Not the Ducks! – eBola

One of our greatest fears, especially in the USA is a deadly disease. Mainly because with a privatised medical system you end up with people “toughing it out”. You would be surprised (since India’s universal medical system is so overworked most people have to turn to private) what people can tough out.

Things like “my child has swollen to twice his normal size. I am sure he will get better”. And indeed, there will be someone who thinks his symptoms of ebola aren’t that deadly and stay at home. Or go to work. Typhoid Marys are things that do exist.

This is the deadliest outbreak of Ebola so far. Medicin Sans Frontier report more than 1,400 infections and a fatality rate of 57%. To many  people, the isolation tents are places to die rather than places where you are saved. And these people are incredibly brave.

I have told you guys I work with Tuberculosis patients who hold a similar fear. But TB doesn’t spread as easily as Ebola nor is it as fatal. Doctors tend to bear the brunt of such illness because we don’t wear masks when we see patients and can fall ill from what they have. So far 800 people have died.

There are brave men and women out in Africa fighting to save lives and stem this disease. And the fact the case rate is so low is testament to their efforts. Our capacity to control population movement via quarantines has helped stop the spread. I have often said that you don’t know who you are until you are in the dark. That what we consider ourselves is a careful construct. That until we are pushed to the very edge we will never realise what sort of people we are. These people who are out there fighting this disease in Africa are incredibly brave and doing a vital service to the rest of humanity.

Ebola was discovered in 1976. Africa has a long history of deadly diseases coming out of it. It is a zoonotic disease that used to have deadly outbreaks in isolated villages.

It is a severe acute viral illness. The symptoms are fever, weakness, pain, headache and sore throat. Followed by vomitting, diarrhoea, rashes, reduced kidney and liver function. Haemorrhage occurs. People are highly infectious as in the haemorrhagic stage blood is often sprayed via coughing. Ebola has a long period of infectivity with some people testing positive 60 days after infection. The incubation is also rapid with some patients showing symptoms in as little as 2 days.

The lethality of the disease was what helped keep it from spreading. It literally spread so fast and so lethally that it never left anyone to carry the disease. This outbreak is unusual in that it has hit a major city.

You are at your best in the dark, you are also capable of your worst. And the vultures from the quack brigade have come crawling out of the woodwork.

If you guys send Donald Trump to Africa then you will have fewer problems

We must suffer the consequences of helping others! If we were all selfish like Trump, we would all be Millionaires. Arseholes… but millionaires.

Or you know. Our world class medical facilities will help us formulate new ways of treating a deadly disease and help protect real live people (not just real live millionaires) from dying pointlessly of something we could fight.

 How dare we help. Save us from Libertarian’s champions. I cannot even parody Trump’s casual villainy here.

If the mere shade of ebola turns Donald Trump into a gibbering idiot and all round douchebag then I truly fear what sort of man he at the darkest of times. Remember all those anti-vaccination stances Mr. Trump held? I wonder will he stand behind them if we do invent the ebola vaccine.

Probably this guy

And he isn’t the only one.  This site makes a rather interesting claim.

Thieves oil can be diffused to kill airborne microbes, applied topically on the skin to help the body fight off infection, and also used internally in homemade capsules. If Ebola was going around in my area, I would diffuse Thieves oil daily for 15 minutes every few hours. I would apply it to my feet and armpits 2x/day or more and take it in capsules at least 2x/day for preventive purposes.

Apart from the subtle irony in calling your snake oil “Thieves Oil”. This simply doesn’t get how Ebola works or how it spreads.

Ebola is magically killed by this random plant as long as you spray it around your house like air freshner for 15 minutes a day (Ebola is a very polite pathogen and makes appointments). I don’t even know why you would apply it to your armpits and feet. The only pathogens I know that like feet and armpits are fungal infections and the elusive armpit to armpit transmission has since eluded scientific discovery.

And the homeopaths have got in on the action too. This to my knowledge would simply not work.

1. Crolatus horridus (rattlesnake venom) 2. Bothrops (yellow viper) 3. Lachesis (bushmaster snake) 4. Phosphorus 5. Merc. cor.

Like cures like and I know 3 of these toxins can cause haemorrhagic issues. By that logic you should infect yourself with dengue fever under the “Ninjas can’t catch you if you are already on fire” principle. And the site posits the old “we are about to swept aside by this foreign disease”.

Another site reassures its readers that while the disease is far away there is always the chance of terrorists using it.

