JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


Handbooks

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper


Advertising

micropace


GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Archives

Ebola — time for action

I trained in microbiology so I’ve watched the Ebola situation unfold with quiet dread.  When my favourite lecturer was asked what was worst of the worst infectious epidemics he could imagine, he responded that the sum of all fears would be a cross between Ebola and Newcastle’s disease. It would be a highly fatal hemorrhagic disease, combined with a highly contagious virus spread by birds. It’s time to talk of the dark dark possibility that one mutation could bring — the aerosolization of Ebola.

As long as this Filovirus stays in its current form, spread only through direct contact with an infected and obviously ill person, we have a chance to limit the spread. Quarantine is effective. If it goes airborne, the task becomes like preventing the flu, but without clinically tested vaccines, in a totally unprotected population, and with a 60% fatality rate. This is the nuclear option.

The Ebola virus has several different forms, and at least in animal studies, it has “gone airborne” before. Theoretically, it’s an odds game. The more times the virus is copied — the better the odds are that the right mutation will occur. To be brutally blunt, every infected person is another incubator, providing more copies, and more chances. For this reason, and for self interest alone, the West ought to be shifting into high gear to help Africans contain this. The humanitarian reasons go without saying. But our compassion for the ghastly suffering spreading through the slums and cities of West Africa could easily save thousands, and possibly many millions of lives, theoretically including our own.

On the plus side, we are not defenceless. There are good news stories and promising avenues. Several vaccines are being developed. Most immediately, the blood of survivors contains antibodies that can help victims. The West has grown monoclonal copies of some antibodies (ie. ZMapp) but they only grow as fast as the tobacco plants they’ve been genetically modified to grow in. Ken Brantly, one of the early US survivors who was given ZMapp is now giving his blood to another afflicted American aid worker. In Africa, a black market has already sprung up trading the blood of survivors. It’s risky and it will spread other diseases, but it is probably a rational response given the dire odds. The WHO is organizing a better cleaner method. It’s one of the few times I think a government — dare I say, even a UN solution — is something to foster and hope for. Go big-government. Except, surprise, the free market beat the government, and now some in the WHO are trying to stamp out the  “illicit trade”. (Do they even know the risk-benefit of these trades?) Shouldn’t they be advising consenting adults and carers on the safest way to do this, and the risks, and collecting statistics?

The numbers

On September 9th the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it had recorded 4,293 cases in five west African countries, of which at least 2,296 people had died. But even the WHO’s experts believe that is an underestimate as many people are suspected to be dying at home. By some estimates 12,000 people have been infected with Ebola so far.

At least 160 Liberian health-care workers have contracted the disease and half of them have died. Ebola is also spreading in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and a case has been reported in Senegal.

The Economist

Tragically, Liberia – which already ranks fourth-last in the world for numbers of doctors per population – has lost almost 20 doctors to Ebola. They only produce 10 doctors per year in a medical class. - ABC

“Not to put too fine a point on it: we have a closing window of perhaps weeks now before we will not be able to manage all the cases on the ground in the way that we normally would.” — Dr Ian Norton, chief of foreign medical teams with the World Health Organisation (WHO) - ABC

The good news

Even basic medical help can reduce death rates from 90% to under 50%:

Without medical care, the mortality rate of this Ebola outbreak is about 90 per cent. While it is a devastating disease, it is not universally fatal, even with minimal care.

But with better care, and certainly with the new Ebola treatment centres and with the right number of staff treating them, we can gradually escalate the level of care and have better outcomes.

For example, we have seen in Guinea for several months that with good supportive care we can bring the mortality rate down to 30 to 50 per cent at most.   – ABC

We will beat Ebola, but we need time

It’s a race between two rapidly rising curves. The exponential spread becomes ugly so fast. If we can delay the spread, we can conquer it.

As well as the antiserum and monoclonal antibodies, there are several vaccines in the making. Small safety trials have started already. But they are potentially several months away from being mass “field tested”  — even this speed breaks  normal ethical practice, but given the dire situation few are arguing.

The NIH/GSK vaccine is based on a benign virus which causes a cold in chimpanzees (an adenovirus). It is able to infect cells and deliver fragments of genetic material from two variations of Ebola (one of which is the Zaire strain responsible for the current outbreak). When Ebola proteins are expressed by infected cells, an immune response is triggered. A version using a single strain of Ebola is also being tested.

On September 7th, Nature Medicine reported that immediate and lasting immunity to Ebola could be stimulated in monkeys if a dual jab is used. The first jab primes the immune system with an adenovirus-based vaccine; the second boosts it with a modified vaccinia virus (the active component of the vaccine that eradicated smallpox). Johnson & Johnson, a big American health-care company, has accelerated laboratory testing of a combined vaccine, which could begin clinical trials next year.

Another candidate vaccine was developed many years ago by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It was recently licensed by NewLink Genetics of Ames, Iowa, which has approval to start phase 1 trials. This jab is based on a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a livestock infection that resembles foot-and-mouth disease. VSV has been used previously to develop vaccines. The new vaccine, VSV-EBOV, is a live, replicating virus that infects cells and carries Ebola viral proteins into the host. Again, this stimulates an immune response. –The Economist

Antivirals are also in development. Fujifilm in Japan has offered to shop Favipravir as soon as WHO requests it.

The US CDC is tracking the spread.

We are spending millions to stop barbaric conflict in the Middle East — which well may be justified. But Ebola could be so much worse. We need the same kind of international effort, and every week delayed makes it harder.  We’re not at the panic and run stage, but we ought to be throwing major resources, both at research and to help the afflicted.

The human side of the current story is wrenching.

Monrovia: “…Jatu Zombo cradled her 5-year-old son, Foday, beneath a tarp set up to block the sun. A few feet away, her 10-year-old boy, Zen­nah, sat on a paint can. Both children were listless and visibly ill. They felt cold and had been vomiting. Their father had died four days earlier, and Zombo, 36, spent days calling for an ambulance that never came. Finally, her brother paid someone $20 in U.S. currency to bring them to JFK.

But the children could not get in. “No one has spoken to us,” said Zombo’s brother, Abraham Sesky. “So we are just sitting. We don’t know.” – Washington Post

The risk:

Virologists, such as Dr Ball at Nottingham, worry that increasing human-to-human transmission is giving Ebola the opportunity to become more transmissible. Each time the virus replicates, new mutations appear. It has accumulated and hung on to some mutations, like “cherries on a one-armed bandit”, he says. Nobody knows what would happen if Ebola hit the jackpot with a strain that is even better-adapted to humans.

Right now, food, medical supplies, health workers, training, and quarantine facilities are an investment the West would be crazy not to be freely giving, and fast. We must beat the curve.

News on ebola at MacLeans.ca

Entire country of Sierra Leone to be put on 3-day lockdown amid Ebola fears 

Experimental Ebola vaccines may be ready by the end of 2014

UPDATE: Liberia is asking the US for help to defeat Ebola the medical system reportedly breaking under the strain. Medical staff are in short supply in West Africa, and one nation is sending 165 to help… Guess which country is sending the largest group?

Cuba on Friday announced that it would deploy 165 medical personnel to Sierra Leone next month, the largest contingent of foreign doctors and nurses committed so far.
Newsdaily

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.8/10 (73 votes cast)
Ebola -- time for action, 8.8 out of 10 based on 73 ratings

Tiny Url for this post: http://tinyurl.com/myu8zwb

166 comments to Ebola — time for action

  • #
    Mark Gutzwiller

    Since I first learned about Ebola and maribola, in the 1980s, I have watched each outbreak reported with trepidation. Simulation was almost impossible then, but with the success of seti@home, they have created distributed protein folding programs (no, I don’t know what protein folding means). But it seems that something like that could make things go quicker (identifying potential vaccines or antidotes). I have no idea how, but using spare CPU cycles is never bad.
    As someone once said, if not now, when?

    80

    • #
      Mark Gutzwiller

      I guess the real phrase is close to, If not now, when? If not us, who?

      20

    • #

      Re “Protein folding” — Proteins are long linear strings of amino acids. They fold on themselves into am intricate tangled ball of sorts. The shape makes all the difference — active areas may be exposed to enzymes and antibodies. We are now very good at cracking the sequence of the amino acids but only learning to predict how it will fold and what final 3D shape will emerge. Hence the supercomputers. Two proteins, like an antibody and the target it sticks to, must fit together like a lock and key. Tiny differences in the shape make a big difference.

      110

    • #
      Mark Gutzwiller

      Sorry, but I have been informed that what seti@home is doing is finding a black key on a white tabletop.

      Protein Folding is building that white table top, from scratch, to the proper height, with the correct number of legs, and the proper width and length, so that black key is at the right place.

      It’s no wonder I never understood biology.

      31

      • #
        Carbon500

        Mark: I spent years in medical laboratory work – rest assured that Jo’s explanation is right on the nail, look no further – it’s all about 3D shapes and the way they fit together.

        40

        • #
          Mark Gutzwiller

          I wasn’t criticizing Jo, I was summarizing it, or so I thought. I only had the mandatory biology classes through 8th grade. When I read her explanation, what came to mind was seti@home was 2d. Jo’s explanation could have been simpler, I thought, so I tried to make that way.

          Seti@home = 2D; Protein folding = a hell lot more complicated.

          My “explanation” was for those who didn’t have the advanced background. That is the way I visualized her explanation.

          And yes, I do know more about biology than I let on. My sister and her husband are both biologists. I was sort of force fed biology. At the dinner table. At Thanksgiving. And sometimes on weekends.

          I miss those days.

          40

          • #
            Carbon500

            Hello Mark – my comment was intended as reassurance, I didn’t think you were criticising Jo’s explanation. One thing’s certain – there’s a lot of lousy science teaching out there, as we all know!

            20

      • #
        michael hart

        After the IBM chess program, Deep Blue, beat Gary Kasparov (the then human world chess champion) in 1997, IBM announced they were then going to solve the big computational problems in protein-folding. I laughed pretty hard when I read that, and I still do now.

        We’re still waiting. The main problems are said to be theoretically insoluble (before the end of the universe at least, in terms of time).

        The good news is that computation may still be able to add to human knowledge in this area and help provide real advances in human lives.

        The bad news is that some climate scientists claim their models have already solved a much harder problem.

        80

    • #
      jon

      Ebola is life and how it evolves.

      ?

      31

    • #
      OriginalSteve

      [SNIP Ebola comes from bats and sometimes other animals, it has caused outbreaks for years. No reason for bioweapons talk. It is a zoonotic origin disease like so many others - Jo]

      Given the number of people who die from flu related issues every year, why such a focus on ebola? Perhaps people are more mobile so it infecte depopel move further before symptoms show up, thes creating illusion of it “spreading” ( aka more virrulent) ?

      Given the establishments love of a good crisis to shove through eben more draconian rules, I am skepitcal in absense of definitive proof of a true crisis. That said, once you shut the borders, you can stem the problem quickly.

      31

      • #
        Robert JM

        In the 18th century the rich used to have snuff parties where they would get high then inject themselves with pus from a chronic smallpox sufferer. The chances of dying were 5-10%, but if you didn’t die you were protected from the strains with a 30-50% mortality rate.
        Ebola makes russian roulette seem like good odds!

        00

    • #
      Boris

      [Snip. Let's not get into wild speculation - Jo]

      02

      • #
        Robert JM

        Epidemiological studies of old blood samples showed that ebola existed well before we knew how DNA worked. The main principle of bio weapons is you use something that doesn’t replicate. Stops you killing your own side.

        10

      • #
        Boris

        Hi Jo, here is another connection on the ebola virus.

        00

        • #
          Boris

          Hi Jo, here is another link to ebola. Forgot to paste it.

          With 368 mutations already found, there will be no vaccine that will work.
          [You don't know that at all Boris, it's likely there are conserved regions - Jo]
          [SNIP - pointless conjecture about "motives"]
          [SNIP Speculation - J]

          Prior to this outbreak, Ebola had a very high genetic stability and remained unchanged through multiple outbreaks. In fact, Ebola has been so stable that it was considered remarkable for this. Why then, with this outbreak, are there so many mutations of this new type, when in past outbreaks NO mutations have been noted at all?

