So what is wrong with listening to the drumbeat, to the endless calls to protect ourselves against the coming plague – against Ebola from Africa and bird flu from Asia? Is it possible that a huge pandemic could erupt from some as-yet unknown pathogen? Is apocalypse lurking out there, among rats or monkeys, or bats or flying squirrels or birds? The Black Death shows that you can never say never: there might be an animal pathogen out there that, under the right circumstances, can evolve and maintain both virulence and transmissibility among humans as well as animals.
When Ebola reached America, arriving in Dallas on September 20, the city had no real plan to handle the outbreak. Nor, it appeared, did the federal government. As epidemiologist Wendy Chung, county judge Clay Jenkins, and other local officials quickly realized, they were largely on their own. Bryan Burrough has the untold story of their heroic response.
As the West African Ebola epidemic stretches into its 10th month: researchers have identified the likely cause of the initial outbreak: a young boy playing with bats in a village in Guinea. The NY Times considers how the opportunity to contain the epidemic was missed and the effects of Ebola on West African economies. Vanity Fair takes a look at the failure to contain the disease within Guinea, Frontline goes to "Ground Zero" in Guinea, and searches for a missing Ebola patient. Meanwhile, West Africans welcomed Christmas (previously) and the New Year. Africa Stop Ebola!
"They risked and persisted, sacrificed and saved." The Ebola Fighters are TIME Magazine's 2014 Person of the Year. [more inside]
Firestone operates one of the largest rubber plants in the world in Liberia. Firestone Liberia received a lot of positive press in the past few months after "stopping Ebola in its tracks" on its plantation in the country. But 22 years ago, Firestone Liberia played a different role in shaping Liberia's trajectory.
“Do They Know It's Christmas?” may, or may not, be the most tasteless and smug charity song ever recorded, and at least the 2014 version fixes a particularly “bone-headed” lyric from the first time around, but neither version is a patch on 2005's “Do they know it's Hallowe'en?” a riposte masterminded by the beloved, excellent, long-dead Unicorns.
At this point I believe it might be better to dump the container of smartphones into the ocean than to dump them onto the Ebola emergency response. The leader of UNICEF's innovation unit explains why Amazon's offer to donate unsold Fire phones to West Africa will likely cause more harm than good.
Paul Farmer, back from Sierra Leone, discusses Ebola treatment strategies. Brigham and Women's Hospital Grand Rounds, October 31, 2014. Almost an hour but worth it for the depth of info and analysis.
The 4 most intelligent things you can read on Ebola today? 1) This week I received a "monograph" for review from an unlikely, politically removed scientist. It was plainly titled "Summary of Ebola Virus Disease," and written in exhaustive scientific detail. The author was Steven Hatfill. If the name rings a bell—I don’t want to dwell on this, but it's germane to the context of his perspective I'm sharing here—it’s because he was very publicly, very falsely accused of killing several people with anthrax in 2001... What he does know, at a depth that can rival any scientist’s knowledge, is Ebola. An interview, with Steven Hatfill and more: 21 Days. [more inside]
What could possible be worse than an "Ebola Containment Suit" Halloween costume? That would be a "Sexy Ebola Containment Suit" costume.
"The possibility of withholding care represents a departure from the 'do everything' philosophy in most American hospitals and a return to a view that held sway a century ago, when doctors were at greater risk of becoming infected by treating dying patients. 'This is another example of how this 21st century viral threat has pulled us back into the 19th century,' said medical historian Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan.
Don Francis, epidemiologist and member of the World Health Organization team that investigated the first documented Ebola outbreak in 1976, gave a fascinating interview on KPFA's "Letters and Politics" in September. Francis shared more recollections and some of his photos from the investigation with an audience at UC Berkeley in August.
"During the 2013-2014 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 46 percent of Americans received vaccinations against influenza, even though it kills about 3,000 people in this country in a good year, nearly 50,000 in a bad one." [more inside]
Frontline - Ebola Outbreak 30-minute Frontline piece on Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone televised in September 2014. It shows the human toll of the disease by interviewing doctors, aid workers, and family members.
