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Funny, I was just watching a documentary on the Black Death.  Now that was scary.  Once the plague became airborne, you were really in trouble. I can remember the day I spent in Siena, Italy looking at all the plague art.  It was chilling and there was so much of it. And yet, there were still countries, like Poland, that managed to isolate themselves from the epidemic.  So, if there was a way to evade an airborne illness in the 14th century, we’re probably going to do Ok against ebola, which isn’t airborne.

Then again, yersinia pestis was a bacteria and ebola is a virus.  The last time we had a viral epidemic of catastrophic proportions was during WWI with the Spanish Flu.  Still, many of those deaths were caused by cytokine storms, i.e. an overreaction of the immune system.

Nevertheless, the probability that this virus will spread is pretty low and is summarized in the following PSA from Vox:


And there you have it.  The way ebola spreads is through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals.  So, the solution to containing any potential outbreak of ebola in Texas is pretty simple: treat the sick and quarantine them and any person who may have had direct contact with them.

There are only a couple of problems with this.  The first is that Texas, like many states run by Republican governors, has not accepted federal money to expand medicaid.  So, we have to assume that every person who gets sick from ebola is insured.  Uninsured people are not allowed to get ebola in Texas.  The virus should be instructed to avoid infecting uninsured individuals.

Secondly, we have to assume that everyone who gets ebola can take a sick day and won’t lose their jobs if they decide to go into quarantine.  That might be more tricky because it is likely that quarantine wouldn’t be voluntary.  The virus should be directed towards people in the leisure class as they can afford to take time off.

We just have to hope we can reason with the virus in case the single isolated case in Texas turns into more than a single isolated case.

If I were the Feds, I’d try to get ahead of those two issues.

Not that there’s anything to worry about.  Because there isn’t (probably).

Well, I’m not going to panic in any case.


14 Responses

  1. I have been sorta busy lately and haven’t read ya regularly in the last couple weeks – but – just want to say that even when I don’t quite agree with you I am still loving your writing and this blog. It’s wonderful. Thanks.

  2. [wingnut]

    Obama brought the Ebola virus over here to kill Real Murkins so he could re-populate the country with Moozlims ‘coz he’s a Double Seekrit Moozlim terrist himself!

    Also, the Ebola virus is an illegal immygrint which came over here ‘coz it wants to get on our welfare system, which is the most gen’rus in the world and the easiest to get on!

    Rush and Fox Nooz told me so!

    [/wingnut] 😉

    • I’m trying to picture the ebola virus filling out forms for public assistance.

      I guess Rush has a better imagination than I do.

  3. Speaking of the plague, RD, have you read the novel “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks?
    I highly recommend it.

    • Ooo, I love plague books. Will definitely check it out.

    • Yes, “Year of Wonders” is a very good book.
      She has also written two other interesting but very different books,
      “Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal’s Journey from Down Under to All Over” and “Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women”.

  4. I get that close bodily contact is required for transmission of the disease and that the contact has to happen after the disease has progressed pretty damn far.

    But, I have some personal experience with our county Public Health Department that makes me VERY skeptical about their commitment and ability to track the web of patient contacts. In my case, someone extremely close to my family (daily visits – and at one point tried to drink out of my daughter’s glass) had TB. Yet we were never interviewed, informed of the risk or tested.

    SO I’m not convinced that if this patient got around at all after his symptoms showed up or if the family was social that the Public Health Department would be able to track those contacts.

    • That’s awful!

      • It WAS! My daughter and I got TB tests and were fine. But, you’d think the county would have had an interest in OUR health. Particularly since I worked closely with the public at the time.

        And yes, I do remember the Hot Zone. It was great.

  5. AIDs redux?

  6. AIDs kills/killed over several years. Ebola kills (or not) over days to a week. It won’t have years to spread around unseen and unknown.

    I notice that the Great Flu doesn’t seem to be nearly as anchored in the American public mind as the Great Plague. Was the Great Flu so traumatic to the country, and are we still so close to the experiencers of that trauma, that we still observe a muffled zone of “we hardly mention this” about the Great Flu?

    I read somewhere that “cytokine storming” is exactly why the Great Flu killed the young and the strong so preferrentially. Older people with a semi-weak immune system didn’t suffer their body burning itself down from the inside in an effort to “get those bugs”.

  7. Here are some interesting details from Reuters about the Texas case:

    Dallas Ebola patient vomited outside apartment on way to hospital

    Two days after he was sent home from a Dallas hospital, the man who is the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States was seen vomiting on the ground outside an apartment complex as he was bundled into an ambulance.
    “His whole family was screaming. He got outside and he was throwing up all over the place,” resident Mesud Osmanovic, 21, said on Wednesday, describing the chaotic scene before the man was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Sunday where he is in serious condition.
    The New York Times said that Duncan, in his mid-40s, helped transport a pregnant woman suffering from Ebola to a hospital in Liberia, where she was turned away for lack of space. Duncan helped bring the woman back to her family’s home and carried her into the house, where she later died, the newspaper reported.

    Four days later Duncan left for the United States, the Times said, citing the woman’s parents and neighbors.

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