          [Past outbreaks have been small, there are at least five versions of Ebola, it's not "stable" -Jo]

          Additionally, this new outbreak has none of the characteristics of previous outbreaks

          There is something missing in this Ebola outbreak, and it is the bloody eyes and ears, and bleeding through the skin. This time all the bleeding is internal and nothing shows outwardly. All the bloody blistered skin photos on the web are from previous outbreaks, with this particular strain people look outwardly normal up until death and die from internal bleeding, vomiting up blood and having massive stools of black goo from internal bleeding. In this way, the new Ebola is mimicking Parvo in dogs, {snip]

          [SNIP - speculation]

          This is where things may go amiss. Previously, Ebola was a stable virus that could have had a predictable cure. The current strain is mutating so rapidly that if all the recorded cases were added up and divided by the number of mutations, each mutated strain would have only infected an average of 20 people. That is a phenomenal mutation rate, which will render any vaccine attempt useless.

          [SNIP]
          Beware of history rewrites, which will provide plausible deniability for whoever did this

          Watch out for any news saying how Ebola mutates continuously without mentioning that prior to this outbreak Ebola was VERY STABLE, and question strongly WHY this new strain is so different from past strains, from outward symptoms, to incubation times, to mutation rates, it is all far too different for this to have happened naturally in a formerly stable virus.

          There are very few pictures of people infected with this new strain, and none show the normal bleeding. Why?

          Take a look at a google image search with all photos dated a year or more old, and compare them to a google image search of pictures dated to within the time frame of THIS OUTBREAK [SNIP yelling]

          Almost all of what we are seeing is body bags which show NOTHING, with all other pictures showing none of the classic symptoms. The picture to the left is a prime example, this man who reportedly is an Ebola victim is showing NOTHING that would indicate he ever had Ebola at all. So why is this so different? People in Africa could certainly publish pictures to the web, [Boris, many Africans don't have electricity. Think! -Jo]

          Here are the symptoms from the current strain,
          •Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
          •Severe headache
          •Muscle pain
          •Weakness
          •Diarrhea
          •Vomiting
          •Abdominal (stomach) pain
          •Lack of appetite

          In other words, the current symptoms mimic the flu (except for the noted internal bleeding this outbreak has). Now for the classic ebola symptoms:

          “After 3-4 days of non-specific symptoms and signs, patients typically experienced progressively severe sore throat, developed a maculopapular rash, had intractable abdominal pain, and began to bleed from multiple sites, principally the gastrointestinal tract. ”

          And the pictures of this current outbreak prove the classic ebola is not what we are dealing with this time around. The biggest thing in common is gastrointestinal bleeding.

          Recovery times also indicate this new ebola is more like a souped up flu than ebola

          Usually, with ebola, recovery takes months and sometimes never happens completely because the liver, kidneys and other organs including the brain get damaged. Yet we see in the media pictures of ebola “survivors” that are up and about only two weeks after having it. This is not possible with real ebola, this outbreak really is more like a really bad flu than anything else

          [SNIP]

          10

      • #
  • #
    LevelGaze

    I suppose my interest in these matters was re-pricked reading Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague” 20 years ago. At that time the usual worrying epidemic haemorrhagic diseases were Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic virus disease, Ebola virus disease and (a fellow filoviridae) Marburg viral disease.

    I’m pretty sure that traditional immunological treatments (think smallpox) will eventually contain this threat. But who knows what else is lurking in the African forests?

    Just to put this in context: the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 killed up to 100 million people worldwide. Makes Ebola so far look pretty tame. Not, of course, that I’m trying to trivialise it.

    90

    • #
      Peter Yates

      Quote: “I suppose my interest in these matters was re-pricked reading Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague” 20 years ago.”

      In 1994, there was also ‘The Hot Zone’ by Richard Preston. .. ‘The Age’ said that: “Preston brings the skills of a top thriller writer to this true story.”

      This was the description by the publisher :-
      Extract begins …
      Imagine a killer with the infectiousness of the common cold and the power of the Black Death. Imagine something so deadly that it wipes out 90% of those it touches. Imagine an organism against which there is no defence. But you don’t need to imagine. Such a killer exists: it is a virus and its name is Ebola.
      ‘The Hot Zone’ tells what happens when the unthinkable becomes realty: when a deadly virus, from the rain forests of Africa, crosses continents and infects a monkey house ten miles from the White House.
      Ebola is that reality. It has the power to decimate the world’s population.
      Try not to panic. It will be back. There is nothing you can do.
      Extract ends.
      (my emphasis)

      That was 1994. Fortunately there are now things that can be done, as Jo describes above.

      Quotes by famous people:
      “One of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read. Move over Stephen King and Michael Crichton — this really happened, within sight of the Washington Monument. And sooner or later it will happen again.” .. Arthur C. Clarke
      “One of the most horrifying things I’ve read in my entire life.” .. Stephen King

      00

  • #
    Unmentionable

    I was surprised to see a CDC spokes woman on Australian TV saying around 6 weeks back that ebola is not a particularly contagious or dangerous problem, that it is quickly isolated and will burn itself out in a few months. But if that were the case then it wouldn’t still be growing exponentially within communities that are already alert to the presence of the disease.

    Just have a look at the curve of the cumulative total deaths against time in the BBC link below and note the classic shape, as in about 2 weeks it’ll be over 4,000, a few days later, 5,000, a day later, 6,000, etc. And these are the official “laboratory confirmed” cases, not the unseen unmitigated cases.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28755033

    Fortunately I don’t fear dieing, but I suspect many do and they’ll not take the next 2-3 months of ever exploding numbers too well.

    180

  • #
    cohenite

    To be brutally blunt, every infected person is another incubator, providing more copies.

    Conversely and to be equally blunt, this is why anti-vaccination zealots should be locked up.

    89

    • #

      cohenite steady on. The vaccines are not even tested. They may not work, they may have side-effects.

      To be blunt — Is that Cohenite for PM and line up your babies for forced government injections or we will jail you? Let the bureaucrats decide because parents don’t care enough for their kids?

      Methinks you’ve a tad oversimplified.

      241

      • #
        Mark Gutzwiller

        All vaccines have side effects. I hope the real question is, “Are the side effects of the vaccines much less worse, than the infection itself?”

        80

        • #
          Annie

          All good points. We were in the situation of fearing a whooping cough outbreak as insufficient numbers of babies were being vaccinated at the time our youngest had slight fitting. We were therefore advised that she shouldn’t receive it. The predictable happened, fortunately not until she was 8, and she had a pretty bad dose of the actual illness. I’d dreaded the possibility for her as I well remember suffering the misery of it myself…it’s a horrid illness.

          50

          • #
            Andrew McRae

            Can confirm that whooping cough is no picnic.
            I probably got the usual vaccinations as a small kid, mumps and measles probably, but whooping cough was probably not part of the usual jab regime where we lived. I was unlucky enough to catch it later when I was about 12.

            Gasping for air like you’re being choked to death about 8 times a minute for several hours straight really sucks. You do sometimes feel like you might pass out from lack of oxygen.
            And coughing so explosive it sends a ripple through the curtains.

            Yes, it makes vaccination seem quite good by comparison. Hindsight and all that.

            Or perhaps we can adopt the attitude of the ancient Spartans and assume those of us who battled whooping cough and survived must be fitter than the rest of these syringe-sucking crybabies. :D

            30

            • #
              fledgeling

              Notice, though, that the argument that you have just used to strengthen the case for the whooping cough vaccination is circular: you got the disease (so you think); therefore you probably weren’t vaccinated (so you conclude); therefore if you had been vaccinated you wouldn’t have gotten the disease (so you believe); therefore you got the disease because you weren’t vaccinated.

              Unfortunately, the entire case for whooping cough vaccine is of about this strength. It is not unknown — indeed, it is very common — for a medical practitioner to diagnose whooping cough on the basis of whether the child has been vaccinated against it; whereas actually checking the vaccination status of children in an epidemic who are confirmed to have the disease typically finds that 80% of them have been FULLY VACCINATED against it.

              It is relevant to bear in mind that notification rates for whooping cough have increased for the past 30 years in parallel with increasing vaccination against it. These increases appear to be directly connected with widespread vaccination against the disease.

              So it’s not a bad thing to compare the vaccination’s dubious benefits with its known risks. Take just one of those known risks: asthma. In 2008, researchers found that delaying administration of the DPT vaccine by more than two months from the ages recommended in the government schedule resulted in a reduction in childhood asthma, a life-threatening illness, by more than half (confirming the findings of many previous studies on the topic of whooping cough vaccine and development of asthma and other allergic reactions [PP]), and recommended a corresponding change in the schedule.

              Then there is the development of parapertussis (the microevolutionary result of widespread pertussis vaccination, clinically indistinguishable from whooping cough). On what basis would anybody claim that parapertussis is not worth taking as seriously as pertussis? Would you advise that everybody be vaccinated against this too? And would the inexistence of such a vaccine alter your advice or make you rethink any of the assumptions you make on the basis of your understandable but unfortunately baseless beliefs?

              00

        • #

          Of course, does it need saying? Like any medicine, the cost:benefits need to be assessed.

          Regarding Ebola, I’m arguing in the post that given these dire circumstances it’s good that African’s may get access to experimental medicines including vaccines that not have gone through the normal procedures. Free choice — informed consent. Let the grown ups in the room decide.

          I want big-government to record the stats, coordinate the resources — for more informed consent.

          I would think the most at-risk carers and family of the critically ill would be grateful to be offered the chance to protect themselves. Though I know in some parts of Africa there is mistrust of government, fear and communication problems, the word of a good vaccine can spread faster than a virus.

          I’m railing against the idea that we should ever “lock up those who say the wrong things”. I will fight for free speech…

          211

          • #
            Mark Gutzwiller

            I apologize. I wasn’t trying to denigrate your post.
            In my life, I have met people that were not aware that vaccines have side effects.

            I guess I was just trying to point out that vaccines do have side effects, but in the case of the ebola virus, if the vaccine has fewer side effects than the actual virus, the vaccine is worth it, even if it a quick and dirty vaccine, not meeting all the regulations and things.

            I failed at that.
            Again, I apologize for the misunderstanding I caused.


            Mark, thanks, no problem. Email coming – Jo

            70

          • #
            Annie

            I very much agree that no one should be threatened with being locked up for saying the wrong things. I just wish that people would not follow the crowd and panic over certain pretty well tested vaccines; to the detriment of others who are vulnerable.

            I hope very much that vaccines can be produced asap to help with this very horrible sickness. I can certainly understand that some people would want to try it and others feel wary. Ebola is a terrible scourge and I deeply admire those who go to West Africa in aid.

            20

            • #
              Retired now

              And I wish that the medical professionals who promote vaccines would actually provide me with the evidence that they work and are safe. When I asked for this (as a medical/health researcher) it was assumed I was virulently anti-vaccine, which I wasn’t, and they got incredibly angry, but didn’t provide any evidence, just assertions and authoritarian demands. Without evidence I won’t accept authoritarian statements. As a scientist I want evidence. All I got was anger and venom and threats to my academic career.

              80

          • #
            Ian

            Jo, I’m currently in the UK where a good news story on Ebola is that of William Pooley a UK nurse who contracted the disease in Sierra Leone and has just been released from hospital after treatment with ZMapp a combination of three monoclonal antibodies (Mab). To elaborate a little for those who may be a bit hazy on Mabs they are produced in the laboratory by creating cell lines that produce an antibody that will bind to a particular protein, in this case Ebola virus, and prevent it from performing its normal role. ZMapp is not a vaccine so won’t prevent infection with Ebola and not yet licensed for human use but it does seem as if it could be of significant help in treating infection with Ebola.

            80

      • #
        Wally

        I feel I should point of some kind of historical precedent.

        Remember tuberculosis? When I was at school, testing was mandatory. There were mobile vans touring the suburbs, and testing was again, mandatory. Further, those who were infected were quarantined. Not nice, but Tuberculosis does not exist as a common public health hazard any more (and all the old quarantine hospitals are closed up… or being sold off for housing estates…. bit mistake!)

        Sometimes for the good of all, the Big Govt needs to step on the liberties of a small few. It’s not nice for the few. But until there is a vaccine AND an immunisation program it is really the only viable approach.

        30

        • #
          Robert JM

          TB is back and its Multi drug resistant. It kills 1.5 million people per year.

          40

          • #
            Annie

            We had to have chest x-rays before being permitted to come to Australia as migrants in 1988. Is this still a requirement for permanent entry?

