by Rebecca L. Hein
American Reporter Correspondent
August 7, 2009
MY BATTLE WITH TECHNOLOGY
BRADENTON, Fla., Aug. 3, 2009 -- Tonight, in a remote and rural part of west-central China's Qinghai Province, a town of 10,000 mostly Tibetan people is entirely quarantined as officials try to contain an outbreak of pneumonic plague. Residents can go anywhere in Ziketan within the quarantined area, but the roads in and out are blocked and no one can leave, the New York Times reported today.
A World Health Organization spokeswoman in Switzerland said that while China sporadically reports cases of bubonic plague - transmitted by rats - "having it evolve into pneumonic plague was 'unexpected,'" she said.
The kind of airborne plague in Ziketan typically kills 6 of 10 people who go untreated. The first to die in Ziketan were a couple of strong, healthy herdsmen, isolated neighbors in the verdant green pastures of Qinghai's Chinese summer. About 10 relatives and family of the two men have been subjected to a stronger quarantine, and show no symptoms so far. But since the disease can be spread thorough inhalation of any invisible droplets from an infected person's coughs, it is likely to spread in Ziketan and perhaps beyond. Let's hope some Islamic martyr doesn't sneak in, sneak out and get on a plane to Washington.
Or it will suddenly occur in another city, another nation, somewhere, tomorrow, the next day, or a year or two from now. Even though we're far from Ziketan, H1N1 swine flu spread the same way. It's reached 123 countries now, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have stopped counting cases and deaths in the United States - they were overwhelmed by the numbers.
But we in America have little to worry about. More than 258 million Americans enjoy health insurance and may get first-rate care.
Actually, the only vulnerable element of our population is the 47 million people who have no health insurance. If such an infection were to occur among us, as H1N1 swine flu already has, we might not go to the hospital for the first few days after we experience a nagging cough or slight fever. Even a four-hour emergency room visit at the county hospital here can cost upwards of $3,000, which I was charged when my blood pressure went way up the night my mother died.
I have one now, but I know I won't be running down there with a cough.
Not knowing what we've got, most of us 47,000,000 without insurance will take Hall's cough drops, Vick's Vapor Rub, Robitussin-D or some other medicine that may not be too effective against pneumonic plague.
Then we will go about our daily lives. We will go to the same movies as your kids, the same department stores you visit, the same restaurants you like, the same malls you prefer, all the places except the fancy hotels and restaurants you might visit, presuming you have money.
And you would be able to go the doctor, since you have health insurance and can choose your doctor and choose your plan so long as it covers exotic illnesses. You will have a choice of going to the public hospitals overrun with the dying and the dead, which will welcome your insurance coverage, or to a safe private clinic where well-insured people are welcome, even when the contract janitors don't show up and the floors are not as clean as they ought to be.
That's why you don't need a health care plan for everyone. You are protected until you leave the hospital.
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