Submitted by Barry Perryman
Imagine if you will, a virus so devastating, so virulent, so deadly, you have to get tested to see if you are actually infected.
Whatever your COVID-19 political persuasion may be, the lead sentence is true. This bug is a tricky one not only in terms of infectiousness, but also in the behavior of its hosts. Professionals tell us that between 25-80% of infected individuals have either mild or no symptoms. These would be characterized as subclinical patients.
Within a herd of domestic or wild animals, when a disease outbreak occurs, there is often relatively few animals with clinical signs of the condition. However, you can rest assured that a significant portion of the herd is also infected. It’s the iceberg principle, the part you see is the smallest part.
We haven’t heard anything surrounding this herd concept and very little else, except the number of tests administered, positive cases, deaths, and occasionally hospitalizations and ventilations…and of course the edict of wearing masks. What is the plan other than shutting down businesses and causing economic mayhem in places that have virtually no cases?
Governor Sisolak’s COVID team is composed of credentialed folks that include: Dr. Ihsan Azzam, Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer; Dr. Trudy Larson, Dean, School of Community Health Sciences, UNR; Brian Labus, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, UNLV; Paul Sierzenski, Chief Medical Officer, Acute Care Services, Renown Health System; and Shadaba Asad, Infectious Disease Medical Director, University Medical Center. All have their own expertise. However, do you know who has the most on-the-ground experience and training with infectious diseases and their practical management and treatments? Veterinarians! I don’t see one veterinarian on Sisolak’s medical advisory team. In fact, I don’t see a single practicing physician.
Veterinarians deal with situations like this all the time–it’s what they do. They frequently handle novel disease introductions that cross state and international boundaries. Every state in the U.S. has a position variously titled “State Veterinarian,” including Nevada’s new State Veterinarian, Dr. Amy Mitchell.
Veterinarians generally get more instruction in virology, epidemiology, and herd disease management during their first two years of vet school than medical school graduates get in a lifetime of practice. Their training includes: veterinary immunology, virology, bacteriology, parasitology, and wildlife diseases. All of these include herd aspects of communicability and how to manage it. Nevada veterinarians, especially large animal veterinarians, are among the most highly trained and experienced folks we have that could provide tangible, effective recommendations and leadership for the COVID-19 front.
Why have Nevada veterinarians been left out of the planning effort? That’s a great question for the news media to ask at the next presser.
I know several candidates that could make significant contributions to the planning effort. The problem is, they are located in rural Nevada counties, places that may as well be parts of other States as far as Governor Sisolak is concerned. He has repeatedly and angrily ignored pleas from rural counties to move away from his one-size-fits-all edicts. The rural counties did not support his election, and there is most certainly retribution involved.
The problem is, Sisolak needs help. What he is doing is not working.
Human herd behavior is not accounted for in any of his methods. Think of human behavior in terms of birth control. We have any number of ways to prevent pregnancies these days, and anybody with a little initiative has access to those resources. However, a 2018 Yale study indicated that about half of the six million annual pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned! Issuing an edict for mask wearing in reality is just handing out a couple million pacifiers and hoping the babies will all fall asleep. Veterinarians understand herd behavior. Sisolak and his current staff obviously do not.
I want tangible, measurable efforts in the Nevada COVID plan, but right now, we don’t have our best and brightest, most trained and experienced disease folks on the job.
Governor Sisolak, get a couple of common sense, rural county large animal veterinarians on the team before it’s too late, if it’s not already. You have botched this from the beginning and everyone, everyone knows it. So, stand up and do the right thing. Show some real leadership. When this is over, I would like to be able to say “he did ok, he got us through it.” But for now, you are looking more like Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny…it’s about the strawberries I tell you!
“This is the captain speaking. Some misguided sailors on this ship still think they can pull a fast one on me. Well they’re very much mistaken. Since you’ve taken this course, the innocent will be punished with the guilty. There will be no liberty for any member of this crew for three months. I will not be made a fool of. Do you hear me!” Governor Sisolak from the press conference, The Caine Mutiny.
B.L. Perryman has appeared on the front page of the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, FOX News, National Geographic, and National Television of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as a natural resource specialist. His recent novel, Katydids and Trains was awarded the 2019 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for best western humor and also recognized as a Finalist for the 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. He has twice received accolades from the Nevada Press and Freedom of the Press Associations for his column, Tales from the Wasteland in RANGE Magazine.
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