            00

            • #
              Rohan

              Yes. A co worker on a 456 visa has been diagnosed with TB as part of his PR visa process. I also took the test as my mother has Meyloma. The last thing she needs is TB via number one son.

              My tests were clear.

              00

      • #
        KinkyKeith

        Hi Jo

        Looking at Cohenite’s comment I can see it as something I might have written, depending on context of course.

        And perhaps as I could own the comment in one sense maybe I should offer what I would have regarded as the context.

        Here in northern NSW we have a substantial enclave of “vaccination refusers” who refuse vaccines for their children.

        If my memory serves me correctly, there have been problems, and maybe even an infant death or two which would not have occurred if the community had been effectively vaccinated. A lot of pain and heartache for those who “self medicate”.

        These people may have heard stories about vaccination problems from the anti vaccination lobby and be genuinely confused by the false advertising so commonly available.

        On the other hand it may be they have heard of examples of people who genuinely react severely to vaccinations eg Roy’s comment on this thread.

        Generally speaking I would much rather people be vaccinated than see them crippled or dead from some very tragic diseases which were common seventy years ago.

        As a child I can recall in our small community several slightly older people who were not vaccinated against polio and paid a huge price.

        That said we cannot escape the problem of Government where mistakes happen and they are due to poor regulation, bad testing and the usual government issues resulting from being away from scrutiny.

        A year or so back there was a situation where I think it was a flue vaccine given to young children which had very severe after effects.

        Doctors reported these problems but the necessary action was not taken to remove this bad vaccine until further children were harmed.

        This case shows that we can’t trust Government.

        On the whole vaccines are essential to avoiding serious consequences from infection but individuals with reactive issues must not be endangered and surely could be dealt with ion a case by case basis.

        Unfortunately too many children have been “opted out” of vaccination programs for no other reason than to gratify the parents “feelings” on the matter.

        I agree with Cohenite; such people need to be seriously considered for what they really are: people who are placing their children at risk of serious injury or death.

        KK

        10

        • #
          Robert JM

          Unfortunately reactions to vaccines often go hand in hand with a vaccines effectiveness. We are currently seeing higher rates of hooping cough because the the old whole killed vaccine which produced lasting immunity but with common side effects was replaced with a recombinant vaccine.

          30

          • #
            John Knowles

            Good point Robert. M
            My GP made the additional point that infants who are going to have adverse reaction to a vaccine are also the ones likely to suffer adverse affects of the disease itself (and vice versa). It’s a case of immune competence of the individual. It’s not a B & W topic.
            I suspect Ebola is a different level of pathogen where even healthy individuals are going to struggle. This is a full colour 3D problem and currently available in HD.

            10

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      cohenite,

      I have good reason to understand the anti vaccine people. Since I was a small child and received that first cocktail of vaccinations at school I have always turned white and started to go into shock. As a child I couldn’t do anything about it and as a soldier I had no practical chance of preventing those vaccinations either, beside which, where I was sent they were probably necessary protection. But since my discharge from the army I have never let myself be vaccinated against anything again. So please don’t lock me up. What happened then was dangerous enough and it’s no doubt even more dangerous at age 75.

      I have no idea which vaccine or vaccines are the villain because they’re always administered in one big batch. So I take my chance and count on those who can be vaccinated around me actually doing it and I’ve escaped trouble for a long time. My doctors all know about my position and while they don’t agree, they don’t fight me about it either.

      Anyway — yes these miracles of modern medicine definitely do have their dangers and we ought to respect those who fear them, not lock them up. I could wish the fear was from personal experience like mine and more rational in some cases. But even so, the fear has a genuine basis and if sound argument can’t convince then people need to be free to make their own decisions.

      131

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        For emphasis about what the problem is: these vaccines are not noticeably a problem for the majority of the population. The problem is me.

        And now if they will let my previous comment out of jail you’ll be able to understand this one.

        Moderators, how about a little help here?

        41

      • #
        Greg Cavanagh

        I’ve never had a vacination of any sort, ever.
        And while I understand that some people do want to use them, I do not want it forced upon me. I’ll resist it, fighting for as long as I can.

        I don’t trust the government, I don’t trust what the TV reports, I don’t trust peoples perception of the problem. Too much lack of any in-depth understanding by all mentioned above, for me to give them the slightest accptence that they know what they are talking about.

        51

        • #
          KinkyKeith

          Hi Greg

          Can understand your lack of trust of governments and pharmaceutical companies but there is another side.

          As a youngster I saw the horrible effects of Polio on several locals who were born before the vaccine was available.

          One of the sad situations I alluded to in my other post here was of a child born into a region of “Vaccine refusers”.

          There was no group immunity and some children in the area passed on the disease to a newborn whose only protection is that the local herd doesn’t have the disease: any parent who has seen a child with whooping cough would, I suspect, very rapidly want some intervention; sadly the only “intervention” is group immunisation.

          That’s the science and stats regardless of politics and pharmaceutical company corruption.

          The greater danger is in Not Vaccinating.

          There are of course exceptions where individuals may react badly and they should be given single vaccination to spread the effects of ab-reaction.

          there would be very few who could not take immunisation but I fear that money has been behind the trend of multiple vaccinations all in the one hit.

          That’s just bad government and not in the interests of the people but a way of cutting costs and maximising Big Pharma profits.

          Any concerned parent could arrange single vaccinations at cost and reduce possible reactions.

          KK

          KK

          00

          • #
            KinkyKeith

            My apologies.

            I have not been vaccinated against duplicate signature disease.

            20

          • #
            Roy Hogue

            Greg,

            I can agree with Keith to a considerable degree. However, forcing vaccination on those who are unwilling needs more than just the general justification of public health and safety.

            EXAMPLE:

            When Gerald Ford was president he made a high profile push to get everyone vaccinated against influenza. That year as I recall, more deaths were traceable to the vaccination than to actually having the flu.

            I think this makes a strong case for permitting individual choice.

            As I have already said, I wish the refusal was based on something more objective than vague fear of government or pharmaceutical companies. But likewise, I wish the acceptance was based on something more than blind belief in the infallibility of medicine and public health officials.

            This is not a simple black or white question. There are many shades of gray to be dealt with.

            [You could hardly refer to the proven effectiveness of vaccinations as 'blind belief' Roy. The incidence of some diseases such as polio and diphtheria have been almost eliminated. The number of deaths avoided are in the many millions in the last couple of decades alone just based on pre-vaccine death rates. See WHO and CDC data. - Mod]

            21

            • #
              Roy Hogue

              You could hardly refer to the proven effectiveness of vaccinations as ‘blind belief’ Roy.

              The reference is to belief that medicine is infallible. I’ve had quite an education about that, most of it nothing to do with vaccinations. Many people think a trip to the doctor can do miracles. It can’t. With luck and a competent doctor you get help. But that isn’t always the case.
              [Apologies for the delay in releasing this - we try to provide a 24-hour, 6-Sigma quality service, but there are just so few of us ... -Fly]

              21

        • #
          Annie

          My mother nursed for a while in a fever hospital in England. As a student nurse she was left in charge of a ward full of children with diptheria. If more than one child had a crisis then a child died. What she told us about diptheria was more than enough to persuade us to make sure that our children were given their immunisations . I was very unhappy at the advice not to give the whooping cough vaccine to our youngest. Fortunately she didn’t come into contact with the illness until she was older but then was very ill.

          00

      • #
        Boris

        More for cohenite. Last year’s whooping cough epidemic in Queensland saw 94% OF ALL CASES having been vaccinated against the disease. So in your theory, the 6% infected the 94% who Shouldn’t have caught the disease because they were vaccinated. Your argument is full of holes and I suspect you don’t have anything to plug them.
        So far this year ALL cases of measles reported in Queensland are those who HAVE been vaccinated.
        When I was a kid 50 yrs ago when someone got chicken pox or measles we all went and had a party with the infected one, so everyone came down with the disease together. None of us were crippled or blinded or died from doing this. This is what every mother did at the time.

        20

        • #
          Mattb

          ill bite. do you have any sources/references for your stats boris?

          11

        • #
          Jaymez

          Boris you are lucky. We also had the same tradition, and there were deaths and deafness resulting in our community, and also lifelong scarring in some cases. In addition, because of this practice my mother had always told me I had already had mumps, measles and chicken pox as a child. So I wasn’t vaccinated in my military career for those. I subsequently suffered mumps as a 40 year old which for me was extremely unpleasant with lifelong health consequences.

          But neither of us should fall into the trap of using anecdotal evidence as conclusive. By doing so we just sound like those climate alarmists who swear that weather is getting more unpredictable therefore humans must be causing it.

          The facts are that many more deaths and severe health problems have been avoided by the vaccination processes compared to the very small number of bad reactions. (WHO and US CDC data is readily available).

          Every time we take a medication, have surgery and go under anaesthetic or eat a new food we take the chance of being in the minute minority who have a fatal or bad reaction. I happen to have developed an anaphylactic allergy to bee stings, or at least I had last time I was stung 40 years ago. I had been stung many times before with no problems. But I don’t avoid the outdoors because of the minimal possibility of being stung.

          It amazes me how many people use the limited incidence of bad reactions as evidence to support a decision not to vaccinate, yet continue to use our roads which we know are dangerous. Similarly most sensible people now would voluntarily use seat belts in cars because we are aware of the lives and injuries they save, yet there are some who we know might risk more severe injuries because a seatbelt cuts into the abdomen, or locks them in place when they need to escape a burning vehicle.

          If an Ebola vaccine is developed and I am travelling to an area of known Ebola risk, I’ll be lining up for a vaccine.

          30

          • #
            Rereke Whakaaro

            I suspect that Boris is simply providing his pet conspiracy theory with a little exercise.

            Matt is right to call him/her/it out on it.

            30

            • #
              Boris

              The statistics regarding whooping cough were direct from Qld Health and media reports. It is now considered that there are many mutations (8-10) of whooping cough and the early vaccines are no longer effective against these mutations. There is no information as to what mutation the affected carried – only they had whooping cough. I would suggest the same is possibly happening with measles. Can anyone explain the huge increase in polio in India – particularly after the patient received the vaccine. There is a suggestion that the older vaccine is entirely incompetent with modern day polio?

              00

          • #
            Boris

            I have been vaccinated, my wife and kids and 9 grandkids are all vaccinated. I am not anti vaccine, but there are too many being affected by vaccines. Is there a problem with the big pharma producing them? What is different from when I was a kid in the 50-60′s that is different now.
            [SNIP speculation]

            00

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        Rereading what I said at #4.2 I realize that I should have said, my doctors understand, rather than saying they don’t agree.

        I will soon quit any doctor who doesn’t show me a conservative approach to medicine. Where there’s reason for doubt it should be acknowledged, not denied.

        11

      • #
        Ted O'Brien.

        “The System” accepts a small degree of risk, even for mortality. Ideally, it should not.

        I haven’t done anything about it, so shouldn’t complain. But surely there would be a way to eliminate risk altogether. e.g. do a pre test for reaction.

        One of our four kids died aged five from cancer. There was and is no explanation for this. That aside, the most severe illness we encountered was with our second child after the first vaccination. After that from memory we went light on the whooping cough vaccine.

        For years asthma was a serious problem for me. Modern medication relieved that. But it worries me a lot to see my grandkids on asthma medication. I have read that Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest rate of asthma, and that rate was increasing. Why? Oz and NZ have very different climates.

        One idea that occurred to me was that most of the vaccines used in Australia and NZ are probably made by one firm, possibly using a choice of a number of possible techniques. Could it be that there is something in the manufacturing process used in Australia for one of these vaccines which could cause some people to develop asthma?

        [A parent cannot imagine anything worse than losing a child, no matter what the cause, Ted. That would have been beyond dreadful! With regards your comments about Australia and NZ Asthma incidence - it is actually in line with other Western countries according to Wiki and WHO (e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemiology_of_asthma). Which incidentally has been rising over the last 5 decades starting before many of the feared vaccines were available for infants. Though cooler climates tend to have a slightly lower incidence. The reason the incidence may be higher in Western countries could simply be that the infant mortality rate is much lower, so we have more children with autoimmune dysfunctions surviving. The death rate from asthma is higher in developing and undeveloped countries of course, correlating to poorer health care. - Mod]

        11

        • #
          Roy Hogue

          I can concur with Mod, It’s been a news story here in America a number of times that the rate of asthma, especially among children is increasing. I also see it on the boob tubes now in most doctor’s offices occasionally.

