Monday, July 28, 2014

It May Be Time To Build Up The Food Stockpiles

The Ebola situation is getting a bit more worrisome.  From July 28, 2014 USA Today:
Still despite precautions, two American health workers have fallen ill. One of them, Nancy Writebol, a mother of two, was treating Ebola patients for the past year in the Liberian capital of Monrovia with the overseas Christian aid group Serving in Mission, before she contracted the deadly virus.
She is now in isolation, according to the aid group.
The other American infected in Monrovia is Kent Brantly, 33, a physician with the North Carolina-based medical charity Samaritan's Purse. Brantly, a father of two, had recognized his condition in its early stages and was in a stable condition in intensive medical care in a Monrovia hospital, according to the group Serving in Mission....
A Ugandan Ebola expert working in Liberia, Samuel Brisbane, died on Sunday, while Shiek Umar Khan, the leading Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone, contracted the virus last week. A Liberian doctor treating patients on the outskirts of Monrovia also died from Ebola on Saturday.
Yes, it's true, as this July 28, 2014 ABC News report emphasizes:
The World Health Organization has yet to impose any travel restrictions on the area, stressing that it’s “highly unlikely” for the outbreak to spread by plane.
“The people who get Ebola tend to be in removed villages and tend not to have the money to be able to get on planes,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said, adding that it’s equally unlikely for an American traveler to bring the disease back. “They would be probably be aware of the situation going into it and be advised not to touch someone who looks ill and feverish.”
And the incubation period, according to the Financial Times, is two to twenty-one days.  It isn't likely that a person is going to get out of the African bush or small villages into an international airport before they become obviously sick.  But doctors wearing moonsuits are getting sick.  What are the chances that someone might end up infected, but not yet obviously sick, and leaves the area at 22 days, still asymptomatic?  Small.  But not particularly implausible.

The first clearly recognized case in the West should cause some serious preparation, and not just among paranoid survivalists.


StormCchaser said...

Why are you still worrying about Ebola in the US?

From Wikipedia (and, btw, this is accurate and also true of Marbug): "All epidemics of Ebola have occurred in sub-optimal hospital conditions, where practices of basic hygiene and sanitation are often either luxuries or unknown to caretakers and where disposable needles and autoclaves are unavailable or too expensive. In modern hospitals with disposable needles and knowledge of basic hygiene and barrier nursing techniques, Ebola has never spread on a large scale. In isolated settings such as a quarantined hospital or a remote village, most victims are infected shortly after the first case of infection is present. The quick onset of symptoms from the time the disease becomes contagious in an individual makes it easy to identify sick individuals and limits an individual's ability to spread the disease by traveling. Because bodies of the deceased are still infectious, some doctors had to take measures to properly dispose of dead bodies in a safe manner despite local traditional burial rituals"

Consistent with what has long been known about Ebola, the only westerners getting sick are caretakers of Ebola patients.

Clayton Cramer said...

See today's posting. It's not true anymore.

StormCchaser said...

I read it. i saw nothing to contradict the general idea (okay, the guy wasn't a caregiver, but he was an exception, and he was in a country where the disease is raging).

Sure, there may be a few isolated cases of infection from someone in the short time before they become too symptomatic, but it's very unlikely (note that the guy mentioned in the more recent post probably infected nobody). You might even have one of those cases in a US airport. But this isn't a survivalist situation - it's a tiny danger. Even if you were flying on passenger planes out from the affected area, your odds of catching it would be quite low (although in that case, I'd be a bit nervous). It has never been known to spread to humans through the air, although that is *theoretically* possible. Reston Ebola (apparently not dangerous to people) did spread through a monkey house in Reston, VA, and some of that was airborne.

Overall, the infectivity of Ebola or Marbug is way, way too low to support an epidemic. Even the current outbreak in Africa will die out, with or without medical aid. It is only sustained at the current high level by a paradoxical combination of the crowding and transport from modern technology and hygiene and crowding from the 3rd world.

In early Ebola outbreaks, Africans reverted to tribal lore and quarantined infected villages, breaking the chain. Ebola is unusual in that a very high percentage of cases are among care-givers - either family members or medical personnel. This is because the virus isn't shed in quantity until the patient is very sick, and thus the only people usually exposed to it are caregivers (and family).

Ebola is classed as a level-A bioterrorism pathogen and requires BSL-4 precautions, not for its ability to start an epidemic, but rather for its extreme lethality. If you aerosolized a bunch of Ebola, you might stage a terrorist attack which might kill dozens or even (if you were really lucky) hundreds. That is not what we are facing right now.

StormCchaser said...

I should add...

Even though the current Ebola situation doesn't alarm me, there are infectious disease risks that scare the heck out of me. Some day a nasty influenza virus will emerge and kill a good percentage of the population. *That* is really scary.

Also, I fear that some day a bioengineered pathogen may be released by terrorists or nuts (such as the Aum Shinrikyo in Japan who released Sarin on the subway and Anthrax in the air). The genetic engineering necessary to make some of these pathogens (by modifying less dangerous ones) is shockingly easy and very poorly controlled. In one experiment, Australian scientists created a version of "mouse smallpox" (an orthopox virus very close to smallpox) that was so lethal it killed all of the vaccinated mice - they died before the part of their immune system sensitized by vaccination was able to react. This was done by modifying the virus to release ILK-4 (an immune system component). See

I also suspect that some evil regimes still have smallpox. It was common back in the day for doctors to keep samples in their refrigerators! I would not be at all surprised if some regimes (the Norks, the Syrians, etc) got some of these and still have them. The USSR contributed doctors to the smallpox eradication project of WHO in order to get samples of the most dangerous strains for use in the Biopreparat bio-weapons program, which resulted in hundreds of ICBM bio-warheads that were in silos ready to be fired at US cities!