Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Medical Personnel Dying of Ebola

The head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone has himself caught the disease, the government said.
The 39-year-old Sheik Umar Khan, hailed as a "national hero" by the health ministry, was leading the fight to control an outbreak that has killed 206 people in the West African country. Ebola kills up to 90 percent of those infected and there is no cure or vaccine....
Three days ago, three nurses working in the same Ebola treatment centre alongside Khan died from the disease.
I am surprised that al-Qaeda hasn't purposefully infected some of its suicide bombers with Ebola, and sent them into international airports.  For those who don't understand what drove the writing of novels like The Stand and Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton's first and best novel), read about Ebola, Marburg and similar hemorrhagic fevers.  The Hot Zone is, unfortunately, not fiction.  The guy at CDC whose job it was to deal with an outbreak of Ebola Reston ended up retiring to a remote town in Montana.  He's no fool.

1 comment:

StormCchaser said...

While the risk of global pandemics is scary and no doubt why the guy retired to remote Montana, Ebola and Marburg are unlikely to be the reason, as I posted here before.

Ebola and Marburg are not successful human viruses. The initial infections in an outbreak are always zoonotic - caught from animals (bats are probably the native host species). These outbreaks flare up due to poor hygiene in poor countries. Then, when people take precautions - either as proposed by medical authorities or as handed down in tribal lore - the outbreaks die out.

An Ebola weapon could certainly be terrifying if you are one of the few exposed, but it would not cause widespread disease, unless someone aerosolized hundreds of gallons of it and dispersed it optimally.

Successful pathogens are not nearly as virulent as Ebola, because very deadly viruses kill to many hosts for them to survive. Even HIV, an almost perfect pathogen (due to its long latency), is limited in its spread. HIV, Ebola and Marburg are spread the same way: contact with bodily fluids. Ebola and Marburg are far less dangerous, because they only spread when the victim is already showing symptoms.

A fascinating area of science is host-parasite co-evolution, where the host evolves defenses, while the parasite evolves to not kill too many hosts, but to overcome the defenses.