Friday, November 10, 2023

Consumption is Back in Vogue

Tuberculosis is making a comeback! (Mass-consumerism never left.)

About 2 million people die worldwide from TB, but not here, right!?! Now there's a case in the University of Victoria and an outbreak at Boston University of over 30 cases. The immune deficiency created by Covid's attack on T cells is urging TB out of hibernation. Even the WHO is warning that we're at the highest ever recorded levels of infection, and they're loathe to give bad news! 

Seven years ago, the American Lung Association wrote an article about the amazing way the United States had conquered consumption, "the most feared disease in the world." The ALA started back in 1904 as the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, and the organization was critical in developing and funding methods to prevent, detect, and treat TB. They used a direct mail Christmas Seals campaign to raise needed funds. There's a treatment for TB, but it's a handful of highly toxic, expensive meds taken daily over months or even years, which cause nasty side-effects like vomiting, itchy skin, and fatigue. 

TB is airborne, but, as far as I can gather, somewhat less infectious than Covid. Here's the current treatment prototol:

"When you cough, sneeze or laugh, cover your mouth with a tissue. Put that tissue in a closed bag and throw it away. Do not go to work or school until your healthcare provider says it's okay. Avoid close contact with anyone. Sleep in a bedroom alone. Air out your room often so the TB germs don't stay in the room and infect someone else." 

Nothing about hand washing, and definitely open those windows! 

Lives were saved because the ALA spread the word about strict isolation policies for any case. But what happens when people are sick with TB and Covid? Do they stay home because of the TB or go to work as required because of the more infectious Covid?? And how long will it take before the current TB protocol is stripped of any reference to isolating cases? 

About a decade ago, researchers found a way to test for TB that was fast and possibly able to do from home, and Xpert MTB/RIF is still seen as a game-changer, but funding has dried up for it. So a test can be hard to access and usually requires two appointments a couple days apart. Symptoms are a lot like symptoms of Covid - or what we're calling a cold or flu - so this could get pretty messy!

Local universities have yet to make any kind of statement on this. 

I tried to get online accommodations at my school to avoid Covid, and they said they can't allow any accommodation that affects curriculum delivery. So much accommodation is just extra time on tests, which could be offered without an entire department getting involved. However, they did offer that, it's possible to attend remotely but only if conditions are severe, and I'm not sure what that looks like. Medical documentation is evaluated by a team, and "in rare circumstances are they appropriate and approved." It's curious wording with a bit of moral judgment in the mix that implies that asking for remote instruction is rarely an appropriate request even during a pandemic. So I'm at the mercy of each class, who can determine how safe it is in the room, and each professor, who can decide if alternative options are available. I've been lucky so far, but it would be really nice to know I don't have to hope for luck each term. I was so disappointed in this decision that it absolutely knocked the wind out of me. But for others in a similar position, here are the rules in Ontario:

Refusing the accommodation contravene's the Ontario Human Rights Code, that "requires education providers to accommodate students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship" (7), which later reaffirms that the "high standard of undue hardship" is limited only to excessive cost, outside sources of funding, and contravening health and safety requirements (28). I'd argue that pushing a button to start a zoom class or record the class is not a significant hardship for professors in any way. Forms of accommodation can include "modified curriculum" and "modification to evaluation methodologies, such as . . . alternative evaluation formats" (21). Furthermore, if a collective agreement in any university says professors have final say in teaching methods, "The Code also prevails over collective agreements. Collective agreements or other contractual arrangements cannot act as a bar to providing accommodation." 

The OHRC also recognizes that some illnesses come and go, and must be accommodated even if temporary or sporadic (9).

"It is not discriminatory to refuse a service [like education] because the person with a disability cannot fulfil the essential requirements. However, a person will only be considered incapable if their disability-related needs cannot be accommodated without undue hardship" (17). "The onus is on the education provider to show that a student is incapable of performing the essential requirements of the educational service, even with accommodation" (24). 

But I'm seriously losing my steam around it all. I might just stop trying to push it further and walk away. Trying to keep people safe, even just myself, with a pandemic in progress that people are working hard to ignore is wearing me down. I want to ignore it too, and go back to writing about philosophy, but it's an overwhelming presence in my life. 

Everybody should have the right to access education without being exposed to deadly or disabling diseases and without jumping through so many hoops. If we have zero intention of stopping viruses at the source, then we have to allow people to avoid buildings which are likely to foster the virus. 

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