Friday, 24 October 2014

The stuff they say about Ebola - "Are we all gonna die? Part 2 of 3"

I am almost done with this topic that has been all over the news fro quite a while, unfortunately! Some of them channels broadcast an intense graphical set of images; images some minds would consider unnecessary violent and unnecessary awareness. I just watched a woman that had perished on a piece of carton paper being taken by two members of staff from some health department in Sierra Leone, as they were preparing themselves to drag the body away. In the eyes of the deceased woman's family members, I saw apathy. Not the kind of apathy that resembles disrespect, distance, detachment, but the sort of apathy stamped by the "What can I do?"-attitude.

The question to "Are we all gonna die" is still answered, but I know the answer already. I'll save it for part three, the final part of this rambling through the Ebola pastures. I hope you stick around for yet another perspective I managed to extract from a series of articles written by people who know well what they are talking about.

"The Mathematics of Ebola trigger stark warnings: Act now or regret it"

"... a piece published last week in the Journal Eurosurveillance, which is the peer-reviewed publication of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (the EU's Stockholm-based version of the US CDC). The piece is an attempt to assess mathematically how the epidemic is growing, by using case reports to determine the reproductive number. (Note for non-epidemiology geeks: The basic reproductive number - usually shorted to Ro or R-nought - expresses how many cases of disease are likely to be caused by any one infected person. An Ro of less than 1 means an outbreak will die out; an Ro of more than 1 means an outbreak can be expected to increase. If you saw the movie Contagion, this is what Kate Winslet stood up and wrote on a whiteboard early in the film)."

"In a worst-case hypothetical scenario, should the outbreak continue with recent trends, the case burden could gain an additional 77,181 to 277,124 cases by the end of 2014."

"The level of response to the Ebola outbreak is totally inadequate. At the CDC, we learned that a military-style response during a major health crisis saves lives... We need to establish large field hospitals staffed by Americans to treat the sick. We need to implement infection-control practices to save the lives of health-care providers. We need to staff burial teams to curb disease transmission at funerals. We need to implement systems to detect new flare-ups that can be quickly extinguished. A few thousand U.S. troops could provide the support that is so desperately needed."

"There are two possible future chapters to this story that should keep us up at night:

The first possibility is that the Ebola virus spreads from West Africa to megacities in other regions of the developing world. This outbreak is very different from the 19 that have occurred in Africa over the past 40 years. It is much easier to control Ebola infections in isolated villages. But there has been a 300 percent increase in Africa's population over the last four decades, much of it in large city slums...

The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly bur are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible trough the air... viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. The current Ebola virus's hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice."

Taken from Superbug by Maryn McKenna

Image taken from Wired, [].

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