          This article leads me to believe such common things as dust or pollen in the air can be triggers. But what actually make someone susceptable to a trigger is unknown.

          01

          • #
            Greg Cavanagh

            I’ve seen television articles speculating that the clean environments of the modern home is the blame. Lack of dirt and grass covering a child causes a “less capable” immune system. I believe that city children also have a higher incidence of asthma.

            11

            • #
              Roy Hogue

              Greg,

              You must have a lot cleaner home than I can maintain. Dust settles all over everything in my place faster than ants descend on a picnic. ;-)

              Whatever it is, it doesn’t pick on everyone. Some develop asthma and some don’t.

              00

    • #
      OriginalSteve

      I assume youve never heard of isolation techniques?

      Probabaly a lot more effective than vaccines, truth be told.

      Not a fan of your totalitarian tone. Maybe you could get the trains to run on time?

      20

      • #
        Rereke Whakaaro

        Not a fan of your totalitarian tone. Maybe you could get the trains to run on time?

        Hmm, Non Sequitur, with just a hint of Godwin …

        00

    • #
      OriginalSteve

      Oh, and my response at #4.3 was response to cohenite….

      00

    • #
      Boris

      [SNIP. Sorry Boris this is about Ebola. Autism is OT -Jo]

      01

      • #
        Richard111

        A link to this vaccine paper please. We have discussions about similar claims here in the UK. For example the MMR vaccine. Many people argue that a young child’s immune system can’t handle it.

        10

      • #
        KinkyKeith

        Come on Boris , there are several important sides to this problem and rejection of vaccination is not a solution.

        Proper governance of new vaccines has not been done by governments but that means governments need a kick in the pants. I personally avoid the annual flue vaccines because they are NEW and basically untried and probably no use to an old codger like me.

        On the other hand I was petrified that I might pass on say whooping cough to my grandson before he had reached the point where he could be vaccinated.

        Whooping cough, mumps, measles. POLIO are things that we rarely see now because WE VACCINATE OUR POPULATION.

        KK

        20

  • #
    ThomasJ

    Thanks for your recognising(?)of this superbly scarying threat to the whole world. When will we see some (all) of the wasted money/funds go towards finding some sort of help from this – instead of throwing money/funds away for the biggest scam in history?

    Brgds from Sweden, :)
    //TJ

    110

    • #
      OriginaSteve

      WHO and the pandemic flu “conspiracies”

      BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2912 (Published 04 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2912

      Deborah Cohen, features editor, BMJ,
      Philip Carter, journalist, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, London

      dcohen@bmj.com

      Key scientists advising the World Health Organization on planning for an influenza pandemic had done paid work for pharmaceutical firms that stood to gain from the guidance they were preparing. These conflicts of interest have never been publicly disclosed by WHO, and WHO has dismissed inquiries into its handling of the A/H1N1 pandemic as “conspiracy theories.” Deborah Cohen and Philip Carter investigate

      Watch the BMJ/The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s video on WHO and disclosure. This video has also appeared on Al Jazeera and guardian.co.uk.

      Next week marks the first anniversary of the official declaration of the influenza A/H1N1 pandemic. On 11 June 2009 Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, announced to the world’s media: “I have conferred with leading influenza experts, virologists, and public health officials. In line with procedures set out in the International Health Regulations, I have sought guidance and advice from an Emergency Committee established for this purpose. On the basis of available evidence, and these expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met…The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.”

      It was the culmination of 10 years of pandemic preparedness planning for WHO—years of committee meetings with experts flown in from around the world and reams of draft documents offering guidance to governments. But one year on, governments that took advice from WHO are unwinding their vaccine contracts, and billions of dollars’ worth of stockpiled oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza)—bought from health budgets already under tight constraints—lie unused in warehouses around the world.

      A joint investigation by the BMJ and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has uncovered evidence that raises troubling questions about how WHO managed conflicts of interest among the scientists who advised its pandemic planning, and about the …

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/04/AR2010060403034.html


      By Rob Stein
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Friday, June 4, 2010; 3:52 PM

      European criticism of the World Health Organization’s handling of the H1N1 pandemic intensified Friday with the release of two reports that accused the agency of exaggerating the threat posed by the virus and failing to disclose possible influence by the pharmaceutical industry on its recommendations for how countries should respond.

      The WHO’s response caused widespread, unnecessary fear and prompted countries around the world to waste millions of dollars, according to one report. At the same time, the Geneva-based arm of the United Nations relied on advice from experts with ties to drug makers in developing the guidelines it used to encourage countries to stockpile millions of doses of antiviral medications, according to the second report.

      The reports outlined the drumbeat of criticism that has arisen, primarily in Europe, of how the world’s leading health organization responded to the first influenza pandemic in more than four decades.

      “For WHO, its credibility has been badly damaged,” wrote Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ, a prominent British medical journal, that published one of the reports. “WHO must act now to restore its credibility.”

      10

  • #
    Lank goes viral

    This Ebola outbreak will likely get very much worse before it gets better. There is likely to be panic if it spreads outside west Africa and I suspect there will be serious local breakdown in law and order in west Africa over the next few months.

    Add to Ebola the breakdown in health services for other medical issues, childbirth etc as well as the restrictions to farming and food production as well as many essential services.

    One huge concern I have is the potential for Ebola to be spread by terrorists. The prospect of bedding, clothing etc contaminated by body fluids from an Ebola victim to be carried by an extremist thug and planted in a busy airport or train station anywhere in the world. How long does the virus survive? It can be killed with bleach but what else will keep it at bay?

    100

  • #
    Robert O

    It’s scary, but not fortunately spread by droplets, but pathogens these days take advantage of air travel.

    51

    • #
      Andrew McRae

      Ebola is spread by frequent international air travel, you say? You mean we can blame Al Gore for this too?

      ;)

      111

      • #
        Lank goes viral

        Air travel will certainly spread Ebola. A major concern at the moment are taxis in the west African cities which have the disease. People with Ebola symptoms are taking taxis to clinics and body fluids left in taxis are spread to following passengers. There need not be physical body touching such as handshakes etc for the virus to spread.

        80

        • #
          Roy Hogue

          Easy travel has spread a whole lot of things, even before the airplane was capable of transoceanic flights. The common garden snail eating my wife’s flowers is not native to the Americas, it’s the same thing you eat if you order escargot, and it was imported to the Western Hemisphere for that purpose, to eat. Then someone was a little careless… What we call Devil Grass is another import from Europe, this one apparently quite unintentional. I dare you to get that stuff out of your lawn once it gets started.

          We used to be wise enough to require immunizations and evidence of good health before we would allow anyone into the U.S. But “smarter” people have decided that’s not politically correct. So now we’re wide open to diseases from Central America and the travel is by foot or boat to cross the Rio Grande, not to mention other places around the world.

          40

        • #
          OriginalSteve

          Ok hang on now – I recall reading amedical journal article that basically said they didnt know *which* body fluids were the problem.

          Assessment of the Risk of Ebola Virus Transmission from Bodily Fluids and Fomites

          http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/196/Supplement_2/S142.full

          Although Ebola virus (EBOV) is transmitted by unprotected physical contact with infected persons, few data exist on which specific bodily fluids are infected or on the risk of fomite transmission. Therefore, we tested various clinical specimens from 26 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, as well as environmental specimens collected from an isolation ward, for the presence of EBOV.

          Virus was detected by culture and/or reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction in 16 of 54 clinical specimens (including saliva, stool, semen, breast milk, tears, nasal blood, and a skin swab) and in 2 of 33 environmental specimens.We conclude that EBOV is shed in a wide variety of bodily fluids during the acute period of illness but that the risk of transmission from fomites in an isolation ward and from convalescent patients is low when currently recommended infection control guidelines for the viral hemorrhagic fevers are followed.

          Ebola virus (EBOV; family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus, type species Zaire ebolavirus) circulates in sub-Saharan Africa, where it occasionally causes large outbreaks of severe hemorrhagic fever with high case fatality rates [1]. The natural reservoir remains unknown, although bats are suspected [2]. Because no effective vaccine or specific antiviral therapy is available for Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), the primary control strategy relies on aggressive contact tracing and isolation of patients with suspected cases in specialized isolation wards [3].

          Large outbreaks of EHF are usually driven by personto-person transmission, with caregivers both at home and in hospitals being at particular risk [4]. Although direct contact with bodily fluids is considered to be the major risk factor [5–7], other than confirmation of EBOV in blood during acute illness, few data exist on which specific bodily fluids pose a risk and at what stages of infection.

          Furthermore, although extreme caution is recommended to prevent environmental contamination and exposure in isolation wards and detailed safety guidelines and protocols for decontamination have been developed [3], the role of fomites in the transmission of EBOV has not been explored. To better understand the precise modes of transmission, we sampled various clinical specimens from patients as well as from environmental surfaces in an isolation ward for EHF and analyzed them for the presence of EBOV.

          20

        • #
          Rereke Whakaaro

          Ebola from the West, Boko Haram from the east, ISIL from the north … so much to see, so much to do, in Africa.

          20

          • #
            OriginalSteve

            I feel sorry for the Africans….they have had an awful time of it….

            10

            • #
              Rereke Whakaaro

              That was my point. Central and Western Africa seems doomed to remain locked in a pre-industrial time-warp. Other commentators on this thread have made the point that it is poverty and malnutrition that are probably the root cause of much of the misery. They make a very valid point.

              My comment was a paraphrase of an advertising brochure for an Ecotourism Company, that is arranging trips to demonstrate how Africans are suffering from climate change.

              20

  • #
    Fox From Melbourne

    My heart goes out to everyone and their family’s that are infected with this virus. My fingers are crossed for all the people that are helping out from all around the world. Lets all hope that the vaccine are effective and safe and available very soon.

    90

  • #

    I don’t think I would have the courage to travel to an Ebola hot zone, and help treat the patients, given the horrendous risks. Hat’s off to those brave people.

    110

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      Eric,

      Given the rather detailed measures necessary to avoid being infected yourself I marvel that medical people anywhere who deal with highly infectious diseases stay safe day after day as they work. A simple oversight in the preparation to enter an isolation ward seems like it could be very dangerous, even fatal in many cases. I know I would not be up to maintaining that degree of discipline.

      We owe our doctors and those who work with them, everyone from the nurses to the lab technicians, more than money can ever compensate for.

      70

  • #
    Roy Hogue

    I trained in microbiology…

    Jo, you are a constant surprise. :-)

    60

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      I don’t know which to fear more, deadly diseases of the classical kind like ebola or the deadly diseases of the human heart that are now raging in so many places and doing so much damage.

      If I had to make a judgement right now on which one is the greater threat to humanity in the long run I would say it’s all the violence and dishonesty.

      I see from an Internet piece that an ebola vaccine is being tested. I wonder how it will be tested for effectiveness in humans. And I hope it works.

      I’m not a fatalist, not even close. But long ago I reconciled with the fact that life is a fatal disease and resolved that I would not live constantly looking over my shoulder to see what’s creeping up on me. In the end it hardly seems to matter if I die of disease or from being beheaded by someone who hates me because I’m “not like him”, or if I’m shot by some thug who breaks into my house in the middle of the night.

      I plan as well as I can for tomorrow and then carry out that plan. And there’s little else you can do.

      I’m repulsed equally by death from violence and death from disease. The tragedy is the same. And the living are left to suffer. May God have mercy on them.

      I hope the human race can finally conquer both, however doubtful that may be.

      50

      • #
        Bulldust

        At the risk of getting red thumbs … the ebola thing is scary, like shark attacks are scary, but has only killed as many people (mostly in Africa) as a bad flu season in Australia alone. Yes, the possibilities of a dangerous outbreak are always something to be wary of, but so is also the danger of ignoring far bigger killers which could be dealt with right now. I am reminded again of Hans Rosling’s video about swine flu:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8bUtbODV-Q

        ‘Mundane’ killers that kill far more people each and every year include diarrhea, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, to name but a few. They kill over 1 million people each, every single year. If we want real bang for the buck let’s get these pointless and preventable deaths sorted. Ebola needs some attention right now, and hats off to those brave medicos putting themselves in harm’s way, but let’s also look longer term at the big killers. Here’s a summary list of the big uns:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate

        Thankfully we have some people willing to take on the boring under-reported killers, like the Gates Foundation:

        http://www.gatesfoundation.org/

        It ain’t sexy, but I bet Bill is finding this a lot more satifying than trotting out another second-rate operating system.

