Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ebola: Get the facts, not the hysteria

In furtherance of this blog's tradition of telling people things they might not want to hear (in this case, people who want to stir up as much fear about the ebola epidemic as they can get away with), I recommend the following reality-based perspectives:

Ebola is not a bio-weapon by Nicholas G Evans writing for

The money quote:

And no—even though you may have heard this—Ebola is not “airborne.” The one study everyone talks about showed that pigs could transmit Ebola to macaques through an unknown mechanism that may have involved respiratory droplets. The researchers noted, however, that they couldn’t get macaques to transmit it to each other. The take-home from the study is really that pigs can spread Ebola.

From the same website, Ebola is no measles: That's a good thing by Gerardo Chowell-Puente.

The money quote:

Ebola’s reproductive rate is significantly lower than either measles in the prevaccination days or the Spanish flu, but it’s high enough that Ebola will not peter out on its own. Our 2004 work, which produced the first estimates for Ebola’s reproductive rate by using mathematical modeling and epidemiological data from the West African outbreaks, found that each case of Ebola produced 1.3 to 1.8 secondary cases on average. This ongoing outbreak, a colleague and I recently found, has a reproductive rate that is about the same. If allowed to spread unchecked, Ebola retains its ability to get out of control. But at least this is essentially the same virus we saw previously. It hasn’t become more transmissible in the more than 10 years it was lying low—and humankind has experience in dealing with it. We know that it takes substantial contact for Ebola to spread: Someone has to touch or ingest infected body fluids. So last time, health care workers contained the outbreaks by isolating infectious individuals; providing more gloves, face masks, and gowns in hospitals and clinics—and requiring nurses, doctors, and other health care providers to wear them; having trained personnel handle the bodies of the deceased (rather than allowing family members to commune with the body, as favored by many West African cultural traditions); and tracing contacts from infectious individuals immediately to isolate potentially new infectious cases.

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