- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. Oct. 20, 2014.

An antidote for Ebola Overload

With each headline, it gets closer to home

By now, the sight of workers in hazmat suits and the magnified image of the Ebola virus are parts of our daily lives.

Welcome to Ebola Overload.

Ebola is everywhere. On all of the cable news channels. Big headlines in newspapers. Blowing up on Facebook. All the talk at the beauty shop.

To some, it’s all over a virus they believe none of us will ever get. It’s just people in Africa who are getting it because of low sanitary and medical standards. Yes, that reasoning goes, Ebola is dangerous and usually fatal, but it’s thousands of miles away in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

To others, the reasoning is that it’s all fear mongering. On TV, it’s to get ratings. On the Web, it’s to attract page views. And newspapers are just trying to sell papers. It’s all media sensationalism to make more money - all over something that’s not a real threat, all to scare people.

There’s at least some truth in both of those views - Africa is far away, and some media miscreants, especially those 24-hour cable channels, have pumped up the story for ratings. (Forgive us if we prefer trustworthy information from The Associated Press that you will see in the Tribune-Star, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, among others.)

As each new report of possible exposure to the virus comes closer to home, there is real reason for careful concern and wise action. Against that new reality, it was welcome news last week, as reported in this newspaper, that our two local hospitals are revisiting their training and emphasizing their staffs’ readiness should an Ebola patient be present. That’s appropriate, as one medical expert last week predicted the next Ebola case to show up in America will be at a community hospital.

First, there was the man in Texas who died from Ebola after coming to America from Liberia. Then, two nurses who treated him were diagnosed with Ebola. The second, it turns out, flew from Cleveland to Dallas a day before she was diagnosed with Ebola and when her fever was 99.5 degrees, 2 degrees below the threshold to qualify as an Ebola symptom.

But what if that had been closer to home, a flight from Cleveland to … Indianapolis?

And now, President Barack Obama is preparing to send National Guard units to West Africa to help fight Ebola. Wonder if any Indiana or Illinois units will be involved? Closer to home.

Even while understanding that the likely risk from Ebola to America is low, maybe we should take Ebola more seriously, not as an imminent disaster or in a way that would panic the children. But maybe we should get better prepared should Ebola come to our shores in numbers that rise into the triple digits or higher. Maybe we should get beyond the fear and denial, quit damning the media for continuing to cover what is undeniably a huge story and quit throwing around political blame as was done last week in Congress.

Instead, we should search out neutral, scientific, medically sound information that is readily - and reliably - available on the Web: the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov, the World Health Organization at www.who.int, and the Indiana State Board of Health at www.in/gov/isdh.

Ebola - which takes its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo - “is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90%,” according to the World Health Organization. WHO also tells us that health care workers, families of infected patients and those who handle deceased bodies are most at risk.

From the CDC, we learn that Ebola symptoms may appear 2 to 21 days after exposure, with the average being 8 to 10 days. CDC also tells us that Ebola is spread only through blood and bodily fluids (saliva, sweat, urine, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen) from an infected person; from needles and syringes contaminated by patients infected with the virus; from infected animals (the virus is suspected to have been transmitted to humans from fruit bats); and through broken skin or uncovered mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth.

From the Indiana State Board of Health, we would find out that no “antiviral medication is available to treat” Ebola. Medical staff can relieve symptoms by rehydrating, maintaining oxygen and blood pressure levels and treating other infections. There is no vaccine.

What to do?

As the state board of health said last week: “Understanding the nature of the disease and how it is spread are important ways to prevent it from spreading further.”

Understanding, it turns out, is the best antidote to Ebola Overload.

___

The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. Oct. 17, 2014.

A failing grade

The experiment in school accountability and choice has once again spawned results too horrible for the self-described reformers to accept.

A-to-F letter grades for Indiana schools, which were supposed to be released Wednesday, are now expected on the day after Election Day. But Hoosiers would be better served if those grades are forever banished to the land of bad intentions. Any plot that asks parents to choose their schools by a state-mandated letter grade deserves to fail.

The State Board of Education was asked to approve the latest school letter grades at its meeting Wednesday. Citing incomplete data that adversely affected a Carmel voucher school and four other schools, the board voted to delay the release of grades until Nov. 5. Grades for the five buildings affected and 2,100 other Indiana schools will have to wait for analysis by the Legislative Services Agency. The complex formula a review panel spent a full year revising was thrown off when a testing contractor (sound familiar?) failed to report credits for advanced coursework at the five schools.

“Somehow a lack of leadership, a lack of attention to detail, places us in a really bad position because school superintendents and schools are looking for this info today, and you have not provided some of the key ingredients to us to making a complete decision,” board member David Freitas complained to state Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

In fact, schools and district superintendents have had the information for weeks, with ample opportunity to question the grades posted. What they haven’t had is the opportunity to question the motives behind school letter grades. The General Assembly mandated the labeling system. The board members - all appointed by Gov. Mike Pence - have zealously enforced the mandate, with some notable exceptions.