        20

        • #

          Bulldust, I beg to differ – Ebola is not like sharks. There is no danger that sharks may mutate, multiply exponentially in hours, become airborne and potentially kill 1 in 4 people from the global population. Though packs of airborne great whites does make an entertaining image.

          If you think that our medical system would cope with a modern black plague, I have some bad news…

          50

          • #
            Greg Cavanagh

            Remembering that most fears are never realised, I’m not worried in the slightest.

            The bird flu from China some years ago was a big storm in a small tea cup. As was the Fire Ant infestation that hit Brisbane docs about 10 years ago, and I haven’t heard anything about them in the last 9 years.

            Personally, I think it would be hard to impossible for a virus truly break out as a plague as you fear. The government would shut down the entire nation (nobody in, nobody out); effectively quarantine the nation as a last resort. But at the same time every medical facility in the world would focus on the problem.

            I also want to respond to Roy; “I’m repulsed equally by death from violence and death from disease.”
            I’m far more repulsed by death from violence or neglect; as these are wilful acts. Death from disease or accident is horrible, but a natural part of this world. And I’m not trivialising these things, I’m just saying they are not wilfully caused.

            30

            • #

              If it becomes airborne even the best medical authorities may not know for weeks until the new pattern becomes clear, tests are done, and the new strain isolated. By that time it may have spread through major cities and airports because the previous infection control procedures will be near useless. Contact tracing and quarantine becomes impossible if one afflicted victim coughs their way through a supermarket.

              The history of past pandemics is brutal. Our supremacy over bacterial infection is remarkable. But it is still only our immune systems that save us from viral infections.

              In en masse viral outbreaks, especially in a totally unexposed population with no natural immunity and without a vaccine ready in mass doses — modern medicine can offer more than witchdoctors — but we are talking percentage improvements – we are not in a different league.

              With IV drips and support they get it down from maybe 90% to under 50% — possibly down to 30%. Western nations have about 5 hospital beds per 1000 people.

              If 1% of the population is critically sick at the same time, could we quarantine, isolate and IV drip them?

              I’m hopeful they will get this under control before it mutates. But rather than just hoping, I’d prefer we stepped in now in a major way while it is still relatively difficult to spread.

              60

              • #
                John Knowles

                I ask myself lots of questions.
                1)So, what is happening during Ebola infection?
                2)Why does the IV drip have an effect?
                3)How does a miniscule particle manage to penetrate the cell wall and hijack our cells’ reproductive apperatus? Viri are not really alive in the normal sense. Ebola can only replicate inside a host cell.

                One of my hunches is that electrolyte balance is critical. Malnutrition upsets blood chemistry and under the influence of cyclic temperature rises we end up short of water in our blood. My wife and I treat fevers with regular sips of water containing trace minerals and do not suppress the fever as it is part of the body’s natural defence mechanism but for children close obs are required. I note that the latest thing at Lithgow Hospital is to not give Panadol to suppress fever as it masks the progress of a disease. (When I used to say this 20 years ago I was regarded as a complete whack-job by most people)
                I notice if I go bush without enough water I soon end up feeling ill and mentally fogged. Could that be partly CO2 concentration making the blood more acidic?
                I need to go back to school.

                10

              • #
                Rereke Whakaaro

                I’m hopeful they will get this under control before it mutates.

                We assume that any mutation will make things worse. That is not necessarily true.

                Mutation tends to be random, so we might end up with a strain that, while still contagious, ceases to be terminal for its host. Such a mutation would be advantageous for the virus, in terms of its spread, and would thus eventually come to dominate.

                30

              • #
                Greg Cavanagh

                I’m all for action now, on a known and visible problem. Get in and do it.

                I’m not prepared to panic and fear over something that’s “possible”.

                00

            • #
              OriginalSteve

              I think cool heads need to pevail.

              I think we need to fight problems with facts, not what ifs.

              I agree with Jo – our medical system will collapse within a couple of weeks and we will have martial law and a form of barely controlled chaos.

              If we did have a catastrophic outbreak, we’d turn many many suburban homes into make-shift funeral pyres with a gallon of diesel to contain the risk….if you think people would drag corpses out of houses into wagons for burial, think again.

              I would suggest the most likley way for Ebola to become a pandemic would be if it has been deliberately weaponized and released.

              20

            • #
              Jaymez

              Greg, it is hard to say what may have happened if Asian countries hadn’t culled chickens and ducks in any area where avian flu was discovered.

              China is not one to take imagined scares seriously, but they commanded the massive culling of fowl, and the spraying of all areas where fowl were kept in the places where avian flu was tracked to.

              It is worth remembering that the 1918-1920 Spanish flu pandemic infected something in the order of 500 million people globally, killing 50 – 100 million. Three to five percent of the world’s population. In today’s terms that would be 210m – 350m people. And the Ebola virus has a much higher mortality rate so you could double or triple that number.

              I think it is reasonable to take precautions!

              00

            • #
              Roy Hogue

              I also want to respond to Roy; “I’m repulsed equally by death from violence and death from disease.”

              I’m far more repulsed by death from violence or neglect; as these are wilful acts.

              Greg,

              Your point is duly noted. Yes wilful acts do carry an extra degree of — what shall I call it? — horror. But the diseases that kill are also a horror to think about.

              However, losing my first wife to the inevitable complications of her diabetes would not have hurt less had she been murdered instead. It just plain hurts either way. You’re angry either way. In neither case can you do anything about the pain. Of course the murderer can be punished. But that’s no consolation for the loss.

              Any premature death is equally dreadful to those who suffer the loss. It’s much easier if it’s the result of living a reasonably long life and the cause is natural to aging.

              00

          • #
            Yonniestone

            Jo I’m not going to make a comment on the topic as reading the posts on this have proven hugely informative yet again.

            However I cant let you off mentioning flying sharks without referencing the film Sharknado, possibly the worst film made but compelling viewing for it’s stupidity alone, enjoy.

            30

        • #
          Roy Hogue

          It’s wonderful to have both a high profile name and gobs of money. But Gates holds some positions I couldn’t support even if you paid me. Rather than go into all that I’ll just say thank you, Bill, for this effort. And I hope you get you head a little straighter on a few other things.

          00

  • #
    Tim

    Who to believe?

    Australia’s Department of Health spokeswoman: “While Ebola is a very serious disease, it is not highly contagious. Ebola is not influenza… It is not caught through coughing or sneezing. It is only caught through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal.”

    And then there are the Canadian scientists who have shown that the deadliest form of the Ebola virus could be transmitted by air between species. In experiments, they demonstrated that the virus was transmitted from pigs to monkeys without any direct contact between them.

    After all these years of studying the virus, surely we can get an answer on this.

    20

    • #

      Tim it is a moving field. There are at least five different known strains of Ebola. At the moment the Dept of Health spokesperson is probably right that it is not aerosolized.

      But other versions of Ebola have become so under laboratory conditions.
      From the NY Times article

      “In 2012, a team of Canadian researchers proved that Ebola Zaire, the same virus that is causing the West Africa outbreak, could be transmitted by the respiratory route from pigs to monkeys, both of whose lungs are very similar to those of humans. Richard Preston’s 1994 best seller “The Hot Zone” chronicled a 1989 outbreak of a different strain, Ebola Reston virus, among monkeys at a quarantine station near Washington. The virus was transmitted through breathing, and the outbreak ended only when all the monkeys were euthanized. We must consider that such transmissions could happen between humans, if the virus mutates.”

      Almost all viruses undergo a similar pattern of long term infectious transition. They spread from a different animal host, start off highly deadly to humans, but not easily spread, and gradually versions that don’t kill as fast, but spread more easily, take over the viral population. It’s natural selection. Some viruses like herpes simplex, or cytomegalovirus are so well “adapted” they can infect and spread with few clinical symptoms in a large slice of the population. Other viruses have built themselves right into our genomes…

      Still others like HIV evolve within each person changing their coats — which is what makes it so hard to get a vaccine to work.

      I’m grateful that there are so many potential vaccines available, I was talking to someone working on a possible one in Australia today that may work against all five strains. We may be lucky. But as I said, there are two rising curves. We must contain the exponential growth.

      80

  • #
    JPAK

    May I throw in a slightly different perspective on infection. Why did polio sweep America and >90% show zero sign of the disease? Why did N. Carolina register only 2 to 300 cases when they prepared for over 2000 ? I propose that most people were healthy enough to illicit an adequate immune response to the wild polio virus.
    In horticulture it is well known that certain conditions and diseases caused by fungi and bacteria, only affect weak plants. Could it be that Africa has widespread deep nutritional issues?

    60

    • #
      meltemian

      I think you may be correct:-
      http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article3565

      “the mortality rate amongst people with a particular disease is generally higher in poor countries. The question whether somebody can survive Ebola depends not only on the virus, but crucially on the state of someone‘s immune system, that is on the power of resistance of the individual. If you imagine, that the average life expectancy for instance in Sierra Leone is between 48 and 49 years, and the infant mortality rate 159 out of 1000 births, it becomes clear, that the virus is particularly lethal amongst such a weakened and undernourished population .”

      50

      • #
        Unmentionable

        Your link says:

        “Racism
        If we consider the way the so-called international community is dealing with the present Ebola-epidemic, one can`t resist the impression that racism is playing a central part. Affected foreigners are not treated like the local population – the latter have to stay in the local, underequipped facilities and is not evacuated to special units in North America or Europe. The recently released experimental therapies are only available in limited quantities and therefore is to ask the question of distributive justice – if they really work.

        Notabene: Ignorance, hunger and malnourishment have a decisive disadvantage compared to a virus disease: They are not contagious and so they cannot be imported by plane to Europe or North America. Otherwise they would be fought as fast and consequently like it is done presently with the Ebola virus……”

        I reject the actually racist anti-western utter BS written within that link.

        The countries in Africa have known about this disease and its horrible potential for a very long time now and they’ve done almost nothing effective about it, given they could not possibly have failed to foresee the current situation developing at some point. Yet somehow I keep getting the impression they always assumed someone else would be able to help them if they didn’t first help themselves.

        What I do hope people in Africa, and every other part of the world understands is that if this does escalate (and lets face it, the curve implies that) and then a spiraling situation requires an international quarantine of an entire continent, it’s never been the responsibility of anyone, except the people of Africa itself, to invest in the community will, the medical research, the planning, training and hardware and social commitment necessary to defeat this disease early.

        They have failed, very early, and much too easily.

        The western world is in no way responsible for that situation. If the people of Africa now don’t get an African-originated vaccine developed in time, nor one from a Western source delivered in time, then they have no one to blame but themselves. Already I’ve heard people openly voicing blaming to the West, for why we haven’t provided a vaccine yet, etc. Railing false accusations at those who may actually help you after you didn’t even help yourself, won’t go down well at all if that sort of asinine nonsense is allowed to continue to undermine cooperation.

        There will of course be a massive but belated global rush to cooperate when this does finally go to big to ignore any longer, but harboring immature expectations and accusations about other countries would be an extremely poor reaction to the now inevitable outcome of a massively inadequate international response lag. The same goes for adequate medical supplies and the pending necessity for massive foreign aid deliveries. At some point the ability to deliver anything will become 1,000 times less than immediate needs (i.e. it will effectively seem to have almost stopped).

        Everyone has known for years we could be facing this situation one day but what has Africa done about making doubly sure that it wouldn’t get that far?

        Hopefully they do get all of this and much more from all external global sources, as well, and that we can together ‘beat the curve’ but I see little suggestion of that at this late hour. So I hope Africans and everyone else does not start rending their garments and pulling their hair and pointing their finger at everyone else while making unrealistic demands and fear-driven grand errors of judgement while scolding others for doing all that can when the countries affected have fail much too easily and much too early.

        It’s just as much the blame of individual people in the affected countries and not only the responsibility of their governments and institutions for why this is going to pot. In the end we do live in a world of biological evolutionary struggle and if we act irresponsibly there are no second chances. So everyone in every affected community is responsible for how this now turns out. If people want to point fingers they should point at themselves first as that would be closer to the truth about who’s really responsible for individual, community and national survival actually being on the line.

