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Friday, August 8, 2014

Ebola: Coming to a theater near you

The Ebola virus has been around for about forty years or so now. There have been dozens of sporadic small outbreaks throughout the years all of which have been contained easily. So what is so different about this outbreak than those in the past? Well, of course there is the huge number of cases that have occurred which have not been confined to small geographical areas,but have been widespread, even crossing borders to other countries. There has been the intense media coverage of the epidemic in the US especially since two Americans contracted the disease. Extreme poverty, lack of decent sanitation, clean water also play their parts. And something else: Western Africa is urbanising at an incredible rate right now. Where as thirty to fourty years ago most Africans lived in rural towns and villages  today up to 60% of Africans live in urban areas so the disease can be spread to a greater number of people than ever before. There has also been an incredible amount of deforestation in the region driving many of the disease's natural reservoirs, like bats into closer proximity to humans. There is also the fact that the incubation period for Ebola can range anywhere from 2-21 days giving people ample time to hop a plane, to say Amsterdam looking and feeling perfectly fit on arrival only to become sick and infectious days later. And furthermore, and this is only my opinion, this disease may have mutated to a point where it can more easily infect humans than past outbreaks.
Will this outbreak be as easy to control as past outbreaks?  The fact is this is no where near contained at this time. Will it be the big pandemic that has been laying in wait just around the corner? That remains to be seen.