The Fear of Zika

mosquitoThe Zika virus has many people concerned about epidemic outbreaks across the world. Recently, a person I know posted that they were concerned with the number of reported cases of Zika in Chicago. Being in the Midwest, it seemed to her that the spread of the disease happening, and that we should be frightened for our lives. Even at a recent school board meeting, the topic of the Zika virus came up as something that schools needed to address. The fear of Zika is growing, but is it justified?

My school district is being asked to have a plan regarding protection for the Zika virus. As a result, information was presented to the school board on the Zika virus showing that the fear has been blown out of proportion to the risk. This is not to discount that there can be severe issues with Zika; there can be. The fear around this, however, needs to be put into perspective.

First, the Zika virus is spread primarily through mosquitoes, and primarily by the Aedes species of mosquitoes. It cannot be transmitted from person to person with normal contact, so if someone in Chicago has the virus, others in Chicago don’t need to ostracize that person. Being that the Aedes mosquitoes are primarily found in the tropics and very southern parts of the United States, those of us in the Midwest have very little to fear. In fact, while there have been people who have traveled outside of the United States that have contracted the virus, until recently there have not been any reports of anyone getting Zika while in the United States. Recently, a case in Miami (the hotter, lower areas of the US) was reported.

If you were to get bitten by an Aedes mosquito and get the Zika virus, there is about an 80% chance you wouldn’t even know it. Of those that do get the virus, 80% show no symptoms. Even those that do show symptoms generally don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. The general symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye. Some people also get muscle pains or headaches. While the symptoms can last for a few days up to a week, the virus itself last about a week for most people, although it can remain longer.

The Zika virus is real. For those of us in the Midwest, the risk of infection is near zero unless you travel out of the country or to the very southern regions. With such a near zero risk, what should be feared more than the Zika is that there are people who will sensationalize a topic to levels of causing excessive fear as well push schools create plans for protective measures on something that is unlikely to ever happen.

The state of Indiana has even allocated $3.6 million in funding to protect Hoosiers from the Zika virus over the next five years. It is amazing how much money fear can drive.

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Note:
While the Zika virus is currently low risk, the West Niles virus is one that does happen in the Midwest. This post is based on publicly available information, as I’m definitely not a mosquito expert!

 

Update (8/22):

Mosquito-borne Zika cases have been found in two neighborhoods of Miami-Dade County. These are the first areas in the US, although other very southern states have potential exposure.

Drug Testing for Government Handouts – Let’s Do it Right

There are those that believe that in order to receive welfare payments, you have to pass a drug test. There are those that believe this should apply to food stamps and other government entitlements as well. What do you think of this concept?

States like Maine, Michigan, and Missouri have pushed hard for drug testing people in order to receive welfare, food stamps, or even unemployment. Other states like Kentucky, Montana and Texas have tried to push forward testing as well.

These testing programs have actually been done. It has been stated that the number of people who have been found to fail drug testing related to these entitlement programs is minimal. In fact, they state that the cost and burden to do this testing exceed the results. Regardless of the failure of testing to justify their cost to implement, people continue to push for these testing programs.

My initial inclination was that testing for these government entitlement programs was not justified based on their costs and on the prejudicial statement the make toward those in need of government services. The issue of testing gets even more complicated as some states begin to legalize the use of drugs like marijuana.

Regardless, the idea of testing still remains a discussion point. The biggest argument seen for testing is that if a person has money to buy drugs, then they have enough to buy food or cover living expenses. Of course, a thrifty person could grow their own marijuana at no cost.

Recently, I’ve changed my stance on drug testing.

Originally, I considered the testing a waste of tax payer money based on the number of people found. Now I’ve decided that the idea of testing people in order to receive government subsidies is something we should consider and talk about a lot more. If we are going to do this, however, then let’s go all-in. Let’s make sure we test everyone getting a handout from the government. Rather than start with the people getting small amounts from the government (such as those getting welfare and food stamps), let start with those getting the big handouts.

