By Josh Bloom — January 3, 2017
Some people reach the pinnacle of their careers through some combination of brain power, wisdom, sound judgment, and the ability to logically cope with unforeseen events.
Then there is Tom Frieden, who mercifully just stepped down as the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Perhaps “fell down” would be a more apt term, since his tenure there was not terribly different than a 7-year long Three Stooges marathon — one embarrassment after another.
Scratch that. The Stooges were funny; their famous poke in the eye routine still amuses us after many years. Frieden poked America in the eye too, but there was nothing even remotely amusing about it. In fact, thanks to his agency, many Americans are suffering from pain far worse than a poke in the eye.
Frieden, who was named by President Obama in 2009, was formerly the Commissioner of Health for New York, where he did a pretty good job (1). But the term “pretty good” is even funnier than The Stooges when describing Freiden’s performance at the CDC. Let’s just go with “atrocious” for now. Or another word, which starts with “cluster.”
Frieden’s claim to “fame” came in 2014, and it came fast and furious. His bumbling of Ebola outbreak was the stuff of legends.
My favorite bit was the “Keep Ebola out of the USA by transporting Ebola patients to the USA program”. Also…
When Ebola sent the world into a panic, the CDC formulated one seriously stupid plan to prevent the virus from spreading to the U.S.— take the temperature of people from epidemic areas as they entered the U.S. through five major airports: JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, Chicago and Atlanta.This was ridiculous on many levels. Here’s why:
- An asymptomatic, but an infected person will have a fever for about one day of the 21-day incubation period during which the virus can spread (before symptoms begin). Taking an Advil will mask the fever. The chances of actually detecting an infected passenger using this method are about zero.
- If a fever is detected, the odds that it is a result of Ebola are less than zero. Fevers can be caused by all kinds of infections that are gazillions of times more common than Ebola:
“We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans…”
CDC Director Tom Frieden. October, 2014
This worked out about as well as expected. Over a two-month period, 36,000 people from Western Africa with fevers were detained. The number of Ebola cases? Zero. Yet, Thomas Duncan, a visiting Liberian, who became the first documented case in the U.S. made his way to Dallas in September, where he became ill. Duncan was sent home with Tylenol from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital emergency room on September 25th, only to return four days later severely ill, at which point he was diagnosed with Ebola. Duncan died on October 8th, but not before infecting two nurses at the hospital. Nice.
And his disastrous reaction to opioid medications …
But the worst aspect of turning off the supply of pain pills is difficult to quantitate, but easy to read about almost every day—suffering. People—even those who had been treated responsibly with opioids for many years— found that the same doctors who had been treating them would no longer do so. Pain clinics began to close. The result? it is not uncommon for people who are living in severe pain and unable to get legal prescriptions to resort to street heroin(5). Veterans, with limited access to addiction treatment programs, have been cut off from drugs that some have been taking for 15 years, and have being told to try acupuncture, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong instead. Or being put on medications that were never designed to treat pain in the first place (and have their own liabilities). This has taken a huge collective toll on the country. News stories about people committing suicide to end their misery are increasingly easy to find. (See: Merciless In Seattle: Untreated Pain, Misery, And Suicide.
Yes, the rats are leaving the ship. But lets keep an eye on where they end up. Or with WHO.