Thursday, August 28, 2014
Doctor's Perspective
African customs and the Ebola epidemic

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Public health in the US has done wondrous things. The best example is the effect that immunizations have had over the years eradicating common diseases. Some of those diseases were very deadly. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of most public health practices. They rely on departments of health and human services to protect them. This is done in ways that they do not often see. Restaurants are regulated. Waste disposal is attended to. Public sanitation is present on an ongoing basis. Water treatment facilities bring many people fresh water. If you asked the average person to describe how all of this is done, they might not be able to tell you. However, they would be grateful for their safety. Since people do not know about these things in detail, there is sometimes misinformation about public health issues. Currently, that is the case in relation to the Ebola virus. It is a deadly virus that is currently in epidemic status in some countries in Africa. People in the US are fearful about the virus and they have conjured up many doomsday scenarios related to it. Some aspects of this virus should make us less fearful. The most important one is related to how it is spread. Some disorders like the flu and chicken pox are airborne. If you are near someone with the disease, you might catch it. That is not true with Ebola. In order to contract the disease, you must come in direct contact with the infected fluids from a diseased patient. It is not contagious from just being in the vicinity. Part of the reason it has taken such a hold in Africa is related to their customs. Traditionally, their culture has family members prepare individuals after death. This means that multiple family members can come in direct contact with the infected patient. The result is contracting the disease from that contact. Another issue is related to available medical care. The medical care system in the countries where Ebola is an epidemic tends to be less technologically advanced than that in the United States. The high mortality rate seen in Africa would most certainly be lower with better medical care. We have spent a lot of time worrying about Ebola. What we should be doing is spending our time and money helping to fight the current epidemic. The public health practices in the area of the epidemic are different than those in our country. The customs of the individuals living there will continue to support the spread of the virus. We need to address that as a public health issue as much as we address treating the actual disease. If you have comments about this column or suggestions for other topics, send an email to Dr. Anthony Policastro at

Nanticoke Memorial Blood Drive Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Blood Drive for the Blood Bank of Delmarva from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, in the Medical Staff Conference Room. To make an appointment, visit or call 1-888-825-6638.

Diabetes education program Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a four-session diabetes education program on Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30, from 9:30-11:30 p.m. at the hospital. Registration is required and the cost may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. The goal is to give you the self-management skills to control your diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. To register and get more information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

2014 MS Bike to the Bay The 31st Bike to the Bay to raise money for multiple sclerosis awareness and research will be held on Sept. 20-21. The event also supports programs and services needed by more than 1,550 Delawareans with MS. The ride covers much of Kent and Sussex counties, with a choice of six route options and finishes at the Towers at Delaware Seashore State Park, just south of Dewey Beach. The two-day bike ride, which is either a total of 150 miles or 175 miles, begins on Saturday and ends on Sunday at Del Tech Terry Campus. Register online at or call 302-655-5610.

Hospice Lunch Bunch Lecture "New Technologies for Aging in Place and Caregiving from a Distance," will be the topic of Delaware Hospice's Lunch Bunch Lecture on Friday, Sept. 12 from noon to 1:30 p.m., with Dr. Judy Pierson, clinical psychologist, at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford. Most people prefer to remain in their homes as they age. However, their adult children often worry about their safety and live too far away to safely monitor their well-being. A host of new technologies provide a solution to these competing concerns. Seniors who learn about these new possibilities will optimize their ability to retain control over their lives. Registration is required as seating capacity is limited, and the cost of lunch is $5 per person. Register by Wednesday, Sept. 10, by contacting Michele August at 856-7717 or 478-5707 or email

2014 AIDS Walk Delaware Throughout August, 63 Walgreens stores in Delaware will be selling Red Ribbons in support of the 2014 AIDS Walk Delaware which will be held at Grove Park in Rehoboth Beach at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27. AIDS Walk Delaware is a collaborative fundraiser hosted by AIDS Delaware and the Delaware HIV Consortium and helps support the many services provided to Delawareans living with HIV. When you checkout at Walgreens, just let the cashier know whether you want to donate $1 or $5 to the AIDS Walk.

Rehoboth Beach ALS Walk Everyone is invited to walk with Don's Angels in the Rehoboth Beach ALS Walk in the fight against Lou Gehrig's Disease on Saturday, Sept. 13. Don's Angels are walking to raise money for a cure in memory of St. Paul's UMC former pastor, Don Murray. We will meet for registration at the Rehoboth Bandstand at 8 a.m. The walk begins at 9:30 a.m. We will be wearing orange t-shirts with the team name, Don's Angels. For more information call Betty at 875-2713 or Kelly at 752-7032.

Driver Safety courses The AARP Driver Safety courses will be held in September at various locations. These courses are approved by the state of Delaware as defensive driving courses. Persons taking the course will receive, for a three year period, a discount (10% basic course and 15% refresher course) on their automobile liability insurance and three points credit for future violations on their driver's record. The fee is $15 for AARP members (bring your card) and $20 for non-members. Sept. 8, 9 a.m. - Refresher course - Laurel Senior Center. Register by calling 875-2536. Sept. 19, 12:30 p.m. -Refresher course - Georgetown Cheer Center. Register by calling 856-5187. Call 302-735-7942 for additional locations that are not in this area.