Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Any chance of stopping this Ebola thing?

An aside: you might think that an airliner must be an ideal Petri dish - recirculating air and a captive audience. It is claimed that cabin air filters have a virus removal efficiency of greater than 99.999% but that manufacturer's guarantee shouldn't be relevant as the Ebola virus currently doesn't transmit via the air, only by personal contact; so we hope for the best. (See here for an informed contrary view).


Ebola is not going to be stopped in Central Africa: too many cases, too-porous borders, high population densities, poor infrastructure and incompetent authorities, rubbish disease-incidence reporting. Ghana won't be safe for too much longer.

From GhanaWeb

Projection data for the likely spread of Ebola is modelled here - click on charts.

The media (the BBC is a typical offender) talks about 'irrational fears' and the shocking humiliation caused to those on the wrong-end of screening. Very comforting - God help that we should over-react or anything.

What is scary with exponentially-increasing and highly-lethal epidemics is the way things can turn from a background somebody else's problem to something directly, immediately threatening on a time frame of less than a month. (Although here in Europe we'll probably get the Ebola experience quarter one of next year via North Africa).

We're in a situation far too reminiscent of the mediaeval Black Death. The thing which we know works is draconian quarantine. People will be shot (or quarantine will fail). I expect there are contingency plans to set up quarantine zones in the UK right now - if not, someone isn't doing their job right.

The other thing which might work is a treatment or vaccine.  The development schedule is not encouraging.


The Wikipedia article notes:
"Ebolavirus is classified as a biosafety level 4 agent, as well as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has the potential to be weaponized for use in biological warfare, and was investigated by the Biopreparat for such use, but might be difficult to prepare as a weapon of mass destruction because the virus becomes ineffective quickly in open air."
I have this vision of sections of the Nigerian military collecting the corpses of Ebola victims, dressing them in soldiers' uniforms and dropping them by parachute into areas know to be occupied by Boko Haram - they'd be sure to investigate. The equivalent to the mediaeval practice of catapulting the bodies of plague victims into besieged castles. Could anyone, do you think, be so stupid?