In order for the con to work, you need the ignorance of what Ebola and indeed what Africa is. To many people it’s grass huts and lions. Just as India is all Aladdin Architecture and Temples. Mumbai would probably blow their minds.

Fortunately, for your fears there is a panacea. Water that’s been smacked against this special leather board. Because water learns if you beat it hard enough with a leather paddle.

I may hate this man’s capacity to prey on the weak but I have to admit? The guy’s got brass monkeys for not only creating a fear but then selling magic water to people who really aren’t at risk to “cure” it. It’s making a profit with water!

Pseudoscience and CAM or “quackery” as I prefer calling it demonstrates the real potential harm it can do. All that Echinacea and St. John’s Wort are  provide you with a sense of well being and positive thinking that you are protected in the same way that a lucky sock does. As we begin to take the quack industry seriously we realise one important thing. That these people are replacing medicine with quackery and while it won’t kill you if you are healthy, I am sure the care of doctors has more survivors than the quacks.

The lack of a specific protocol makes Ebola a prime target for charlatans. Unable to find any official regimen, the made up ones of charlatans seems more planned and thought out than the “intensive care” of medicine.

Prevention is about avoiding exposure, properly dealing with those already infected and disposing of the dead and any infected fluids, not deodorising your room with magical febreeze.

And conspiracy theories about ebola are out there too. Because why explain something in a simple manner when you can involve reptilian overlords and the Illuminati.

The two Americans affected are Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol. Brantley is already in the US, and Nancy should be there by the time I land.

The dialogue from the quacks, the libertarian right wingers and the usual suspects is the same. WorldNet Daily is off scaring people about immigrants bringing in Ebola and other diseases. Dave Hodges and the president of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Jane Orient are both working together to undo any goodwill the public have to doctors by claiming that “100,000 West Africans are in Central America, have been taught to speak Spanish and are coming across our Southern border” carrying Ebola, naturally. Because these people not only show a complete lack of understanding of how difficult it is to learn other languages but how hard it is to do so while having ebola. That’s like trying to play Contra blindfolded.

The dialogue of many of the fears are dominated by people like Mike Adams, Orient and Trump. As of now? Trump’s ideas have had thousands of views.

The truth is? You know how there are so many panic stories coming out of Africa? A lot of them are simply that. People panicking. The media is in general after a “scoop” and the more sensationalist the better. It’s why the “buzzfeed” headline exists. Avicenna Last travelled to the UK and you won’t believe what he wrote! The same fears that people have in Africa are mirrored in the press of the USA and UK. For all our education, we rarely remember our own education.

We have effectively forgotten that ebola is not spread by air but by bodily fluids. So we begin to treat its victims as if they had TB. The truth is? If the CDC are planning to bring a highly deadly disease into the USA for study and treatment then at the very least you would see staff following a strict checklist of aseptic technique to rule out infections. The staff themselves will be under scrutiny and if they really want to go all out they will put patients into isolation booths with a negative air pressure (meaning air comes in, not out if doors are opened) preventing the spread of the pathogen.

Ebola Clinic from Medicin Sans Frontier

These are the people who will help beat ebola.

Not people like Trump. People like Trump are the sort of people who throw their fellow man to the wolves for a quick dollar. If it were profitable to help? Then I am sure he would be out there making a killing.


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  1. Randomfactor says

    If the mere shade of ebola turns Donald Trump into a gibbering idiot and all round douchebag

    He was that prior to this event. People should suffer the consequences of their actions, said the man who’s been allowed four bankruptcies.

  2. says

    I’m involved in HIV research, as a member of a community advisory board. I know quite well just how bad the quackery can get.

    But as a medical practitioner, how infective is ebola, really? I’ve been hearing a lot of variance, mostly from the hand-waving screechers who see this as one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and from the “calm down you have absolutely nothing to worry about” who insist that it will never, ever affect a large urban area.

  3. cristopherallen says

    The red of your background obscures the previous article link at the top. Other bloggers have personalized backgrounds as well, but this one is the worst as far as I can tell. I hate to ask you to change your preferred background, but idk if the designers can put those links into boxes. Otherwise, I am still enjoying your writing and will continue regardless.

  4. leni says

    “100,000 West Africans are in Central America, have been taught to speak Spanish and are coming across our Southern border” carrying Ebola, naturally.

    I think it’s hilarious that they think the Border Patrol agents, most of whom probably speak some Spanish*, couldn’t detect the accent of new Spanish speaker. Yes it’s probably true. No one speaks Spanish here in America! Especially near the Southern border! And almost no one is familiar enough with it to detect the difference between a native speaker and someone who just learned it and probably speaks with a thick, suspiciously West African sounding accent.