        In the end this will come down to brutal choices, because the need to protect ourselves against another’s irresponsibility or protracted negligence can quickly become the first order of business and effectively the only order of business. In other words, countries in west central Africa better not be waiting for foreigners and trillions of dollars in resources to come to the rescue. By the time the rest of the world must act, no one should be under any illusion that this will then avoid the very worst of outcomes developing within Africa.

        This ridiculous chip on the shoulder attitude about western countries and the endless insinuation of racism is hardly productive, intelligent or conducive to the sort of responses needed. Africans who have this attitude problem better get over it because the west has had more than enough of being continually accused of racism by actual African racists. In the current atmosphere there will be no sympathy for people who want to keep making up such defamatory counterproductive malignant krud and poke us in the eye as we thanklessly expend our resources to help people who seem to be self concerned racist ingrates. We could just walk away and leave you deal with it, given you’re doing so well. In fact we have every reason to be extremely angry (and soon will be, btw) that African states, governments and communities have been so negligent, incompetent and irresponsible that they’ve now failed the basics and placed individuals, families, cities and countries elsewhere on earth in danger of contagion and decimation. So now would be a very good time for racist bigoted ignorant elements within African communities to shut their gob and grow up.

        One way or another we’re going to have a very sober and much abridged practical international discussion (practical as in triage) soon about what’s really going to be done and what’s not doing to be done in time. And how we’ll halt it from traveling further. This may involve a fighting-retreat in Africa until we impose an international travel ban to spare the other continents. We’ll get one collective chance to cooperate globally to limit travel and trade and save other continents while we create enough vaccine to reopen borders and trade relations.

        No one wins from any of this, but if some small-minded bigots in Africa, or some other countries want to use this as some sort of twisted anti-western wedge to divide the world and it’s efforts to assist from here, that’s going to backfire extremely badly.

        200

        • #
          Wally

          We saw similar unpleasantness about AIDS about 10+ years back. An expectation that the rich west would somehow apply magic at no cost to make the problem go away.

          In Africa, there are two very simple means of preventing the spread of AIDS: Condoms (but oh no the churches won’t allow that message, and the men don’t feel manly). And encouraging monogamy. It’s little talked about but non-monogamous behaviour is very common in Africa. Stop aids is simple: stop f@#$ing around.

          However, we’re all naughty rich nasty racist bigots if we say such things. Makes my blood boil.

          111

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      Some parts of Africa certainly do suffer from malnutrition, poor sanitation and other things. But I’m doubtful that the human body can fight off ebola once infected with it. Witness the two U.S. aid workers who contracted it. They were well fed and in very good health. Both were able to survive it because intensive counter measures were made available in time to keep their bodies going long enough for them to defeat the virus.

      Where state of the art medical care is not available people die of even less deadly things than ebola. Which points out Africa’s basic problem — they are a century behind in so many things necessary to avoid or fight off disease.

      50

    • #

      Ebola is able to turn down parts of the human immune system. It happens faster in some than in others. About half appear able to resist it with medical care. Just giving people IV drips to replace fluids appears to help. The tragedy is the people and children getting no care, left on the floor without any carer at all.

      But the choices being made by victims and carers must be the most ugly and awful decisions at the moment.

      70

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        But the choices being made by victims and carers must be the most ugly and awful decisions at the moment.

        Having been there, though life was not at stake, I can assure you that the decisions carry more dread than can be imagined beforehand.

        You sometimes literally have to play God and then hope the doctors are nearly superhuman.

        30

        • #
          John Knowles

          Me too RH.
          There’s nothing like being a powerless parent with a sick child and an RN mother saying “this does not look good, -we ought to be in a hospital”. That was after my first borns first triple antigen. High pitched screaming, rapid hand tremours and body spasms, very high temp etc (often the precursor to brain damage). We were one of the fortunates and he calmed down by 6 a.m. and our local GP advised that we’d kill him with a second triple antigen (over sensitisation reaction) so that was the last shot he had until he was well and truly old enough to have a robust immune system.

          30

          • #
            KinkyKeith

            Appreciate your predicament.

            Why do governments still foist Triple Antigens on us?

            We appoint governments to sort out best practice and look after us.

            It appears we taxpayers are just an inconvenient afterthought.

            KK

            20

            • #
              Robert JM

              Because the alternative is sticking baby with three times as many needles for no benefit.

              10

            • #
              Roy Hogue

              We appoint governments to sort out best practice and look after us.

              KK,

              I’m not so sure we do that. We train and license medical people to do that for us. And if we really do as you suggest, we should rethink it. The history of government involvement in things gives us Lewandowsky and the ABC, not Jonas Salk.

              Roy

              00

              • #
                Roy Hogue

                And yes, I know it’s a very difficult proposition to get government out of something once they have their hands on it. But we still ought to try.

                11

        • #
          Andrew McRae

          You don’t play God, Roy, that’s the doctor’s job!
          Or at least some of them act that way.

          And few would fault a doctor for having high standards, obviously.

          What puzzles me about such people is that they must surely have a great aversion to ever admitting they were wrong about anything. So how do they update their diagnostic and treatment methods for the gazillion conditions out there in response to changing and updated medical evidence? How do you stop doing it one way and start doing it a different way without admitting at some level that your past efforts were flawed? They would have to convince themselves that using the latest information is the path to perfection. But then how many times must the new thing be trialled and replicated before it is the latest and the greatest, not just the latest? Tough calls for the lab coats, that’s why they get the big bucks.

          I imagine engineers have similar issues when new materials are invented, new instrumentation products are released, or new algorithms are developed.

          10

          • #
            Roy Hogue

            Andrew,

            When faced with making certain decisions for someone you love where the result of any of the choices is not certain, yes you do the equivalent of playing God. The doctor isn’t the one who should make the choice. He should give the best advice he can and then the patient or the patient’s representative should make that choice.

            On the other hand, several times after hearing what’s available to me I’ve asked a doctor what he would do in my place. A good doctor will probably give you the most informed opinion you can get and so far I’ve come out ahead that way. My life or even quality of life wasn’t at stake but I might do that even if my life was at stake.

            And if the doctor doesn’t want to answer that question then to me at least, that’s the time to find another MD.

            10

  • #
    Philip

    On vaccination: most of the anti-vaccination crowd make as much sense as the warmists. They take some very small but undeniable fact such as damage that may be caused by the vaccination itself in a vanishingly small proportion of applications, and use it to cause panic.

    However, remember how vaccination works to suppress epidemics. It’s not so much that the individual is protected, it’s is the herd immunity that is important in killing off an epidemic before it really gets started.

    That leads governments and other organizations to make calculations such as if the death rate from a disease is X percent, and the death rate from vaccination is Y prevent, where Y is much smaller than X, then it’s worth condemning a few thousand people to death via vaccination to save the tens of thousands (including many not vaccinated).

    Fine from the public health perspective, but catastrophic for those killed.

    It is a clinical method of achieving the same result as slaughtering whole herds of cattle when one is infected by foot and mouth disease.

    If bullets were used the eradicate affected villages, you could probably stop the spread just as effectively as with vaccination. This is effectively what is done when villages are isolated. It condemns most of the village to contracting the disease and dying. A bullet may be more humane.

    Most vaccines are well tested and very safe, but when faced with something like Ebola, beware rapidly developed and possibly forced vaccinations. Someone, somewhere may well be taking the public health view of things and consider a 10% or more death rate from the vaccine as being acceptable.

    10

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      My reply to cohenite here is based on personal experience and a lot of thought since then.

      The Star Trek view that the benefit of the many outweighs the benefit of the few is to do the worst possible thing to a human being — disrespect their humanity and their right to choose after being given all the information about the choice that you have to give them.

      These are not enemies who’re out to kill you. If they were Typhoid Mary who carried the infection around endlessly without being sick herself, then it’s time to force something. But I can’t see governments doing cold blooded calculations, even though I know they may do just that. You can quarantine infected groups and do other things but forcing a vaccine on someone unwilling (or withholding it because you’re not sure of it) when lives are at stake is no answer.

      If anyone should play God it should be the adult in the room. Not a government agency.

      51

      • #
        Philip

        My most recent experience of the public vs personal health came when my wife had her knee replaced.
        She needs regular periodontal cleaning, and we read that a short course of antibiotics would be needed for each of these since the joint remains susceptible to blood borne infection, which in turn can lead to blood septicemia, and death.

        The surgeon refused to write up the prescription, because the college of surgeons has decide that this is no longer required. Apparently not because there is any less risk of infection, but because of worries about over-use of antibiotics.

        Apparently, it is fine for a few (usually older) people to die a horrible and painful death in a vain attempt to reduce the rate of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains — of course, there is no restriction on tons of antibiotics being used in animal feedstuffs to improve agri-industry profits.

        Beware, your “health professional” may be happy to sacrifice you for the greater good. Especially if its the cheaper option.

        70

      • #
        Wally

        Gotta disagree with you in part.

        Somebody infected and walking around who won’t take a vaccine on a major communicable disease needs to be locked up in isolation.

        Simple. You can’t allow a spreader to keep spreading.

        Now if its flu, or whooping cough that’s probably a bit unreasonable. If its something like Ebola, I think its entirely reasonable.

        If I were infected, I’d be asked to go into isolation to protect others.

        You talk about the adult in the room, there’s an awful lot of people who don’t have a very adult view of anything much.

        60

        • #
          Retired now

          Sorry, but someone who has had a vaccine can still carry a communicable disease even if they don’t get it, just as a person who hasn’t been vaccinated can (despite being well).

          Having a vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t get the disease, nor that you may “get” it but not be symptomatic. It ain’t as simple as that.

          So if ebola gets here we, as a family, will spend a lot of time in social isolation.

          30

  • #
    Chuck Nolan

    “The WHO is organizing a better cleaner method. It’s one of the few times I think a government — dare I say, even a UN solution — is something to foster and hope for.”

    Yeah, maybe the UN will come up with another program like “Oil for Food” only it could be “Ebola Free Blood for Oil” or some such.
    Like they care about people.
    Remember, they believe there are too many of us unwashed masses.
    Talk about giving a 9 year old kid a machine gun…

    50

  • #
    Tim Spence

    There’s another important factor or pathogen and that’s the muti, traditional medicine that you see on sale. I travelled through that zone and there is a colossal amount of animal parts from monkeys to pangolins in almost every marketplace.

    Any scavenger that could dig up human bones or eat an animal that has eaten human bones can forward the disease on.

    All patients should go into quarantine and all corpses must be incinerated until the disease is eradicated

    50

  • #
    Jaymez

    What a fascinating and informative read. Why can’t the so called ‘science writers’ of main stream media come up with fact filled material like this, instead of just repeating the latest press release from Government s or NGOs?

    Also may I note that it is at times like this that I am in utter admiration of the brave and dedicated medical and support staff from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Their volunteer medical staff in the field are paid a basic living wage to do the hard, dangerous work without the funding and comforts of Western hospitals. They could all have much easier lives and make more money in a more comfortable and safer environment elsewhere.

    While a lot of their doctors, nurses, midwives, surgeons, anaesthetists, epidemiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, logistics experts, water and sanitation engineers, administrators often come from overseas, much of the support work is done by locals and as many locals as are available are used to deliver primary care. This means on average no matter which country, about 90% of the team are drawn from locals.

    I have had the experience of visiting a couple of front-line MSF facilities, one in Cambodia and one in Papua New Guinea and couldn’t help be impressed with the work ethic and the lack of wastage as well as the frugal attitude to expenditure.

    Every year I look at their financial reports to ensure they remain one of the leanest more efficient global charitable organisations around. You can check a financial summary here: http://www.msf.org/sites/msf.org/files/international_financial_report_2013_summary.pdf

    MSF do very well to keep 80% of their expenditure directly on missions, 14% goes into fundraising to keep about 5 million individual donors giving, and only 6% on management and administration.

    This is why I always find some money for that wonderful organisation each year. If you were thinking of helping in the fight against this scourge you can link to your country’s MSF organisation here: http://www.msf.org/donate

    70

  • #
    John F. Hultquist

    Thanks, Jo, for your special input. There is much sad news in today’s world. Still, I remain optimistic.

    Microsoft co-founders have thrown a few dollars toward the current event. There will be others and likely some we will not hear of but still contributing. Years ago, when I was just getting interested in reading, I found our town had a nice library, as did many small towns, because a nasty industrialist had donated a great deal of money to fund these. See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library
    In similar fashion, the nasty Koch brothers have donated millions to medicine. Great wealth often frequently generates amazing generosity. There is much our societies would not have if this process did not exist.