Let’s start by going back and testing all of the CEOs and corporate officers that received bailout money. Let’s make sure they get tested, and let’s make sure everyone knows they are being tested. Let’s treat them the same as the person getting food stamps. Consider the auto bail outs and the more recent bank bail outs. Let’s start with the CEOs and CFOs of those companies. If they fail, then they need to give back the billions. After that, let’s look at all the businesses getting tax breaks or tax kick-backs for locating in specific towns. This includes big box stores, restaurant chains, and businesses of all sorts. In exchange for those tax breaks (which is effectively getting to keep money that should be going to the government), let’s again test all the owners of those companies.

The question comes down to, why only target welfare and food stamp recipients? If we are going to do this, then let’s be fair and apply the testing to the people getting the big dollars from the government. Let’s not stop there. Congress, the President, and all the other politicians are receiving money from the government. Let’s put them at the front of the line. Based on what a lot of these folks are doing, they must be on drugs. Let’s get them to the front of the line just ahead of the bankers.

It makes you wonder, which group will have more people fail the tests. Those getting food stamps so they can eat or those in politics and running big businesses that tend to not worry about their next meal. I bet the results might surprise us.

A Substantiated Stat: Homelessness in Hamilton County

I often see people throw out statements on Facebook and other social platforms that sound good, but leave me wondering if they are true. They throw these statements into the conversation to support their stance on a topic. Many times when I ask for the source of these claims, things tend to go silent.

Some numbers shouldn’t be casually toss around. This was the case this past week when a person tossed out a statement regarding the number of homeless people in Hamilton County. If there is one homeless person there is too many. Regardless of how many there are, tossing around unsubstantiated comment about the number of homeless in order to support other arguments borders on tacky.

On the positive side, the comment did prompt me to take a look at what information I could find on the number of homeless in Hamilton County. If homelessness truly had increased as this person stated, then that would be a serious issue.

What I quickly learned is that there are numbers available that can give you an idea of the level homelessness. These numbers come from the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (ihcda.in.gov). They provide a snapshot of the number of homeless on a given point in time. While this number can change on a daily basis, the number does provide a snapshot into the situation.

The IHCDA Point-in-Time (PiT) report breaks out numbers by regions. Hamilton County (Indiana) is actually Region 8 in their reporting. In looking at the reports, it is easy to compare 1/29/2014 to 1/29/2015 to see if homeless did increase in Hamilton County.

What you will find from the numbers is that homeless actually appears to have dropped:

2014 2015
Number of Households 20 7
Number of persons under 18 1 5
Number of persons 18-24 4 0
Number of persons over 24 21 8

 

As can be seen by these statistics, the number of households did not drastically increase, but istead, it is less than half of what was seen in 2014. The number of individuals also dropped in half going from totals of 26 down to 13. Unfortunately, the impact on children jumped up on this date in 2015.

If you are in a different county in Indiana, you might be interested in the numbers for your area. You can find the stats at

www.indianabos.org

If you click on the Continuum of Care tab, you’ll be able to find the PiT information for all regions of Indiana.

Conclusion

To summarize this blog post, you should now throw out statements on social media that you cannot substantiate, especially when they are on topics as substantial as homelessness. There is definitely homelessness in Indiana and in Hamilton County. Fortunately, based on Point-in-Time data, it appears that 2015 could be better than 2014 as far as the number of homeless. I say this cautiously, however, because the PiT numbers don’t take into consideration every situation, nor do they show what is happening day-by-day. Of course, I stand by my earlier statement, one homeless person is too many.

Poverty in Fishers, Indiana

Poverty is real. Poverty, however, doesn’t impact most people, but for those it does cross paths with, life is tough. One of the questions that most people can’t answer is, what is the level of poverty where you live?

I am fortunate to be able to live in a nice suburb of Indianapolis where you don’t see (or at least notice) homeless people nor is it clear that there are people living in actual poverty. In my area here aren’t people panhandling, nor are there people sleeping on the sidewalks. That is generally what you’d find in the bigger city of Indianapolis.

