We must learn to count the living with the same particular attention with which we number the dead. — Audre Lord —
October 2nd (Thursday)
I thought I was a skeptic but I feel that I am turning paranoid after what happened today. Or was my mind playing tricks on me?
Having spent most part of last night scouring the Internet for additional information, I stumbled upon a news report posted a week ago. It seems that the United States and WHO have decided to send some medical support staff to Saudi Arabia, something about additional “standby precautions” due to the increase in number of pilgrims, estimated to be the largest in recent years. I tried looking for any follow-ups or previous history of such an endeavour but found none. Why the sudden need for precautions now?
Then something occurred closer to home today at the hospital.
A family of four were brought to the ER by one of their relatives, a staff member of the hospital. The grandparents were suffering from flu-like symptoms and appeared to be dehydrated. They didn’t seemed to be having any difficulties in breathing so I just ordered for some IV saline fluids and prescribed them some antibiotics. They told me that they haven’t been sleeping well as they were taking care of their son and his wife. They have been sick for almost three days now.
The son and daughter-in-law appeared to be suffering from some unknown skin infection, covering their limbs with boils and weeping sores. Most likely a staph infection. They were feverish to the point of delirium. We swabbed the sores for culture and sensitivity before cleaning the affected areas with antiseptic. Further examination of the son revealed a bite mark on his left forearm which looked suspiciously human, whereas the daughter-in-law had a few scratch marks on her forearm too. The grandfather gave us the rest of the history, with the hope of helping us come to a workable diagnosis. Instead, more questions were raised rather than answered.
They were coming back from a flight three days ago, all four of them. It was all smooth sailing until the last two hours before arrival. One of the passengers seated a few rows behind them suddenly went berserk and attacked the air stewardess. The story was almost believable up to this point except the fact that he was actually biting her. Once done, he tried to move towards the direction of the cockpit. It was then, that his son and a few others on the flight decided to take matters into their own hands. The agitated passenger was described as a six-footer and solid as a rock. It took about eight people to tackle him to the ground. During that process, almost all of them suffered scratches and some, like his son, bitten for their efforts. However, that was not the end of the story. Despite being restrained, the man was still unruly and talking incoherently. The grandfather added his own opinion that he believed the man was behaving like he was “possessed”.
There was an army personnel on the same flight and he performed a choke hold on the deranged man until he passed out. It was when they were feeling for his pulse, that they removed his leather jacket, revealing the blisters and sores, similar to the ones we are now seeing on his son. The man was still unconscious when the plane landed and was removed by the airport authorities. But that didn’t explain the marks on the daughter-in-law. The grandfather then explained that she was scratched by his son when she tried to clean his bite wound with soap and water two days ago.
I did a quick search online after prepping both of them for the Intensive Care Unit. There were no news reports of the said incident, nor were there any about the other flight passengers who were bitten. It was probably bad publicity for the flight company involved. There is still something niggling in the back of my mind, something that I’m not seeing right now.
It’s now 4am in the morning and I can’t get back to sleep. I finally realised what I had missed. I gave a call to the hospital and I’m trying to chalk it off as a mere coincidence but my mind isn’t allowing me to do so. The family came back on a flight from SAUDI ARABIA.