    70

  • #
    Steve Brown

    I know a little bit about Africa (well, Northern Rhodesia/Zambia) having grown up there, been educated there and worked there.
    The local people, regardless of tribal affiliation, regard the Government and all associated with Government, with very deep distrust. They have never been the recipients of anything worthwhile from anyone connected with Government. Anyone connected in any way with Government is treated with profound distrust. No questions asked by any Government-connected person will ever be answered honestly because nothing will ever come from honest answers. No Zambian welcomes any intrusion upon their life by any member of the “wapamwamba“, the self-proclaimed elite.
    I have no doubt whatsoever that the same attitudes prevail in West Africa, where Ebola is wreaking such dreadful havoc. I am convinced that the local people, those living in villages somewhat removed from the slum-ridden cities, will deny that anything is wrong in their particular village even though many are dying, hidden from the cursory searches by the disinterested ‘officials’. The local people do not want to attract any attention from the Government because that means only one thing, trouble. The villagers want only to live out their already miserable lives without any unwanted intrusion which disturbs their day-to-day existence. I have no doubt that the witch-doctors in these villages are also responsible for fostering the idea that the ‘outsiders’ coming to offer assistance are, in fact, looking to steal body parts for muti or some such fanciful idea.
    Fanciful? An example of what goes on.
    When my Father died in Zambia a 24-hour watch had to be kept over his body in the mortuary; my brother and I, together with two Zambian men who’d known my father for many years, had to maintain this watch. Why? Two reasons. One was to prevent the collection of water used to wash my Father’s body for use as ‘medicine’, the second was to prevent the removal of his brain tissue, via the nostrils, for useage in ‘witchcraft’. Such precautions are normal!
    The West is fighting a losing battle against the superstitions, prejudices and beliefs in Africa.
    No-one has tried to harness the powers of the local witch-doctors, the ones most likely to be believed by the populace at large. All overseas efforts to combat this outbreak of Ebola are being directed through the wrong agency, the Government. No efforts are being made to deal directly with those most affected, the local people. This deficiency is dooming to failure all of the international efforts being made so far.

    130

    • #

      Unfortunately they are going to have to learn the hard way. The West used to have witch doctors too, it took centuries, and an awfully painful lesson in tragedy and death, for people to realise that scientifically trained doctors could deliver better results. And if anything, the Ebola outbreak risks undermining any faith which has grown – because everyone knows there is b*gger all even Western doctors can do to help victims of Ebola.

      20

      • #
        Wally

        The west still does. Homeopathy, reflexology, anti-vax, I could go on. It’s just that these days modern medicine is the mainstream.

        Modern medicine has very recent roots. Really, anything pre about 1850 is not medicine as we know it. And if you get right down to it, western modern medicine (with hygiene, diagnostic tools and tests, etc) is really a post WW2 thing.

        20

    • #
      Wally

      My theory of civilisation is that it takes a society around 200 – 200 years to develop what we regard as civilisation (ie personal freedoms of varying degrees, health care, taxes that are not just going to corrupt officials, governments that we can trust to a degree, rule of law).

      No amount of forcing that onto communities makes it happen faster. Witness places like Iraq :) Freedom by force worked real well there.

      Societies need to grow out of despotism or rule by dictator or crackpot loony, generally by themselves, at their own pace, and develop suitable civil approaches and standards. The current evil nasty bigoted racist west took a couple of thousand years to get to where it is today. And Africa and other lesser developed parts of the world will take similar times. Perhaps a bit less as they can learn from the mistakes of others if they wish.

      But it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen by force from the outside.

      20

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        May I disagree?

        We had a self governing society going in Iraq, a place you call hopeless, with two groups who had been enemies for centuries starting to work together. They started cooperating not because they trusted each other but because we got them to trust us and our promise to stay around to keep things on path until that fledgling democracy could handle its affairs without help. The lack of a status of forces agreement is used by Obama as his excuse for pulling out all U.S. troops. But he never made a try for it much less stood up to Maliki publicly and spoke the truth, that Iraq would fall without us, because he could only see an advantage to himself if he pulled out.

        George W. Bush predicted exactly what would happen if we left, as did I — Iraq would come unglued and fall. He and I were right. Maliki started throwing out Suni officers and government officials because they were members of the wrong tribe and put in yes-men. He returned to age old hatreds instead of what was good for Iraq. It was all downhill after that.

        So please, you are wrong about Iraq. It was a major victory with free elections being held and the country starting to function like a democracy. But just as we didn’t suddenly abandon Japan or Germany right after WW II because they needed our support, we shouldn’t have abandoned Iraq either and for the same reason.

        Obama’s inability to be a leader is directly responsible for the current trouble getting a foothold in Iraq and unless he finds his balls, Iraq will fall to ISIS as most of it already has. It will be a miracle if I turn out to be wrong. My only mistake was in thinking it would fall to Iran. Now Iran is so afraid of ISIS that they may help in the fight against ISIS.

        ” Freedom by force worked real well there.”

        No, there was great yearning for freedom from any kind of dictator. It was fertile ground for planting the seed of democracy. And we did, with thousands across Iraq risking the threat of death to walk to the polls and vote, marking themselves as having voted by dipping a finger in bright purple indelible ink which marked them as voters to the terrorists for a long time afterward. But they did it anyway. Iraqis wanted democracy. Then we left and that seed wasn’t watered and has almost died.

        It would pay well for the rest of the world to give more attention to the facts before complaining. The same attention to reality would benefit many Americans because we’re going to be fighting the enemy on our soil this time if we don’t take them on right there on their soil. And now even more of our finest will die. Some things are worth the fight and Iraq was one of them. Now everyone who died there has died in vain, accomplishing nothing.

        America, do not do that again. Win the fight and this time, hold on to the victory. It means something larger than yourself.

        10

        • #
          Mark D.

          Roy, your observations are right but you aren’t demonstrating disagreement with Wally. Wally is suggesting that it takes a “society” some 200 years to develop. No outside force will speed it up.

          You have pointed out that the outside force was removed and in fact the “society” reverted. IMHO that actually supports what Wally has postulated.

          10

          • #
            Roy Hogue

            Mark,

            Maybe I can’t read. But doesn’t, ” Freedom by force worked real well there,” sound sarcastic about it. It didn’t take 200 years to convince the Iraqi on the street that democracy and personal freedom were better than Saddam. They already knew. It might have taken 10 or 20 years of riding herd to keep things working. But not 200.

            I appreciate your input but I respectfully disagree with your premise. :-)

            00

    • #
      KinkyKeith

      A very useful read.

      Thanks

      KK

      00

  • #

    The world did once face a horrible airborne disease with a high mortality rate – Smallpox.

    Smallpox killed between 300 million and 500 million people, just in the 20th century, according to Wikipedia. In historical times, Smallpox probably contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_smallpox

    Interestingly, Ebola has a similar incubation period to Smallpox, though it is far more lethal. Nevertheless, historical studies of Smallpox might yield some clues on how this horrible disease can be controlled.

    30

  • #
    DonS

    Thanks for the timely and interesting article on Ebola Jo.

    Must say I’m not as worried about it as you. Given that the small number who become infected would probably not provide a large enough pool, over long enough time, for the virus to find a new way of spreading. Also its rapid lethality tends to prevent it spreading widely into new populations. Seems to me that as hominids have been in Africa for over 5 million years any easy vector into human populations would have appeared before now. I’m no microbiologist so I admit I might not have a grasp of the subtleties that you have.

    Just for some perspective: In 2012 WHO estimated 473000-789000 deaths from Malaria, mostly in African children, in that year alone.
    Every year 250000-500000 die from influenza which rises to tens of millions in pandemic years. I think the limited world health budget has enough to be getting on with and I do question the notion, given the above figures, that the health systems of 5 nations are collapsing due to just 5000 cases of Ebola.

    There are any number of nasty viruses at large in the world. In Australia we have Lyssavirus and Hendra virus carried in our flying fox populations. Lyssavirus is 100% fatal, only 3 cases so far, and Hendra virus is 60% fatal. There is as much chance for these to find a quick vector into human populations as there is for Ebola. Indeed Lyssa can go directly from bat to human through a bite or scratch, just need a mossy to get involved and all hell brakes loose.

    From what I’ve seen of the coverage of this current Ebola outbreak I get the impression that there are just as many medical carpetbaggers roaming the world begging for government money as there are those of the environmental type. We need to keep these viruses under close observation and provide the medical assistance to the victims as needed but lets not rush to panic mode, particularly at the urging of our all (not)knowing media.

    30

    • #

      The problem is Ebola is a gnat’s hair away from being uncontrollable.

      In some mammals such as Pigs it *is* an airborne disease, so it will require less of a mutation for it to develop stronger airborne capability in humans, than other diseases such as bird flu. I’m personally skeptical of claims Ebola isn’t airborne – the large number of health workers being struck down by the disease to me suggests the possibility that they are taking the wrong precautions, rather than slipping up, they surely have the motivation to get it right, as much as humanly possible.

      In addition, Africa is a bit of a special case – the high population of people with immune systems compromised by HIV provides an easy leg up for Viruses which are still learning to attack humans. So the risk of something nastier emerging from the African epidemic is probably higher than if say Ebola got loose in a modern country like Australia.

      20

  • #

    An interesting factoid about Ebola – the infection rate is estimated at 2 infections per victim, which is similar to the SARS epidemic which struck China and Taiwan.

    For comparison, the infection rate of viruses like the flu is around 7 infections per victim, which is why flu is so hard to control. China and Taiwan managed to control SARS very quickly, because with such a low infection rate, and because (after some initial foot dragging in China) they mounted a robust response.

    The aim of MSF and other organisations in the field in Africa is to find a way to bring the infection rate down below 1 new infection per victim – if the rate drops below 1, the outbreak will fizzle.

    The nightmare is, if Ebola develops improved transmission capability, and climbs up to that magic 7 infections per victim, it will not be possible to contain it inside Africa.

    10

  • #
    MadJak

    I have been watching this one with increasing dismay since early June.

    The real tragedy is that the countries affected are so incredibly under resourced, they can’t seem to ramp up their efforts in time to be one step ahead – or at least liberia can’t at the moment. Having a separate outbreak in the DRC just complicates matters further.

    Much in the same way that in some areas of some countries, the only education available is teaching hate, in some areas of western Africa, the only medical expertise is that which is provided by volunteer groups and good samaritans and is severely limited. The cause is similar as is the outcome. The tactic to resolve it is the same though.

    Right now, there are increasing reports of people injecting themselves with the blood from survivors of the outbreak. I’m no medical expert, but the words mutation spring to mind here.

    Put simply, this outbreak gets stopped in Africa now or it gets stopped next door later on. The sooner we in the west can invest in basic medical care for each and every person on the planet, the sooner we will mitigate the risks of these sorts of outbreaks. The same goes for education as well. Both would be comparatively cheap.

    Just my 2c worth.

    20

  • #
    Truthseeker

    One thing that this shows is that those who disagree with evolution conveniently forget about microbiology where it occurs at a stupendous pace.

    41

  • #
    Anton

    Well, let’s see. There are multiple factors involved in the spread of an epidemic and its lethality that the media aren’t mentioning, including HOW contagious a disease is ie how good the virus is at getting into someone after landing on them, how much its contagiousness might vary with climatic conditions (tropical Africa is about as hot and humid as it gets), whether the average standard of personal hygiene makes any difference, whether certain populations have more genetic resistance than others, how good the average immune system is in the West relative to Africa, and above all the population density. But yes, the black death in the mid-14th century took between 1/3 and 1/2 of the population of all Europe within days when it passed through a region.

    I do recall that Chinese geneticists did a very dangerous experiment by deliberately creating a cross of that sort involving avian flu and a trans-species vector, but thankfully it didn’t escape their laboratory.

    Back on regular topics, “former Spanish agriculture and environment minister Miguel Arias Canete was tapped by the EU Commission to take over a consolidated energy and climate office. Canete will be replacing Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger in what is seen as a huge blow to Europe’s global warming efforts”:

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/09/12/eu-dismantles-its-climate-commission-amid-economic-struggles/

    20

  • #
    bobl

    I would just like to point out here that if the same amount of money that’s poured into global warming were instead used in medical research and medicine distribution, then many of the diseases that were mentioned in this thread and probably many cancers too, would be history. One more point, in the west we are blessed with education and information, most of us over 50s know how to treat a case of measles, to the point that in Australia at least, Measles was a pretty innocuous disease even before vaccination, (zero deaths well back), proper management, isolation practices etc were known by the average joe. Frankly a lot of that knowledge is now lost because we rely on vaccines and antibiotics instead of good disease management practice, to the point that our herd immunity is suffering because we don’t allow kids to play in the dirt any more and they live in an unnatural, virtually sterile inside environment.

