This post is meant as a brief update of my post of Wednesday, June 25, entitled Ebola "out of control, we have reached the limits of what we can do," says Doctors Without Borders, wherein Dr. Bart Janssens, Director of Operations of Doctors Without Borders (known locally as MSF for Médecins Sans Frontières), said “(t)he epidemic is out of control,” and vastly more resources are needed to deal with the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Western Africa. “We have reached our limits. Despite the human resources and equipment deployed by MSF in the three affected countries, we are no longer able to send teams to the new outbreak sites.”
Yesterday, the World Health Organization announced updated numbers which are reported by Susannah Locke of Vox, who writes The deadliest Ebola outbreak in history is happening right now. The WHO says the new death toll is 367 with a total number of cases reaching over 600.
The outbreak has now hit three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. And the virus — which starts off with flu-like symptoms and often ends with horrific hemorrhaging — has infected about 600 people and killed an estimated 367 since this winter, according to the numbers on June 26 from the World Health Organization.
On June 23, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders sent out a distress call. As the only aid organization treating people with Ebola, the group said it was "overwhelmed," that the epidemic was out of control, and that it couldn't send workers to new outbreak sites without getting more resources.
Journalist David Quammen put it well in a recent New York Times op-ed: "Ebola is more inimical to humans than perhaps any known virus on Earth, except rabies and HIV-1. And it does its damage much faster than either."
The viruses are constantly circulating in animals, most likely bats. Every once in a while, the disease spills over into humans, often when someone handles or eats undercooked or raw meat from a diseased ape, monkey, or bat. An outbreak can then happen for several months. And then it becomes quiet, again.
This latest outbreak started in a rural region of Guinea, probably in late 2013, and now spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, including densely populated urban areas of Conakry, Guinea's capital, and Monrovia, capital of Liberia.
There are five strains of Ebola and this is a mutation of the Zaire strain which is the deadliest which has killed 79% of those it has infected. Although, this Guinea strain is genetically 3% different from the Zaire strain meaning it diverged "quite" some time ago and will probably be given a new name once scientists have all the proper meetings.
This article by Susannah Locke of Vox provides a lot of interesting background if you are just become aware of this story. She uses a question and answer format that makes for easy Friday night reading. For example.
"Do Does Ebola really make people bleed from their eyes?Ebola is not easy to catch is not likely to reach U.S. shores. In comments in previous posts readers often worry that Ebola will mutate to a form that can be spread by air, but scientists tell us this is highly unlikely.
Yes. Bleeding from orifices is one of the more unusual and memorable symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola. In later stages of the disease, some people bleed from the eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and rectum. They may also bleed from puncture sites if they've had an IV.
So for those of you worried about dying a horrible death from Ebola Viral Disease, relax, you are far more likely to die from MERS, SARS, or a mutation of the avian flu to a form that can be spread by airborne form, which biologist tell us is only a matter of time. Avian flu has a mortality rate of 10%, however, this should fall in in the 3 or 4 months it takes to spread around the world after the mutation. So don't worry about Ebola, it a misplacement of your anxieties. (Snark alert.)
One a serious note, one of the reasons I report on these epidemiological risk is that they highlight the wisdom and value of our Democratic Party's support for investing in government public health research and spending with such programs such as the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, The Food and Drug Administration, and support for the U.H. World Health Organization.
Also, Doctors Without Bordes, aka Mer Médecins Sans Frontières is a private charitable organization sustained by charitable donations, so please consider a donation.
7:00 PM PT: I need to retract this statement as it turns out to be impossible to know the actual probability of which kind of horrible death you are most likely to die from from, or how much agony you might suffer. I' sorry for any false hope or optimism I may filled you with.
I was just trying to appear to be responsible and vaguely reassuring as a cover for making a dubious gallows humor joke about a global pandemic potentially leading to the death of 10% of the population of earth, and figured as if it was already into Friday evening when most of you know I host the a Friday Night Sillies, I was just trying to get a few cheap laughs at the expense of massive human suffering on a scale of which is almost unimaginable.g
So for those of you worried about dying a horrible death from Ebola Viral Disease, relax, you are far more likely to die from MERS, SARS, or a mutation of the avian flu to a form that can be spread by airborne form, which biologist tell us is only a matter of time.
So, I was prepared to be called an barbaric heartless savage, or at least a crassly insensitive and heartless %$$^&()y, for such a mirthy allusion crossing across perhaps hundreds of millions of deaths. Imagine, my surprise when the reason I have to retract this paragraph is because it too optimistic, and glosses over the possibilities of the Andromeda strain scenario, and realistic possibilities that ebola as an active evolutionary organism may be adapting to be going global.
And, of course, it has been on the top of the list of potential bio-terrorism agents for decades, so I can't possibly know what the probability is that a terrorist group, or irresponsible government, responsible government, defense contractor, corporation, wanna-be bio-warfare company, vaccine researcher, criminal gang, pharmaceutical company, wanna-be biotech entrepreneur, gene-spliccer, wanna-be biology PhD candidate, underemployed journalist, rogue opportunist, or disgruntled biology PhD drop out ,pirate, smuggler, arms dealer, or an unimaginably long list of other people that might want to obtain samples of the Ebola virus for potential profit, fame, fortune, revenge, career advancement, or curiosity might have already done so, and already brought them into the U.S.
The Reston strain of Ebola already escaped from a lob in Reston, Va. and we know 80 plus scientists were exposed by to Anthrax by accident last week.
So I retract that statement and apologize for any excess optimism or reassurance I may have errantly lead to you believe..
I've enlarged this map so you can better see the geography of the areas of confirmed and suspected cases shown in brown, and the areas reporting suspected cases.
Only because of the limits of time and space, and also perhaps, a little following the lead of the World Health Organization trying to avoid causing panic, I have not reported a number of reports as well as analysis from professors and other independent experts who are saying that the actual number of cases is likely to be higher, perhaps, substantially higher than the WHO numbers indicate.
For, one thing many of the cases are not even known or reported as they are in rural regions with which there has been no communication. As teams have gone into some regions they have found entire villages abandoned, with the dead bodies of entire families in some huts, and the rest of the village abandoned.
Also, yesterday, Searra Leone asked the WHO to stop reported suspected cases but only cases that are confirmed with an official lab test, and WHO has agreed, and lowered the numbers.
But, if one looks at the map and squints one "can almost imagine" the reality could be one large brown blob that already takes up at least 2/3 of the total areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Do you see how the outline of the brown areas can almost be connected together in one blob?
As evidence based scientists we do not want to get ahead of our data.
But as "battle commanders" in a species war with a hostile virus which could be breaking out of containment we also do not want to be stupid.
If the World Health Organization has blundered by being excessively willing to accommodate the political, and economic sensitivities of its sponsoring nations we should least have the alternative hypothesis in mind, and be considering what our "fall back" next line of defense would be if the "epidemic" is already several doublings beyond where the WHO has thus far recognized.
And/or, where we can predict it will be withing a matter of weeks to months given what we know about the nature of its spread and situations of the populations on the ground there.
If it has not already reached Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guiniea-Bissau and Ivory Coast there is little reason to believe it does not at least have the potential to.
As captainlaser astutely asks, "at what point does one consider a quarantine?
Senegal has already closed its borders, and then opened them again after the WHO indicated the "outbreak" was contained and under control.
Airports, shipping ports, road, and railroads, would most likely be fall back positions at some point, do you not think?
Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 10:54 AM PT: Thanks to BorisGodanov for starting this White House Petition to send aid to Western African Ebola victims. Please help. - HD