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Ebola, the World-Beater

2014-09-27

The Ebola virus is spreading out of control through the population of Liberia because of a lack of treatment facilities.  Patients are dying at home, and when they vomit up blood, they are spreading the virus to everyone around them.  It is not for a lack of attempts by relatives of victims to get help, as described by journalists.  It is simply that all the hospitals are full, and have to turn away patients at their gates.  The Ebola virus is transmitted by close contact and exposure to the victim’s excreta, which are increasingly blood-tinged as the week or so of active illness progresses.  Then the corpse is highly infectious.  The best the government can do now is pick up the corpses for disposal.  An estimate of present capacity states that 18 percent of Ebola patients are being treated in hospital (this estimate comes from the New York Times, of course).

The American military has sent a team to build hospitals for another 1700 patients.  This may be of some help, but if the circle of contagion spreads as it has been, in a month there will still be five times as many patients as beds.  The Ebola epidemic is at a stage in which it is spreading rapidly, and it is difficult to predict how many people will eventually be involved.   There is the possibility of millions of dead, but it seems unlikely.  Only time will tell.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. L.M. permalink
    2014-09-27 19:11

    Why does millions dead from Ebola “seem unlikely”? Just because it is a huge number? There are 22 million people in just these 3 country’s and 1.1 billion in Africa and each and every one of them MUST be out in the public on an ongoing basis (getting food, supplies, caring for sick relatives, etc). With a disease that is almost 100% fatal when untreated, and you can get simply by brushing up against someone, 500 million deaths in Africa is certainly possible.

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    • 2014-09-28 18:18

      Actually, the NYT says that 1.4 million infected by January is entirely possible. By the way, 50 to 70% mortality is not almost 100% mortality; even the Black Plague only killed 1/3 to 1/2 of the total population of Europe. If we’re unlucky (or lucky, depending on your point of view) this could depopulate Africa in a year. That’s why I called it “The World Beater.”

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  2. 2014-09-29 16:15

    Correction. The Centers for Disease Control forecasts a possible (whether that’s the worst case or not) 1.4 million people infected with the Ebola virus by January. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

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