Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ebola Joke

The doctor sat me down and said,

"I'm afraid you've been diagnosed with Alzheimers and Ebola"

After a moment of silence I said,

"Well at least I don't have Ebola."

There aren't many Ebola jokes yet, and I don't expect many. The thing is, the numbers:

Global health officials are looking closely at the “reproduction number,” which estimates how many people, on average, will catch the virus from each person stricken with Ebola. The epidemic will begin to decline when that number falls below one. A recent analysis estimated the number at 1.5 to two.
The number of Ebola cases in West Africa has been doubling about every three weeks. There is little evidence so far that the epidemic is losing momentum.
If you understand exponentials, that number is scary enough. But there are other numbers that concern me more:

The latest World Health Organization statistics, published Wednesday, show 8,033 cases of suspected or confirmed Ebola in the West Africa outbreak, with 3,865 deaths.
OK, that sounds bad, but it's even worse when you consider that the total number of deaths from all previous outbreaks was under two thousand. And the largest prior outbreaks didn't kill more than several hundred per outbreak. And the outbreaks were usually confined to one country.

So what has changed? (get ready for someone to say global warming) Are the treatment and containment efforts less effective than they were in the past? It seems hard to believe that we've gotten worse at responding to the disease.

Or has the virus changed? Could it be more contagious than it was in the past? The fact that aid workers are falling victim to Ebola might be an indication that safety measures that were sufficient to deal with the virus in the past are not up to protecting against this strain. I'm thinking this is not your father's Ebola. This is something else.

Still, smart people trained in the field are working hard on the problem. I wouldn' say it's time to panic; but I also wouldn't blame you if you went for the 50 pound bag of rice next shopping trip. You know the current batch of Government clowns won't impose a travel ban on infected areas until the disease has a solid foothold in the US.