    Jesus, how stupid are these people? I can hear my sister’s thick American accent when she speaks Spanish and the only words I understand are whole numbers between 1 and 10.

    *I just checked. Spanish fluency is a job requirement. Who could have guessed.

  5. bahrfeldt says

    This is the first time that I have seen more than one of Trump’s proclamations on this subject as a group. They reek of overwhelming panic and cowardice from a person who otherwise appears to think that he is above such mortal cares. Usually I find his bluster and b.s. annoying and sometimes amusing, like when will the Birther Searcher team he claims to have sent to Hawaii years ago come back with it’s shocking findings about Obama?. But this current pathetic display has made me rather sad, way more than it should.

  6. says

    Paraphrasing Epicurus – many of the wealthy and powerful seek that wealth and power to protect themselves and their families from the vicissitudes of life. When they mistake that wealth and power for an end in itself, they have made a mistake. Trump – in spite of his wealth and ‘fame’ that would almost certainly protect him more than the rest of us in an outbreak – is still afraid. What good is your wealth and power, now, rich man?

  7. says

    Because the CDC and the USAMRIID have NO CLUE how to deal with patients infected with a deadly disease!!! And because Tom Clancy wrote about it in a novel and several spy shows and films have also used the device, it MUST BE EASY PEASY to create an aerosol weaponized version of ebola!!! WE SHOULD SHOOT DOWN ALL FLIGHTS FROM….Er, or not.

    Look, it would be quite frightening if we did have an outbreak here. And it could potentially happen. But if it does happen, we will deal with it. The thing is, having patients being treated here and the more the better, makes it easier for us to learn more that may well save more lives if it does happen! I rather assumed that was why we were bringing some ebola patients back to the states. It isn’t like we can magically make them more comfortable, or offer them magical treatments that aren’t available anywhere but in Atlanta. We want to do everything we can to beat it and having people who are infected on hand, is a huge help.

    We don’t have any magic. What we do have, are a lot of very clever scientists – some of the best in the world. And I am going to go out on a rather large, heavy limb here and guess that there are patients being sent to other places where many of the other best scientists who are well suited to studying ebola are located.

    Meanwhile, unless you have exchanged bodily fluids with someone who is infected with ebola, PLEASE STOP PANICKING!!!!!

  8. elpayaso says

    @ Leni: the Border Patrol agents, most of whom probably speak some Spanish*, your overall point is 100% correct, but don’t kid yourself on this particular item. I work in the US courts in El Paso, where we regularly deal with the BP and their Spanish “fluency”. all agents are required to complete a minimal course, but most are far from fluent and many could barely order a meal and a beer in Mexico. they learn a few key phrases and often that’s it.

  9. Trebuchet says

    Trump didn’t actually say “Ebola is a disease found in niggers” but that’s obviously what he was thinking.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Ebola is one seriously scary disease – as is its close cousin Marburg filovirus – which both featured in an excellent book called ‘The Hot Zone’ by Richard Preston which I found absolutely horrific and captivating reading. (Although I gather some poetic license may have been involved?)

    Still, disgusting as the symptoms of ebola may be, they don’t come close to how disgusting and repugnant Trump’s cowardly cruel comments here are.

    BTW. Former FTB blogger Greg Laden had a good informative post about ebola on his blog recently too – see :

    Although I guess Avicenna is best placed and most knowledgeable on things medical here. Doe sLaden’s post stack up right to you Avicenna?

  11. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    PS. Avicenna what do you think of this latest post from Greg Laden on this :

    too? I take it that’s all correct yeah?

    @7. DuWayne :

    Meanwhile, unless you have exchanged bodily fluids with someone who is infected with ebola, PLEASE STOP PANICKING!!!!!

    I’d make that even *if* you have exchanged bodily fluids with someone who is infected with ebola, PLEASE STOP PANICKING as panicking won’t help you whereas seeking urgent medical help is the only thing that will, myself.

  12. shadow says

    @1 beat me to the comment about Trump.

    @11: I read The Hot Zone whenever I feel ill — it reminds me that things could be so much worse.

    I haven’t seen which strain of Ebola this is. It seems closer to the Sudan variant (@50% kill ratio) than the Zaire one (@90% kill ratio), though Reston is ruled out, as that was non-fatal to humans (per The Hot Zone, anyway). I’m sure a few more variants have popped up since Preston wrote that book.

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