The Ebola Map
June 20, 2014 9:04 AM   Subscribe

When we last looked at the West African Ebola outbreak in April it was already beginning to peak. However in the past 30 days it has become the worst Ebola outbreak history with no end in sight. A senior official for Médecins Sans Frontières says it is 'totally out of control'.

There are numerous charities in Africa such as Médecins Sans Frontières, but one interesting project is the Humanitarian OSM Team in which volunteers collaboratively map news events and geographic features during humanitarian disasters. Volunteers update Open Street Map which is then used by responders in locating cases and navigating through rural Africa.

"Ebola and Open Street Map" at Wired, "Online army helps map Guinea's Ebola outbreak" at New Scientist.
posted by stbalbach (21 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

posted by angrycat at 9:13 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]

I work with OpenStreetMap quite a bit, it's an incredible project. Highly recommend taking the tutorial, it's quick, and learning how to edit. You do not have to be a professional cartographer, you do not have to be an expert in anything to have a positive effect, especially in developing areas that aren't mapped all that well.
posted by troika at 9:21 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]

What would happen if ebola broke out in a place like North Iraq/South-east Syria where ISIS is taking over... Like, a massive outbreak of a hugely deadly virus combined with the devastating effects of war. Would the rebels/jihadis stop fighting in order to limit their exposure? Would they intentionally keep fighting, exposing themselves and spreading the disease even more? While I'm sure that there's always an outbreak of disease during war due to destruction of sanitation infrastructure, this, due to its especially morbid nature seems to be more scary than most sorts of warborne outbreaks (which I would imagine is more like Cholera and such, which is also horrible, of course, but...)
posted by symbioid at 9:31 AM on June 20

posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:35 AM on June 20

What would happen if ebola broke out in a place like North Iraq/South-east Syria where ISIS is taking over... Like, a massive outbreak of a hugely deadly virus combined with the devastating effects of war.

Ebola requires a large, dense population, and the movement of infected individuals or corpses. Part of the problem in West Africa is that there is that dense population living in urban areas, and people are taking the dead back home across borders, and this spreads the virus.

I'm not sure if Iraq is a similar scenario.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:50 AM on June 20

Those refugee camps sure would be.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:53 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]

This lies somewhere in that intersection between tragedy and terifying.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:14 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

That being said, I continue to be concerned about the region. Bushmeat consumption, I think, is still the easiest easy to initially contract the disease, and so taking bushmeat out of the equation, both in terms of hunting and consuming, is really one of the best solutions!
posted by ChuraChura at 11:12 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

It's not a solution until there's a replacement for bushmeat (if indeed that was the primary vector in this outbreak).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:23 AM on June 20

It's not a solution until there's a replacement for bushmeat (if indeed that was the primary vector in this outbreak).

I think that's what churachura meant by "take it out of the equation."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:40 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

You can't take it out of the equasion without replacing it with something else. Bushmeat is, obviously, a source of food for people. So, if you want them to stop eating bushmeat (and thus contributing to Ebola outbreaks, apparently), you need to present a reasonable and rational alternative that fits within the context of the cultures who use bushmeat as a primary or even secondary food source.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:01 PM on June 20

"It's not a solution until there's a replacement for bushmeat"

Well, from the article, pork is out of the running.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:04 PM on June 20

Hey, I'm not arguing with you. But since the easiest route for ebola to pass from nonhuman to human vector is through blood-to-blood contact, limiting bush meat consumption kind of has to be part of moves to limit ebola outbreaks in human populations. When do you get possible blood-to-blood contact? Butchering or eating undercooked meat from animals with ebola. And those animals are generally forest bats, or forest-dwelling nonhuman primates. I don't disagree with you: alternate protein sources need to be available for the people who currently rely on wild meat for protein or links to a cash economy. Make it cheaper for people to buy and raise domestic animals like chickens or goats.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:51 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Agreed that ending bushmeat consumption is a really good way to help end Ebola outbreaks, but there are such logistical problems. What if for a particular culture bushmeat is imbued with sacred/religious/coming-of-age properties? How do we design an education program showing the connection of bushmeat to such a hideous disease? More accurately and less imperial-colonistically, how do we persuade all these varied cultures across Africa to educate themselves?

I hope much smarter brains than mine are working on these problems.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:02 PM on June 20

WHO Ebola Factsheet (transmission, etc)
Reservoir may be bats

I don't think the bush-meat transmission problem will be solved - it's fundamental to the diet. Also, there have been index cases where no bush-meat consumption occurred (i.e. directly from a reservoir species-this may be what occurred at the Nzara cotton factory). The larger issue is the human-to-human transmission from sub-standard isolation/barrier precautions by families or resource-and-training limited healthcare facilities. Especially problematic are local funeral customs, which may involve manipulation of the remains.

Maybe an inspired creative approach would have value - something like Joe McCormack's prevention efforts in Sierra Leone with Lassa. He utilized a holistic cultural approach blending education, art, even pop music to heighten public knowledge and influence behavior.
When we come into contact with other villages, when we travel, we've always done a lot of health education. We tried to focus that energy, add to it, and formalize it a bit. We brought in a VSO, a very clever community arts worker who'd done a lot of education, who ran some puppet shows, organized some dramas, got a disco tape of songs about everything we knew about Lassa fever and all these things were very very widespread. We must have dramas in 30 different villages total.
- Dr. Dianne Bennett
Like anything else in sub-Saharan or central Africa, the effort crumbles if funding dries up, or political instability threatens.posted by j_curiouser at 3:19 PM on June 20 [3 favorites]

Bushmeat and funerary practices probably aren't going anywhere. What we really need is a good vaccine.
posted by gingerest at 3:49 PM on June 20 [4 favorites]

So what are the odds this is the start of a wider pandemic? Should I cancel the masquerade ball in my country house?
posted by humanfont at 4:50 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]

Make it cheaper for people to buy and raise domestic animals like chickens or goats.

Looks like primates, bats, pigs and dogs, so far--Evidence was also found that pigs might be one of the reservoir hosts for the virus; the fruit bat has long been considered as the reservoir....While dogs may be asymptomatic, pigs tend to develop clinical disease.

So, transmissible across species. Given that chickens are such fertile pots for mixing viruses, I'd be deathly worried that they could incubate something even nastier (although Ebola is as nasty as it gets.)

Would it radically help things to being a domestic livestock program? Anybody out there who can speak to the idea of virus transmission into domestic livestock?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:43 PM on June 20

Take all of the potential bushmeat and stick 'em in zoos. Remove one of side of the fire triangle and the flames go out. If local human culture keeps causing ebola breakouts, something has to change.
posted by codswallop at 7:37 PM on June 20

posted by ChuraChura at 6:35 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]

Though still ambivalent about news posts on MetaFilter, am unreservedly glad about this post in particular. Here in the UK, the television news is currently dominated by ISIS and the World Cup (priority between the two depending on if it's an England football team story).

Yesterday evenings TV news on a main channel was 1) England out of the World Cup; reactions 2) ISIS. This was followed by, and I quote, "In other news, Medecins Sans Frontieres has said the Ebola outbreak in west Africa is totally out of control."

Other news?!! Maybe I'm biased because I read Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague when it came out and it terrified me, but the inability of national and international medical systems to deal with an outbreak of what is now several months is more, to me, than just "other news".
posted by Wordshore at 3:30 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]

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