Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't ignore the Ebola outbreak in Africa

I'm sure that by now, most readers are aware of the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.  It appears to be spreading.

There is no treatment for this disease.  As far as I'm aware, once it becomes established in victims there's a 90% fatality rate.  Initial trials with vaccines in primates have proved successful, but research hasn't yet progressed to inoculating humans;  and it may take weeks or months for the vaccination to provide full immunization.  This means that travelers can easily carry Ebola with them on flights to other parts of the world.  It's highly infectious and very aggressive, and poses an enormous risk to areas that aren't aware of the dangers it poses.  One case may already have occurred in Canada;  but after the initial publicity, nothing more has been heard.  I suspect that country's authorities are trying not to spread alarm.  I'm sure they're also monitoring their airports very closely for travelers who've been in the affected areas.  If I had the opportunity to leave there, I'd take it;  but I couldn't necessarily guarantee that I wasn't already incubating the virus.  The authorities will want to be sure of that.

I can only suggest that if you live close to airports where flights from West Africa land, or in areas with a large population of West African origin, you take additional precautions, including improved hygiene and sanitation.  Ebola's nothing to fool with.  It'll kill you in a skinny minute if it takes hold.



Anonymous said...

I'd also take extra precautions if you are a cab driver picking up passengers at terminals.

newrebeluniv said...

No worries. All we have to do is have health inspections at ports and terminals and discriminate against people traveling from Africa.

Huh? We can't do that? Then I guess we all just die, but at least our moral PC purity will be intact.

Old NFO said...

Hoo boy, one MORE thing to worry about...

Coconut said...

Why anyone would go to africa of their own will, I can't understand.

newrebeluniv - from what I've read, Ebola isn't airborne. Seems to me that as long as you don't go around wading in infected blood, or or pus, or vomit, or any of the other lovely things encapsulated in the term 'bodily fluid' - and a pool of blood, vomit etc. is a deterring element in its own right even without rumours of plague - or kissing strangers, you'll probably do all right.

Still, yet another global ill that could easily be sorted out once and for all by incinerating the african continent.

It's like Pandora's Box over there. War and famine and plague; apparently even AIDs came from africa.

Have to wonder when we'll hit the point where fallout on the trade winds will be the preferable option.

tweell said...

If you have been exposed to Ebola, there is a little-known treatment... alcohol.

IIRC, a physician years back was seriously exposed (blood in eye) to Ebola, and decided he was going to die happy, so got stinking drunk. The disease passed him by (although he wasn't sure due to his hangover). It has been confirmed a few times since.

Mike Brahier said...

Is that an April Fool's joke?

Anonymous said...

Ebola isn't QUITE that fatal. Only about 66% terminal from this strain, if the CDC stuff is to be believed. There may be something to the alcohol thing, or it could be that some of the 1-in-3 were the ones to get blind, stinking drunk. Don't know.

Epidemiology is a weird science. Doctors have to ignore the individual cases and focus on the tracking and containment of the disease. One news report said that the patients being isolated weren’t even being treated, just tested to see if they were infected. But the epidemiology folks were treating the disease, just not in those patients. They were doing their job of treating the population at large, not the infected.

In talking with our infectious disease Piled Higher and Deeper types, I’m always amazed at how their outlook differs from the rest of us. They worry about Ebola, but not compared to some much more insidious problems. From their point of view, Ebola isn’t that dangerous, because it’s not airborne, shows signs of infection very quickly, and kills the infected patient before they can spread the disease very far. Outbreaks are easy to identify, and very basic infection control stops the outbreak very quickly (so far, SO FAR! ! ! ! Cross your fingers!)


Paul, Dammit! said...

Yup- luckily we've got stringent controls in place already, such as asking people if they've been in certain areas.

During the height of the mad cow scare I was renting a room at a b&b working farm in Scotland while I did my thesis research. On coming home the next year, customs asked me if I had been to a farm. The line for people who said no was walking through. The line for people who said yes was not moving whatsoever. Guess which one I picked.

Who is doing the screening? Top men. Top. Men.