Monday, October 27, 2014

Ebola II

Many people have been asking me about Ebola lately. The following are some of my personal views on the subject. They do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which I may be affiliated, and should not be interpreted as any official communication by anyone.

Boatloads -literally- of money has now been spent responding to the wildly out-of-control Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, and it appears to be having a measurable impact on the progression of the epidemic. Both case levels and number of deaths continue to trend significantly less than the simple exponential model would suggest. The number of cases ending in death also appears to be decreasing. It is much too early to tell if this very positive development will be enough to stop the epidemic, but it is appears to be very promising.

Because of the striking symptomology, and relatively ease with which the infected can be contained, it is not surprising that large-scale active intervention could reverse the horrible trends the epidemic was following. It is possible that simple intervention could wipe out this epidemic, but a vaccine still remains the best hope for completely stopping it with the least number of casualties.

In the following graph I’ve tried to re-create the graphic from my last post. Instead of a simple exponential regression curve I have created a curve that mimics what we would have expected if the epidemic continued to increase exponentially. As of October 23rd we would have seen 3,779 more cases, and 1,191 more deaths if the severity of the epidemic had continued to increase exponentially.

This shows the trend of EVD cases and mortality for the 2014 Western Africa epidemic (as of October 23rd).  The red and green lines show WHO reported cases and deaths respectively.  The blue and purple lines are exponential models drawn from a regression analysis of WHO data from the first 100 days I followed this. 


It is not overly jaded to suggest that it took exporting Ebola patients to more developed nations to mobilize the effort that appears to be yielding results. However, this reduces recognizing the amazing efforts of those men and women who are making a difference to some kind of moral-political statement about the collective conscience of developed nations. These men and women have earned recognition, and we should provide it.

Unfortunately blog posts like this one do a much better job of making moral-political statements about the collective conscience of developed nations.

Before we began exporting the wholesale help that appears to be making a difference we had been exporting a commodity we make way too much of: stupidity. Before the antivaxers began mobilizing against the fantastical mind-control purpose behind the Ebola vaccines now in trial. Before the teabaggers began clutching at any possibility of the Obama administration being in any way associated with the possibility of misstep in any response to Ebola patients in the US. Before the xenophobic isolationists began demanding a shutdown of any movement of people of African descent. Before any of this we had begun exporting the “real” reasons for the epidemic, and a host of “effective cures [they] don’t want you to know about”.

This type of foolishness might sound like nothing more than the discardable musings of internet trolls, and from the perspective of most of the readers of this blog it is. However, to people using limited resources to combat an impossibly expanding horror it could be more; it could provide much needed hope and blame.

“The US Department of Defense (DoD) is funding Ebola trials on humans, trials which started just weeks before the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The reports continue and state that the DoD gave a contract worth $140 million dollars to Tekmira, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, to conduct Ebola research. This research work involved injecting and infusing healthy humans with the deadly Ebola virus. Hence, the DoD is listed as a collaborator in a “First in Human” Ebola clinical trial (NCT02041715, which started in January 2014 shortly before an Ebola epidemic was declared in West Africa in March.” -- Cyril Broderick, A Liberian scientist and a former professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Liberia’s College of Agriculture and Forestry.

A major Liberian newspaper published an article blaming the US department of defense of creating the epidemic. A patent created in the pre-supreme court decision on patenting existing life forms rush to patent everything was found for a strain of Ebola; this proved Ebola is a GMO. Motives were fielded for why an Ebola epidemic would be profitable; arguments for the potential validity of the motives became arguments for the validity of the conspiracy theories themselves.

Response in West Africa took a turn for the worst when quarantines upset important food distribution networks. Ebola patients reportedly escaped “treatment” facilities in search of food because they knew Ebola only killed 50% of its victims, while starvation killed 100%. People hid their sick friends and relatives because the state was not going to provide the “effective cures [they] don’t want you to know about”. Tracking people exposed to the virus was replaced by trying to keep track of those who died. Eventually it became impossible to provide accurate information. Bodies were being cremated before relatives knew the patient was sick.

In mid September eight aid workers were killed, and their bodies shoved into a latrine. It was thought that the disinfectant they were spraying was actually the Ebola virus.

I could pontificate about the dangers of rampant stupidity, but what good does that do? I doubt readers of this blog are even aware of even half of these Ebola conspiracies; unless they are ferreting them out for enjoyment.

It is not as if good information was unavailable. It is not even a situation where good information was hard to find. It is just that the extreme blame and hope of the fringe spokespeople in the US is much more compelling.

Possibly more important than compelling is the fact that people who got good information are doing stuff, and it appears to be working. Homeopaths Without Borders did not swoop in and cure everyone with distilled water. The citizens of West Africa did not simply cut gluten out of their diet. The drones spraying Ebola were not shot out of the sky. No.   Real people did real stuff.... and sometimes that works.





1 comment:

Steven Holt said...

Sadly, I don't think you are too jaded. Exporting the infection was a major catalyst for international action.