    PS physical money is one of the biggest communicators of disease – personal plastic cards are one of the best health inventions of the recent century.

    40

  • #
    warcroft

    A couple of years ago the US military, police, firefighters, medical, etc ran training operations against ‘zombie hoards’.
    They literally had people dress up as zombies and the military ran operations to learn how to combat such an outbreak.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/zombie-apocalypse-trainining-military-halo-corp-_n_2036996.html

    Back then we thought “Why would they be doing that?”
    Now we have the Ebola outbreak which is transmitted in very much the same way as becoming a zombie is.

    Imagine tens (or hundreds) of thousands of people infected. . . desperate for treatment, food, shelter, help. But contact with them will make you a zombie infected with ebola too. Becoming one of them.

    Whats even more crazy is when the outbreak happened they started flying infected people to other countries.
    Who does that!? You dont do that! You lock them down!

    00

    • #
      warcroft

      Oh, and this from a couple of months ago. . .

      Scientist Creates New Flu Virus That Can Kill All Of Humanity

      http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2014/07/scientist-creates-new-flu-virus-that-can-kill-all-of-humanity/

      Thats reassuring. . .

      00

    • #

      Warcroft,
      Ebola is an old disease that stays in an animal host – like monkeys and bats. It is no mystery that it has appeared again, it was just a matter of time:

      Rates of genetic change are one hundred times slower than Influenza A in humans, but on the same magnitude of that of Hepatitis B. Using these rates, the Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus are estimated to have diverged several thousand years ago.
      http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Ebola.aspx

      Futhermore:

      Between 1976 and 1998, from 30,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods sampled from outbreak regions, no ”Ebolavirus” was detected apart from some genetic material found in six rodents (”Mus setulosus” and ”Praomys”) and one shrew (”Sylvisorex ollula”) collected from the Central African Republic. The virus was detected in the carcasses of gorillas, chimpanzees, and duikers during outbreaks in 2001 and 2003, which later became the source of human infections. However, the high mortality from infection in these species makes them unlikely as a natural reservoir. Bats were known to reside in the cotton factory in which the index cases for the 1976 and 1979 outbreaks were employed, and they have also been implicated in Marburg infections in 1975 and 1980. The absence of clinical signs in these bats is characteristic of a reservoir species. In a 2002–2003 survey of 1,030 animals which included 679 bats from Gabon and the Republic of the Congo, 13 fruit bats were found to contain ”Ebolavirus” RNA. As of 2005, three fruit bat species (”Hypsignathus monstrosus”, ”Epomops franqueti”, and ”Myonycteris torquata”) have been identified as carrying the virus while remaining asymptomatic. They are believed to be a natural host species, or reservoir, of the virus.

      20

      • #

        I live on the edge of a tropical botanic garden full of fruit trees, so the possibility Ebola could infect native populations of Australian fruit bats is a bit of a worry.

        10

        • #
          Unmentionable

          I live on the edge of a tropical botanic garden full of fruit trees

          It’s that time of year again Eric and I’ve got a flying fox in the tree outside my window about 5 meters away as I type this. An interesting fact I learned last year was more aircraft hit bats in Australia than they strike birds, and it’s mostly during Spring and early Summer of course. The little sods have solid bones too not hollow bones like actual birds do so they do serious damage. When a boy I lived in Cairns for a couple of years and every evening in Spring the flying foxes would come out of the mangroves in the inlet and the sky would fill with tens of thousands of them. They’re the air borne equivalent of the rabbit. Every morning the car would have several runny bonus splat deposits that you had to wash off. The idea that these could be laced with a virus like this one is a rather horrifying thought as they do it under all the trees in your garden, and on the paths, and roofs, and roads as well. Not a fan.

          30

  • #
    Ceetee

    Just one quibble Jo, that being the hope of a UN initiative. Bit of a forlorn hope since they have long ago become part of the problem and not the solution. I remember when they sat on their chuffs while hundreds of thousands of people were hacked and clubbed to death in Rwanda. The UN seems to have an interesting attitude to Africa that helps neither Africans themselves or the world at large. In the case of Ebola they (most member states) will see this as a uniquely African problem as they always do with African emergencies IMHO. They will hope for containment and management but with limited input or help. If this virus does evolve God forbid as you describe and finds it’s way into the first world then suddenly the UN will become energised.
    The UN is the largest resource gobbling self serving bureaucracy in the world, it serves itself first and second before any attempt at serving it’s reason for existing.

    70

    • #
      OriginaSteve

      A friend was working in Sri Lanka years ago for the UN and was staggered at the wastage of money…

      Hey bend a brand new $80,000 Landcruiser? No probs…go get another one…

      The best thing for the UN is de-fund it. I would doubt its ability to do anything remotely useful, except enforcing martial law.

      50

    • #
      john robertson

      My thoughts as well.
      If we are relying on the UN to stop this outbreak in Africa… We are stuffed.
      The only thing I see that corrupt bunch doing is prolonging the agony as long as they can to milk another buck out of it.
      See Haiti for how helpful these Useless Nutjobs are.

      20

  • #
    William

    I have been hearing stories of a defacto tuberculosis epidemic in Australia caused by illegal immigrants who have been released into the community.
    Apparently, the rate of untreatable TB is very high amongst this group.
    Also, it is said that due to fear of incarceration many of the infected disappear into the community before completing their course of treatment.
    The combination of these factors means the epidemic is essentially unchecked.
    Does anyone have credible knowledge about this story?

    10

    • #
      OriginaSteve

      A quick google search showed concerns about this going back to 1997….I doubt its a new problem. Unless they are in the country illegally, immigrants go through health screenings.

      10

      • #
        William

        Yes, that is the point of the information I have been hearing.
        Apparently these individuals have entered the country illegally and therefore were not subject to the normal screening processes.
        Then for political reasons they were released into the community on the expectation that they would attend treatment while their “refugee” status was determined.
        However, obviously fearing a negative outcome on their “refugee” status, as soon as they were released into the community, they disappeared.
        I have been told that it is estimated that each infected illegal has infected about 30 others with whom they have come in contact, and the Australian medical services are overwhelmed.
        Again, other than the anecdotal evidence I have received from various people, I have not been able to find any kind of credible information on the subject.
        However, if these stories are true, I would be a lot more scared of a TB pandemic than I would be of Ebola.
        Similarly, I have received anecdotal stories from friends in the USA that there has been a huge increase in infectious diseases along the southern USA border.
        Apparently the illegals coming in through this route are infecting people in the immediate area; apparently also, the authorities are collecting these illegals and transporting them to bus stations where they are released with instructions to report to an immigration hearing some time in the future.
        Not surprising, they disappear; taking their infections with them.
        So if these stories are true, we have far greater problems with other infectious diseases than Ebola.

        20

  • #
    ossqss

    The host species is asymptomatic for a reason. I hope there is a focus on determining why and not just modeling computer based scenarios. With respect to bats, a slight delta in Ph from food or drink, high concentrations of vitamin C from fruit, or even exposure to increased levels of ammonia where they sleep from the guano could all play a role in mitigation of symptoms. Let’s hope there is real science in play and not just simulated science searching for modeled solutions.

    10

  • #
    Buffalo soldier

    Jo,
    Another excellent article… well communicated, I think.
    Loved some of your word art such as ‘ Ebola (THE MANS FLEW)’ and your use of ‘MAN’ references, particularly your reference to what I would call “The Montarrz MAN” … LOL.
    Merely for information purposes and for those of your readers who wish to extend their knowledge of Ebola and worship at the temple of Ebola then Donald Trumps ‘The Art of Mens Money” series of books and particularly Volume 3: Sorting and Searching will provide many hours of contemplative reflection.

    Buffalo, I’d like to know what you mean. Can you explain? This comment looks like a bot conglomerate. – Jo

    00

  • #
    Bulldust

    Probably won’t get read by anyone, but here is an example of the advancements that keep me optimistic about cures/treatments for problems such as Ebola:

    http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.3640.html

    Not that this device is a silver bullet by any means, just that there are so many technological advancements coming in the next couple decades that many current diseases will become endangered.

    00

  • #
    ExWarmist

    Jo says…

    Except, surprise, the free market beat the government, and now some in the WHO are trying to stamp out the “illicit trade”. (Do they even know the risk-benefit of these trades?) Shouldn’t they be advising consenting adults and carers on the safest way to do this, and the risks, and collecting statistics?

    But, but — it’s more important to maintain control then save lives — isn’t that obvious?

    /sarc.

    00

  • #
    Anton

    Didn’t The WHO say:

    People try to put us down, just because we get around… my generation…

    00

  • #


    I’m tired of BA hijacking the top of the thread with things that are too stupid to post. Here for the record is one of snipped ones. Off topic. Irrelevant. Misses the point. Deliberately? – Jo

    ‘We will beat Ebola, but we need time’, just like climate change then! Who is scare mongering now? No doubt a load of skeptics will pop up saying in doesn’t exist, it’s only a commie scam made up by the criminal UN and nobody has died really, its just that they have fiddled the figures! Huh, you can’t trust these self seeking so called scientist you know, or can we?

    ‘Hence the supercomputers’, but computers fail all the time and are not worth taking notice of, so some people claim. More computer models, what about real empirical facts?

    [You are losing the plot a bit more than usual here BA4. Jo Nova has written a balanced article which points out the dangers, indicates great work is being done for cures, and also that Western medical treatment and hygiene will help protect us and increase survival rates or anyone afflicted in the West. Hard to see 'scare-mongering' there. You have provided no basis for the rest of your comment. - Mod]

    BA – The supercomputer comment relates to “protein folding”. It’s so obvious that it has nothing to do with Ebola, that I think you can’t be so stupid and you must be deliberately misusing keywords as a pathetic excuse to post near the top. My patience for this timewasting is thin. Keep trying this dishonest practice and I will not let you post at all. – Jo

    11

    • #
      Heywood

      I don’t generallt call for censorship but perhaps it’s time to be rid of BA4th permanently. He is nothing but a propogandist with a collection of alarmist YouTube videos and a smart ar$e attitude.

      00

    • #
      Heywood

      I don’t generally call for censorship but perhaps it’s time to be rid of BA4th permanently. He is nothing but a propagandist with penchant for alarmist YouTube videos from climate nobodies and he has a smart ar$e attitude to boot!

      01

  • #

    Instead if propping up third world dictators by throwing money at these countries, can someone just go TEACH THEM TO WASH THEIR HANDS AND BASIC HYGIENE.

    For crying out loud, “Westerners” have been enabling these counties for FAR too long. Let them fend for themselves and LEARN the modern world.

    WHOLE COUNTRIES are now professional VICTIMS to be taken care of.

    I don’t really care if thousands of them die of Ebola… the ones who figure out to NOT TOUCH THEM and survive… might just LEARN something.

    apologies for my utter disdain and sarcasm.

    as you were…

    00

  • #
    James Strom

    The disease may be spreading exponentially, but there is good news: the number of survivors is also growing exponentially, and they can be a source of antibodies as you said.

    Some of the victims have been medical personnel using precautions against contagion. In fact the two Americans who were brought home weren’t actually working with Ebola patients, a fact which has caused some to speculate that there is already some degree of aerial transmission.

    00

  • #
    gai

    I am late to the party but wanted to drop a couple more bits of information into the mix.

    #1. Nigeria has one of the largest Muslim populations in West Africa, 50.4% of Nigeria’s population is Muslim.

    #2. Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the greatest religious observances in Islam. Hajj is expected to fall between October 2-7, 2014.

    #3 Spread of recent epidemics has been linked to the pilgrimage where people from all corners of the world converge for a short period and then return home. For example: link

    #4. A case of Ebola has turned up in Dallas Texas (CDC refuses to reveal if the person is an illegal) Meanwhile the US government is sending the illegal teens coming over the borders from Latin America in droves to schools in all fifty states.

    #5. Mexico has fruit bats too. (Artibeus jamaicensis)

    00