What You REALLY Need To Know About Ebola

The good news first.  Even though Ebola is a highly infectious, deadly disease, one that we have no cure or vaccine, it can be controlled through containment.  In the United States we have a powerful healthcare infrastructure and the massive police, national guard and military services to deal with the social consequences of containing such a disease.  As long as the public cooperates we shouldn’t have a hot zone nightmare.  Odds are very high that any outbreaks of Ebola in America will be quickly contained.

The bad news we must understand.  In Africa where the outbreaks of Ebola are occurring they don’t have the infrastructure to contain this new plague.  Right now the difference between total chaos and containment are volunteer doctors and staff from agencies like Doctors Without Borders, and the local people who support them.  These healthcare angels are more brave than any soldiers going into combat, because Ebola kills and wounds medical volunteers at an alarming rate.  Part of the containment problem is not enough medical troops at the front, and the war is being lost.  Local governments don’t know how to deal with this problem, and their populations are panicking.

What we need to do now.   Last night’s headline news stories were the NFL scandal over domestic violence and the growing war on ISIS.  These are very important stories, but Ebola needs to gain the public’s attention if there’s any hope of containing it in Africa.  Our leaders don’t act unless they feel we’re concerned.  Ebola is going to quickly spread through other countries in Africa and then to any country that has poor healthcare, and a weak police and military.  Until a vaccine or cure is found, Ebola will spread from people panicking and not following isolation procedures.  Ebola kills so fast that it usually dies out before it can spread far.  Past outbreaks were always contained quickly.  This time is different.

Ebola is spread via physical contact. Touching any kind of bodily fluid coming from an infected person is all it takes.  If their sweaty hand touched a handle just before you do, you’re in danger.  Just think of your favorite zombie movie – how quickly could zombies take over if they only had to just touch another person?  If you’ve haven’t read The Hot Zone, you might.

This week PBS Frontline brings us to the front lines of Ebola.  Watch the full story here, but see the preview below.  It premiered last night, and will be repeated on your PBS stations this week, and Roku users can catch it on their PBS channel.

This is an extremely hard 27 minutes to watch.  There are far more reporters brave enough to go into a war zone than a hot zone, so we seldom see such reporting from the front lines.  This is what it’s like to see Ebola at ground zero.  Most people will avoid watching this kind of documentary because it’s scarier than any Hollywood horror film.  But if we want to stop Ebola and other horrible diseases from coming here, then it’s important that we care enough to fight these diseases wherever they break out and fast.  Doctors Without Borders needs to publicity campaign like the Ice Bucket Challenge that helped ALS.  Here’s just a piece of a story that will give you an idea of what these humanitarians are doing for us.

The minimum you can do to help is to learn about Ebola.  What we learn now will help us for any future plague.  We live in a world where airline travel can spread diseases around the world in a day.  Ebola is actually a pretty rare disease, and in the past has been contained quickly.  It usually breaks out near human contact with infected animals.   These have been in isolated areas, and we’ve always depended on Ebola being contained.  This time might be different.  It’s hard to say if the current outbreak come to a stop, or if this will be the time when it gets out of control.  The Washington Post ran a story yesterday that predicts 15 more nations will be infected.  The day before that, the Washington Post ran “20,000 cases or 100,000?”

If you search Google there’s plenty of news reporting to read.  And you don’t have to be a math wiz to plot the numbers from June, July and August against what we’re hearing today to see the graph is getting scary.   We shouldn’t panic, but we should study and donate money.  This is going to be a huge humanitarian crisis in many parts of the world that the develop world will avoid, but it was be horrible to watch.  And if it spreads across the world, it will come here.

Like I said, this is news we need to really know.

JWH – 9/10/14

3 thoughts on “What You REALLY Need To Know About Ebola”

  1. I wouldn’t be so optimistic about the chances for containment of an epidemic in the US. There are millions of potential disease vectors walking around in this country who have no access to the medical system except in extremis and often not even then (no, children Obamacare has NOT fixed this problem — it wasn’t designed to do so). And with such a heavily privatized and fragmented “system”, I would expect to see a lot of problems trying to plan or coordinate any largescale public effort. Public cooperation in our dog-eat-dog society? Please. Remember Katrina? And guns and troops are of limited use against disease unless we are willing to use some very cruel and draconian measures. Yes, we got rid of polio and smallpox, but that was a very different society than the one we are living in now.

    1. Ebola is fairly easy to control if you get the cooperation of the public. We have an infrastructure that’s better at notifying and educating the public, and we have better medical, police, national guard and military systems to control people. Even in Africa Ebola should burn itself out when people learn not to touch other people. Many of West African volunteers stay protected from Ebola not with space suits, but by just staying 6 feet away from infected people. Ebola can be stopped if people don’t touch each other for 2-3 weeks. The fear is it will mutate and become an air born.

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