Ebola Getting Out of Control in the Democratic Republic of Congo

This story has been in my drafts folder for a while. I can’t get too worked up about Ebola because I don’t see how it can become a real problem for the US, though I’m sure there is some way it can. Besides, there are other diseases that are real problems today, that we could worry about. Still, lets pull it out of drafts and take a look at the situation in the DRC.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is screaming that the epidemic is out of control. ‘Nothing short of terrifying’: Ebola death toll hits 1,000 as lethal virus spreads. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Mistrust has hindered efforts to rapidly contain the highly contagious disease, with a quarter of people in the region believing that the Ebola virus does not exist. Others have accused the authorities of fabricating the outbreak for political gain – voters in the region were not able to partake in national elections in February due to the crisis.

Violence is also rife. The area surrounding Butembo has been at the centre of conflict for more than two decades, and over one hundred armed groups are in operation in the region.

You can’t help people who don’t want help.

The recent spike in cases is in part because efforts to control Ebola were temporarily halted following a string of attacks on treatment centres, threats against health workers and the murder of a WHO epidemiologist.

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People Are Worried About the Wrong Thing

Ebola is bad, but it isn’t likely to get here by way of illegal immigration. It takes too long for people to get here that way. 20 Illegal Aliens from Congo Being “Monitored for EBOLA” at U.S. Border.

TB on the other hand is a real problem.

“TB is an ongoing issue in the state of Texas,’ [Laredo Health Director Dr. Hector Gonzalez] explained. “Between Texas, California, and New York, we have 50 percent of the cases of TB and the border has the most. Brownsville has the biggest number of cases.”

Because there is TB, Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), and Extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). Regular TB costs about 100 bucks to cure, if you can give people medicine over time and KNOW they will take it. The other forms require hospitalization, quarantine and whole lot more drugs.

Hat tip to Wirecutter.

Never Say Hollywood Doesn’t Know How to Make Money Off a Crisis

Hundreds of people are dead. Hundreds more are sick. (The mortality rate is about 50% right now.) And the outbreak is spreading. Hollywood’s response? “Let’s make money!” See Julianna Margulies in first look at scary Ebola miniseries The Hot Zone. If there is a better example of Hollywood feeding off the tragedy of others, it doesn’t jump to mind right now.

By that description alone, you can deduce it won’t be realistic. You won’t see people die by bleeding from every orifice in their body. You won’t see them vomiting blood, losing control of their bowels, or any of the other things that go along with hemorrhagic fever. That wouldn’t be very entertaining.

21st Century Hollywood is known for its low bar on class, morality, decency, etc. But this seems like an extreme way to make money. Or at least it does to me.

UPDATE: If you behind on the status of Ebola… see this link.

I Thought We Had Learned the Lessons of Ebola

But the people of The Democratic Republic of the Congo haven’t been told or don’t believe those lessons. Ebola outbreak reaches city of 1 million residents.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has spread to a city of nearly 1 million residents. There are now 30 confirmed cases and 15 deaths in the city of Butembo reported in the latest update provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of cases in the city center is still low, according to Doctors Without Borders, but that number is rising quickly in more outlying districts and suburbs.

There are limited supplies of the vaccine – which is still under trial I believe. And there have been reports of aggression against the Safe and Dignified Burial teams. (Those teams help stem the spread of the disease.)

Under the “Why you should care” heading. Butembo is near Uganda and South Sudan, and not too far from Nairobi, Kenya. If it spreads to Nairobi, it will probably spread a lot farther. (International air travel anyone?)

And I was just about ready to change the Category of “Ebola” to a tag, since it didn’t look like we would have another outbreak like the last. This is looking like the last outbreak. Maybe it is worse than the last outbreak.

Liberia Declared Ebola Free

Liberia was hard hit by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, but they seem to have gotten it whipped. In Liberia, Ebola outbreak is declared officially over – The Washington Post.

Liberia, the West African nation where Ebola claimed the highest number of deaths in the largest outbreak since the virus emerged in 1976, has gone 42 days without any new Ebola cases, according to a statement released by the WHO.

The 42-day period represents double the maximum incubation period for the virus since the last victim of Ebola was buried.

The numbers in Liberia are staggering.

Since Liberia’s latest outbreak began in March 2014, the country has seen more than 3,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola and another 7,400 probable cases, leading to more than 4,700 deaths, according to the WHO. A total of 375 health workers were infected and 189 lost their lives.

Doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Doesn’t mean that everything is over. The worst is over, but there is a lot of rebuilding to do.

Ebola? It Is the Eeeevil Bankers Fault

Because you know, they insist on things like balanced budgets and repaying of debts. (Never mind they are providing 0 percent loans…) Those evil, evil bankers. IMF policies blamed for weak Ebola response – Telegraph.

The whole thing is completely predictable. So I won’t quote any of it. Even the IMF rebuttal is de rigueur.

But I still think all this focus on Ebola is a focus in the wrong place. Oh, yeah, it is an issue with West Africa, and they need to do something about it. But there are other diseases more likely to kill you. Like TB.

Fewer than 8000 people have died of Ebola in this latest outbreak in West Africa, including the handful that died in the US and Europe.

First, lets look at the global picture on TB.

  • In 2013, 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died from the disease.
  • Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and it is among the top 5 causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.
  • In 2013, an estimated 550 000 children became ill with TB and 80 000 HIV-negative children died of TB.
  • Globally in 2013, an estimated 480 000 people developed multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

Of those 480,000 MDR-TB cases, approximately 9 percent were Extremely drug-resistant TB, or XDR-TB.

In the US, things are better, but there were still more than 9500 cases of TB reported in the US.

There were 536 deaths from TB in 2011, the most recent year for which these data are available.

Paying attention to things that can kill you is probably important, and probably worthy of news coverage, but why the coverage of one and not the other?

UPDATE: I am not alone in my concerns… Beware The Silent Killer: Influenza.

Now that the media have finished with the luridly reported and absurdly exaggerated concerns about Ebola in the U.S., they might wish to consider a genuine imminent threat to our health: influenza.

The “flu,” which is marked by high fever, muscle aches, malaise, cough, and sore throat, is transmissible through airborne droplets and is so infectious that after an airplane sat for three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, within three days, 39 of the 54 people on board contracted the flu, infected by a single passenger.

And it can kill you.

From the 1976-77 season to the 2006-07 season, flu-associated deaths in this country ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Worldwide, flu kills about 250,000-500,000 annually.)