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Ebola: The World’s Most Terrifying Disease?

A horrible way to die as blood leaks everywhere...

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

May 24, 2014 - 2:00 pm
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If a Martian were to land on earth to study humanity, one of the things that would no doubt surprise him about our race is the pleasure it takes in contemplating its own extinction by various catastrophic means: the crash into earth of a giant asteroid, climate change or the spread of new, virulent and untreatable diseases, especially caused by viruses that emerged from the African jungle.

Of all the viruses to have emerged of late, Ebola is the most frightening. It comes in several varieties of different virulence, with (according to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine) death rates from a “low” 40 percent to over 70 percent. Among monkeys the death rate can be 100 percent.

Before Ebola there was Marburg, so named because it was first recognized among laboratory workers in Marburg, Germany. This virus is spread from fruit bats to monkeys to humans, and I happened to be in Rhodesia (as it was then still called) when there was an epidemic there of the disease and 33 percent of the patients died. I remember the reaction in the hospital between panic and pride that it should be in the eye of a world-publicized storm. The question on everyone’s mind was whether it could spread on a large scale from Africa to Europe and North America. Could the virus escape its ecological niche?

All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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Closer to home:
If the theory below is proven true by an epidemic in the US
it will sure as shinola solve the immigration problem.

http://www.chron.com/news/health/article/Expert-Native-disease-killed-Aztecs-not-1570996.php
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nuke that continent before anything spreads...(sarc)
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
My understanding is the the filoviruses, which Ebola is one of, are blood-born pathogens, not air-borne. Hence, a SF-style plague from these is not possible.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually Ebola's lethality tends to limit its' contagion; it is such an efficient killer that its' ability to spread widely is limited. TB remains much more worrisome.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes but it limits by wiping out entire communities.

If it gets into a big community like the US or Western Europe, with fast transportation - double-plus ungood.

Y'know, it seems like just in the last few years science has acquired the tools to mitigate the spread and even acute treatments for these kinds of diseases. With a little luck, twenty years from now prompt treatment will be able to let a patient live through and recover from some of these ghastly viruses, not to mention having preventative vaccinations.

Meanwhile, I hope to avoid the exposure!
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, it limits itself in a couple of ways:

1.) By the time you feel sick, you feel sick so fast, you can't move and spread the infection very well, so the window of time when you can actually spread it is pretty small.

2.) It spreads through direct body fluid contact making it hard to get it until the end stages when you are leaking your body fluids all over the place. Modern medicine and sanitation would necessarily limit the amount of exposure most people are going to have to those infectious body fluids, unless you are hiding from medical treatment for some reason.

Africa's culture and lack of basic sanitation is working against it when it comes to Ebola. The funeral and mourning rituals in many places involve weeping over and physically touching the corpse which provides lots of exposure to infected fluids, and that's just one example. There is also the fear of superstition. During the recent plague, natives were attacking medical aid workers out of fear they were spreading the disease instead of helping.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes you're right, and this largely explains why it has not *already* managed to spread around the world and hit modern - or even just western - communities.

And if it's only spread in the later stages then even the fast onset doesn't matter, you're nearly immobile in the most contagious modes anyway.

Well, thank goodness for that!
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course it's scary. The bubonic plauge wiped out 1/3 of Europe in the Middles Ages. Influenza killed 50 million people in a matter of months during the 1920s. This is why immigration reform is crucial, disease control.

It used to be that immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island were examined by a doctor and some were quarantined to prevent the general population from being exposed to communicable diseases. But that was back when people had common sense.

Today, it's anybody can come in from anywhere, legally or illegally, without any screening. It's a pandemic waiting to happen.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's good to have more awareness of this disease, as serious amounts of money has flowed to fund potential panics of bird-flu, pig-flu etc that are more computer model than reality.
One unexpected discovery during this recent outbreak is that Lassa fever, another terrible, high-mortality hemorrhagic fever is far far more common in the same zones, with some serious annual statistics, yet has not made the news. A number of the cases were thought to be Ebola, but turned out to be Lassa. There's obviously plenty of new ground here for major medical advancements and improvements.
Please, though, with all due respect, a clip from some kitchy sci-fi movie is not appropriate for this devastating and deadly viral infection. Surely a video from real life is available from WHO or other sources NGO which would be better paired with the article?
Here's one. Not for the squeamish, but then again, maybe folks need to toughen up some more as real, average people in Africa have to deal with this face to face, not in a film.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLmESe9-7yg
There are survivors, and if more research money was diverted to this, then a vaccine would be soon available. Sadly, the action only comes when the world suddenly decides these dangers might be exportable. Hey, in cases of disease, help these people and the entire world is helped.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
This reminds me of the Tom Clancy novel Executive Orders. The Jihadis used Ebola Zaire as a bio weapon.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
That Ebola is a blood-born, not air-borne, disease made clear that Tom Clancy knew nothing about epidemiology.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Have you read the book? He actually addressed precisely that point.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, yes he did. if you want a _truly_ scary read, pick up
Frank Herbert's 'The White Plague' in which a near future
_professional_ genetic engineer decides to end the human
race, and comes this close to success ||. >:)
Furtherandmore, since there is much talk of morality in a
nearby thread, ask yourself what is 'moral' when there are
only a few hundred women left alive, and not all of them
still fertile.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm just waiting on the news of some viral or bacterial infection breaking out in Europe as a result of jihadis coming back from the war in Syria that the West is totally unprepared for.

I've already read of a purported coverup of two cases in Austria of a virus that can only be contract through cannibalism from jihadis who had engaged in that in Syria, of which the conquests of Islam document (cooking and eating the heads of the vanquished).

We will see.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tell you the truth, Kreuzfeld-Jakob scares me far more.
9 weeks ago
9 weeks ago Link To Comment
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