybe one day all will be tired of polarization and you will sit around a round table.

        • Sorry to deflate the fantasy of “just being a bit upset”, dude, but:

          “I believe that some day the problems will be so big, that Chavismo will end.” Is the very same thing the “electorero” crowd here are claiming since 2003 (The infamous and now mocked “God’s time is perfect” said by Capriles like his personal quote), and here we are, two hundred thousand murders later, and things have changed for the worse, way worse.

          “Maybe one day all will be tired of polarization and you will sit around a round table.” Not gonna happen as long as the hate mongers hold the reins of power, spreading hatred and rancor to their followers, and harrassing the ones that don’t kneel before them.

          “The guys on the podium treated her with full respect and offered remote damages of neoliberalism as an explanation. They were no way bully. In their mind they are connecting the dots the way, that this is their reality.” That’s actually the passive-aggressive way of chavistas of treating other people outside of Venezuela, because spewing the same bile they spit while mocking the suffering of other venezuelans here is a sure way to have the facial bones rearranged by fist.

          • Ralph,

            I find “some day the problems will be so big, that Chavismo will end” depressing, very depressing. To make that clear.
            But those Chavistas were far more reflective and a ton less triumphalistic than others I have heard before.
            I watched the faces of other left leaning Latinos in the audience, when the young woman – with 19 you are no girl, my fault – was talking about shortages, corruption and economic missmanagement. They listened with a lot of attention, though they did not like what she was saying.
            Post Communist Eastern Germany has been a place where ex-supporters of the regime and opponents were able to live together. Even post-nazi Germany was like that. Btw, I am not comparing these regimes with Chavismo. These were just the from my pov totalitarian regimes of the recent history of my country.

    • a friend has at least 15 family members in valencia if i remember correctly (big house,lots of people) with the “looks-like-chikungunya-but-its-not” disease. Another friend’s sister went to the hospital, she has all the symptoms including the red spots on the skin- what i found shocking is that the staff in the hospital was almost forbidden to say the name of the disease.To the point where they told her she had not Chikungunya but something else.Other 3 patients had it as well.

      There is a silence now, you don’t hear about it anymore on the news.Not even on twitter.

  5. You’re joking right? Ebola will never reach Venezuela, at least not by name. They’ll say it’s fiebre amarilla or whatever before admitting a single case of ebola.

    And if they do admit it…. you know they’ll also argue it was INNOCULATED! TAN TAN TAAAAAAAAAN! (excuse the glibness)

  6. Worse than all of the other things lacking is the readiness of our civil defense systems. I can only imagine the chaos of this government trying to handle the logistics of a major pandemic defense.

  7. If ebola hits us, the people that will die from it will be just as dispensable to the government as the thousands that have been lost to the hampa.
    Cuba will surely send some unaccomplished doctors, and some high military award will be bestowed upon them while Maduro hails it as the counteroffensive to the disease created in American labs sent in drones to end the revolution.

  8. Our own CDC aka Instituto de Higiene, is not well suited to establish field labor, not even got the quantity of Hazmat suits, Contention units or sealed-enviroment structures, all because it has never happened. Also, the absence of real protocols (not the one that you use to react but to prevent) and an organization that becomes a coordination structures if needed like FEMA (Proteccion civil is a joke) put us between the sword and a hard place with Pandemics

  9. The government’s best line of defense against ebola is, of course, the lack of flights. It’s highly unlikely that a venezuelan will travel to Africa and then come back, because airline tickets are impossible to find, it’s unlikely that someone from Africa will come vacationing to Venezuela with tickets at USD 2000.

    The main vectors left are Colombia, Brazil, and perhaps Guyana. If and ebola epidemic develops in either of those countries, it could cross the border along with regular commerce/smuggling. So really, we should pray all those countries have their shit together (unlike us) and at least keep ebola off our shared borders.

  10. It’s highly unlikely that a venezuelan will travel to Africa and then come back, because airline tickets are impossible to find.
    You are correct about airline flights to and from Africa to Venezuela. In addition, there are regular cocaine smuggling flights between Venezuela and Africa, as another commenter on another thread pointed out. Smuggling out cocaine, potentially smuggling in Ebola.
    Certainly the Chavistas enriching themselves from these flights are up in arms about the potential public health menace these flights entail.


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