Max Fisher of Vox describes how Naomi Wolf has turned to rather outré conspiracy theories. Via Ayelet Waldman on Twitter, who commented "I think maybe we need not to condemn Naomi Wolf but to consider the possibility that she's having a psychotic break."
Ebola and the Construction of Fear by Karen Sternheimer (Everyday Sociology)
"Sociologist Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, explains how misguided panics are not just benign opportunities to prevent something horrible, but can divert attention and public funds away from more likely threats. He notes:[more inside]Panic-driven public spending generates over the long term a pathology akin to one found in drug addicts. The money and attention we fritter away on our compulsions, the less we have available for our real needs, which consequently grow larger (p. xvii).
As hospitals struggle to cope with the ebola epidemic, where are patients with other emergencies finding care? In Monrovia, Liberia, it's Cooper Adventist Hospital. Without proper isolation facilities to handle ebola, they are instead tackling everything else. This August 17, 2014 San Bernardino Sun article discusses the challenges the doctors are facing. Dr. James Appel's blog (Dr. Gillian Seton's article appears in the side bar), and his recent remarks on international aid efforts.
This article talks to doctors and nurses on the front line treating patients in West Africa. It touches on why they take the risk of contracting Ebola, either from patients, or from each other. [more inside]
The Great War helped create the influenza pandemic of 1918, which eventually brought an early end to the Great War. "I had a little bird, Its name was Enza. I opened the window, And in-flu-enza. ~ Children's Skipping Rhyme, 1918"
A man has died in Lagos of Ebola virus. What's worrying is how he got there - by plane, with 100 other people. [more inside]
Ebola is nightmare fuel: a biological doomsday device conspiring with our bodies to murder us in uniquely gruesome fashion. It’s also killed fewer than 2,000 people. How has a virus with such a modest body count so fiercely captured the darkest corners of our imagination? - Leigh Cowart for Haziltt.
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'. [more inside]
There's been an ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
A German researcher accidentally jabbed her finger with a hypodermic loaded with the deadly Ebola virus. 48 hours later, she was injected with an untested, experimental vaccine, developed by an international team of virologists and biologists. Though she may never have been infected, she was certainly in danger; in 2004, a similar incident caused the death of a Russian scientist at a former Soviet biological weapons lab.
Mad Scientist calls for destruction of 9/10 of Earth's population. Texas Academy of Science's 2006 Distinguished Scientist Recipient (pdf) Eric R. Pianka received a standing ovation after he advocated a man-made pandemic to reduce the human population. (via linkfilter)
I’ll trade you my Ebola for your Hantavirus! This Christmas give the little scientist in the family infectious diseases trading cards!
The bird flu is back. Despite denials by the Hong Kong government, the World Health Organization announced yesterday that two people were killed by the same virulent species-jumpingstrain of influenza that caused the 1997 panic. It's certainly less gruesome than the ebola outbreak going on in Congo right now, but, unlike ebola, the flu is highly contagious. [more inside]
Case of the Missing Anthrax "The 400 pages of documents, which I've obtained and which were described by The Hartford Courant earlier this year, quote a newly arrived officer named Michael Langford as saying that he found "little or no organization," "little or no accountability," "a very lax and unorganized system" and signs of covert work and cover-ups." I'm concerned about the stock prices too, but, shouldn't this be on the evening news as well? NYTimes reg. reqr'd
The Big Picture Book of Viruses is "intended to serve as both a catalog of virus pictures on the Internet and as an educational resource to those seeking more information about viruses. To this end, it is intimately linked to All the Virology on the WWW, and our collection of Virology Courses and Tutorials." Interesting electron micrographs include pictures of Marburg and Ebola viruses and T-4 like phages. Once a bio geek, always a bio geek. And for some other information about why viruses always matter see The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (sorry the page design sucks but it's a good read) and The American Experience: Influenza 1918. Are you sure that runny nose is just allergies?
Well, that's it. We're done for. Ebola hits North America...maybe.