Ebola and The Future

Ebola is scary. It has a death rate somewhere between 50% and 90%. There is no direct cure, only treatment of the symptoms. Furthermore it is a hemorrhagic virus, meaning that it causes bleeding, most visibly from the nose, but from other places including internally as well. Victims of Ebola generally bleed to death. Not coincidentally, horror movies have been showing us people dying in this this way for decades and have cemented it in our minds as scary—apocalyptically scary.

Containing the spread of the disease is presently achievable only by isolating the infection. There is no direct treatment of the virus, only management of the symptoms, and the spread of the disease has outpaced the ability of the affected African governments to manage it.

But, for those of us who are not in Africa, we can delude ourselves into thinking it will not reach us. Or perhaps we will choose to believe our technologically advanced nations will manage it better. Unfortunately these assurances have been undermined by the first attempts to deal with cases of Ebola here in the United States.

The case in Texas, which has been all over the news, has resulted in two additional cases so far according to the CDC 10/19/14 update. This one case, has resulted in two additional cases, so far. If we do not get better at containment, if we allow each of these cases to result in two additional cases and if that trend continues from there, then we are already in deep trouble. But I doubt we will continue to see this one to two ratio continue. I believe we will get better at isolating it.

Unfortunately, I also believe the mood in Africa is that infected people are left to die, because local resources are overwhelmed. Desperate people do desperate things. Those with resources will flee the parts of the world where the contagion is spreading. At least some of these will not know they are infected and will bring the virus with them, others will be hiding their symptoms hoping for better treatment.

I will not speculate further on the future of the disease, other than to say it is going to get interesting.

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