The reason you don’t see it is because the poverty rate in Fishers was a mere 1.8% in 2013 as compared to the state level of 9.5%. It is important to note, however, that 4.3% of children are in poverty in Fishers, versus the state level of 21.8%.
As a comparison, the poverty level in Indianapolis is 11.9%, which is above the state average as most would expect; however, it might not be as far above as many people would guess. The number of people with income below the 50% poverty level is 5.8%. Unfortunately 30.6% of children are below the poverty level. Of the families in poverty, 61.4% are ran by a female with no husband. Only 23.4% are families ran by a married couple.

I spent some time in high school in Danville, Illinois. It is a town of just over 32,000 people on the border of Illinois. Its demographics are a far cry different from those of Fishers. What is more unfortunate is that although Indianapolis’ poverty numbers look horrible relative to Fishers, Danville, Illinois’ numbers look bad compared to Indianapolis’.

Danville’s poverty level in 2013 was 18.1%, which equates to more than one out of six residents. That’s almost twice the Illinois state level of 10.7%, and as a percentage is 66% greater than Indianapolis’. Worse, nearly half of these people in poverty (8.5%) have an income level that is less than 50% of the poverty level income. When you look at kids, the number of children below the poverty level is 47.7% in Danville, which is over twice the 20.4% Illinois state average.

When it comes to poor families in Danville most (72.4%) are a females running a house with no husband present. Another 18% are families with a married-couple leading the household.

I’m blessed to be able to live in a city like Fishers. While the poverty level is small, it is not non-existent.
The percentages reported are based on a poverty income level. The average family needs a lot more to live on than is provided by the minimum poverty levels. While the numbers in Fishers are low, they are definitely not to be ignored – especially as the city grows. There are a number of the over 28 food pantries in Hamilton County that are in or around Fishers. These pantries will tell you that while the statistics might sound low, a few percent of 80,000+ people equates to thousands in need.

In Indianapolis, the number of people in need is greater than 100,000. In Danville, Illinois it is over around 10,000. When you start adding all the towns together, the number of people in need gets daunting. Having said that, helping the local food pantries, missions, and other organizations can go a long way to help keep these numbers in check or to even help reduce them. I’m on the board for the rescue mission in Danville. The day they are no longer needed will be a great day. In the meantime, we will do what we can to help.

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My numbers come from city-data.com. You can find the numbers for your city at the site as well as find additional details and break-downs for the three I’ve mentioned.

 

2/21/2016 – UPDATE

Today at the church I attend, the sermon included a discussion on Bloomington, Indiana. It was stated that Bloomington is the most impacted city in Indiana when it comes to poverty. This surprised me. I would have guessed Gary or some of the other more industrial areas of the state. While Gary’s rate is high, Bloomington’s is definitely higher at 29.6%. That’s almost one in 3, versus Gary’s 25.8%, or roughly 1 in 4.

  • http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Bloomington-Indiana.html
  • http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Gary-Indiana.html

Perspective: Getting it Right

As we listen to the news and see various reports of incidents, it is important to remember that people see things differently. This past year there was a MEME that showed the dress that was seen as two different colors. In truth it was one dress that was specific colors, but the image could be seen differently based on the colors around it.

Similarly – the following picture shows a train. Many people see it going into the tunnel. Others see it coming out of the tunnel. If you look at it, you can actually manipulate (with your mind!) which direction it is going. It is a matter of perspective.

Just like the train’s direction and the color of a dress, before you jump on the bandwagon for a story you read in the news or hear others talk about, make sure you are seeing it from all possible perspectives before speaking out!

Updated Site

I’ve neglected my personal site. I’m going to try to give this site a bit more attention. That starts by changing the layout to something much more readable. With a new template in place, the next step will be to start blogging a bit more regularly. I plan to blog on a few topics. Feel free to comment on any of them to let me know what you think. You can also use the categories on the side to avoid the topics you don’t care about. Should be fun!

Brad!