Despite the Hype, Ebola Isn’t Much of a Threat

ebola-liberia

– 13 August 2014 –

Patulcius

Patulcius-sqDespite the spread of Ebola through West Africa for the past several months, the disease has only claimed just under 1,000 lives, though some say that this figure is probably only 25 to 50% of the real total.

This is a part of the world that has suffered through poverty, disease, and civil war for decades, where only 1 doctor exists for every 30,000 people (compared to 1 for every 400 in the US).  If a deadly disease were to spread anywhere, West Africa would provide some of the most fertile places for it.

While Ebola is a horrifying and deadly disease, it doesn’t seem to present a serious threat, even to people in West Africa.

From Frost Illustrated:

The Belgian researcher who first identified the Ebola virus is playing down fears of a global pandemic.

“I would sit next to an infected person on the train,” said Professor Peter Piot, whose credentials include the title of former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, former head of UNAIDS, and now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Speaking with the AFP news agency, he pointed to a lack of trust in authorities in West Africa as a major contributor to the world’s largest ever outbreak in the region.

Dr. Piot is probably right, though I wouldn’t want to risk the Ebola-infected train passenger.

While the disease causes a monstrous and terrifying form of death, and its high rate of infection results in a roughly 50% mortality rate, Ebola doesn’t seem to spread very easily, relying on physical contact with the body fluids of those infected.

This is likely why doctors and nurses seem to contract the disease in such disproportionate numbers.  Health workers who treat Ebola-infected patients constantly expose themselves to tainted body fluids, and just one tiny accident with a protective body suit can cause contact with that infected fluid.  And these protective suits are in short supply.

If Ebola was highly contagious, it would have already spread to many thousands of people across the region, as the efforts by local authorities in West Africa have failed to quarantine their countries.  And likely by now the disease would have made appearances throughout the rest of the world.

ebola-liberia-2

The helpful man points and says: “Just put that body right there, next to the other one!” After a months-long outbreak, there just aren’t many bodies.

The general public likes to think that government authorities can prevent the movement of infected people across borders, but the authorities are hopelessly incompetent, particularly when it comes to borders, and they are simply unable to provide the manpower to police hundreds of miles of a border 100% of the time.  Governments also tend to take measures at least one step too late.  If only one infected migrant carries a disease through a quarantine, the disease spreads.  Ebola-infected Patrick Sawyer would have reached Minnesota from Liberia had he not died in Nigeria.

There is much speculation that Ebola could mutate and become airborne.  I remember when people feared that AIDS would mutate the same way.  Or that the bird flu would mutate, or the swine flu.  These things could happen, but they aren’t very likely, certainly not worth worrying about.

When a major pandemic hits, it will spread quickly over a wide geographic area before authorities even realize what’s going on.  By then there will be little that people can do to protect themselves, as they were probably already exposed.

The enormous human population of the world is so much dry tinder to a truly infectious deadly disease, and it is only a matter of time before such a disease wipes out a significant percentage of humanity.  But Ebola is not that disease.

Should Ebola spread to the United States, which is entirely possible these days, I fear the fear of Ebola more than the disease itself.  A recent and unnecessary Presidential executive order suggests the possibility of a disproportionate government reaction.  But such a scenario is unlikely to happen from this Ebola outbreak.

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