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No New Ebola Cases Were Reported in the Past Week; Some Other Epidemic will Cause a Population Crash

2015-10-11

West Africa has had its first Ebola-free week, with no known cases, since the epidemic began in March 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday.

via No New Ebola Cases Were Reported in the Past Week, Health Agency Says – The New York Times.

The Ebola epidemic appears to be subsiding, after affecting 17,757 people in Guinea and Sierra Leone (12,048 laboratory-confirmed cases) and killing 6,489 of them.  Liberia had the second-most cases, with 10,666 total cases but only 3,151 laboratory-confirmed cases.  The total of cases in other countries was 36, including one who has been hospitalized in Britain just recently for a relapse.  Four cases were reported from the United States.  There have been no cases in Liberia since September 3, 2015, when the country was declared virus-free (for the second time) by WHO.  (See CDC reports of case totals)

During the early phases of the Ebola outbreak last year, some people claimed that a million victims were possible, even probable.  Such predictions did not take into account the odd proclivities of the Ebola virus, particularly its tendency to rapidly lose its lethality after repeated transmission from person to person, and its low infectiousness except when the body is teeming with virus just before death.  The practices that encouraged spread, mainly intimate contact with the highly infectious corpse before burial, were limited to the cultures of the local peoples, and not difficult to restrain with adequate education (although some were highly resistant to change and conducted funeral ceremonies in secret.)

Our conclusions are that Ebola, while a dangerous disease, is not the world-beater that some have fantasized.  Although it is tempting to see in rapidly-spreading epidemics the one that will kill everybody, the pandemic, it isn’t time yet.  There are indications that the pandemic is coming: overpopulation, chronic hunger and malnutrition, armed conflict, rampant selfishness, under-funding of public health and epidemiology research.

The human population boom that has gripped the world for the last hundred years (since the development of effective public sanitation measures) has led to the extinction of many other species, some of whom were already threatened, but many previously booming themselves, such as the passenger pigeon.  A human population crash would appear to be just around the corner, unless we do something to reverse the effects of the boom upon the Earth.

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