Before voting to table the grade release Wednesday, the board took care to clean up the damage inflicted on Christel House Academy. That’s the same school whose C letter grade two years ago threw former Superintendent Tony Bennett into a furious rush to revise the grading formula. The school, a project of GOP campaign benefactor Christel DeHaan, received an A with the former administration’s assistance; an F last year without it. It was set to receive a D on Wednesday, but board members took advantage of a rule adopted in September to accommodate schools with unusual configurations, bolstering Christel House’s grade to a B by omitting the school’s 37.8?percent passing rate on an algebra test.

The pains the board is taking for favored charter and voucher schools should anger the public school administrators who receive no such consideration. They are left to try to explain the effects of an experiment-gone-wrong on undeserving schools, students, teachers and administrators. How can high-achieving schools show academic improvement over the course of a year and receive a lesser grade?

The answer is that the task itself is monstrous. What responsible parent chooses a school on the basis of a single letter grade? How is accountability served by an experiment continually altered to produce desired results? Why is so much time, money and anguish going into a labeling system rejected by states showing the greatest student achievement?

If the State Board of Education can’t even produce a formula to serve its own special interests, what is the point of the exercise? It’s time for public school supporters to demand the reform mob call off its ill-fated experiment with A-to-F school grades.

___

The Times, Munster. Oct. 16, 2014.

Fighting diseases is a global effort

The two main responses to Ebola cases developing in the United States has been either to scream, “Run for your lives!” or to say it’s nothing to worry about. There’s no need to panic, but extra caution - and extra precautions - are definitely needed.

The MERS case this summer at Community Hospital in Munster is a reminder to Northwest Indiana of how easily a disease can arrive from abroad. Like Ebola, the MERS case showed up as the result of international air travel.

The medical staff at Community received well-earned praise for their reaction to contain the spread of the disease.

But Ebola isn’t MERS. If MERS is a worst-case scenario, “Ebola is worse than the worst,” said Patrick Bankston, director of the Indiana University School of Medicine’s Northwest Center for Medical Education.

Unlike the usual precautions to prevent contagious diseases - gowns, masks, gloves, etc. - the Ebola protocol requires even more precautions, including double sets of gloves, haz-mat suits and special spraying. Touch the outside of the protective gear, and this deadly disease can be contracted from the patient’s bodily fluids.

But donning haz-mat gear isn’t the only way to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

It also includes personal, national and global responsibility.

A century ago, influenza wiped out more people worldwide than the combat in World War I. And yet look at how few people taking the simple precaution of getting a flu vaccination, even when it’s free. Don’t like needles? Then get a couple of squirts of a dead virus up your nostrils to make you immune.

For that matter, look at the number of parents who don’t immunize their children against childhood diseases that could have - should have - been wiped out long ago. Failing to take these precautions can cause an easily preventable disease to spread again.

Service groups like Rotary International, which aims to eliminate polio worldwide, must be commended.

But national resources must be brought to bear as well. The United States has a global responsibility to fight disease around the world. Investing money there means limiting its spread here. The return on that investment should be obvious.

The Ebola cases in Dallas should serve as a reminder to all of us of the need to focus on disease prevention and containment.

___

Daily Journal, Franklin. Oct. 14, 2014.

Foster parents vital to children’s success

In times of need, Johnson County residents have answered the call. The flood of 2008, United Way campaigns and fundraisers in the wake of the Edinburgh dam tragedy are just a few examples.

But another need in the county also exists. It’s one that doesn’t get the attention others do but is equally important: foster parents.

The number of children who are at risk for abuse or neglect and require safe shelter often exceeds the space available in the current list of available foster homes.

The county has many children in non-relative foster care and not nearly enough foster homes licensed through the Department of Child Services. Some foster homes are at capacity, and some won’t or can’t accept children of a certain age.

The problem is growing as the demand for foster care remains steady while some foster homes have to close because of the parents’ increasing ages or changing guidelines.

When space isn’t available to keep children in Johnson County, the Department of Child Services has to consider other options, including placing children in foster homes outside the county.

That’s not preferred because it further disrupts a child’s life.

Children already are removed from homes of biological parents because of physical abuse, malnourishment or lack of medical treatment, for example. Moving them to another county takes them away from their schools and activities.

Placement in foster homes in other counties wouldn’t be needed if there were enough foster homes around here.

Being a foster parent isn’t for everybody because it requires a significant commitment of time. Parents must make time for visitations, team meetings, court hearings, therapy or tutoring. And they must remember that the ultimate goal is for children to be reunified with their parents.

But foster parents can receive a personal reward knowing that they are providing children in need with a safe haven, care and structure at critical points in their lives. The relationships formed with these children can last long after the children have left the home.

If you feel a calling to help children, becoming a foster parent would be a tremendous way to give love and care to some who greatly need it.

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