Should We Be More Afraid of This Ebola Outbreak?
It’s being called the “worst Ebola outbreak in history,” yet information about it outside of Africa is sporadic at best. In the U.S., the news is mostly about two Americans who have been infected. Meanwhile, it has killed over 670 people in West Africa and over 1,100 more have been infected since the disease broke out in March. Is the news being covered up to avoid a worldwide panic?
Ebola kills anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of people infected, usually from the effects of fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Of the many ways it can be spread, the primary method is via bodily fluids, which puts medical personnel in danger – and not just from the virus. The New York Times reports that armed militia have stopped aid workers from moving around, blaming them for spreading the disease.
It can take up to 21 days for Ebola symptoms to occur after an infection, which means a carrier can look healthy when he or she boards a plane, as a Liberian man did when he brought Ebola to Lagos, Nigeria, the biggest city in Africa. As a result, mobs have formed around hospitals treating patients, blaming foreigners for the disease. In Sierra Leone, which has the largest number of Ebola cases, police used tear gas on thousands of protesters at an Ebola treatment facility in Kenema during a demonstration started by a rumor that the disease was a cover-up for “cannibalistic rituals” inside the hospital.
More realistic conspiracy theories abound. In his book Emerging Viruses, Dr. Leonard Horowitz investigates numerous claims, such as the one that Ebola was created in a lab, possibly by the CIA, in response to threats in Central Africa.
Dr. Peter Walsh, a Ebola expert at Cambridge University, pulls no punches on its danger.
This strain of Ebola is probably the second most deadly virus in the world after canine rabies. If you get canine rabies, you’re going to die, but we also have vaccines for that. It’s possible someone infected will fly to Heathrow having infected other people sitting next to them or by using the toilet.
Walsh also believes the virus can be used as a weapon.
The bio-terror people are worried about somebody weaponising Ebola and being able to deliver it in an aerosol form. In that case it could be seriously nasty, because it would be just as deadly – but this way they’d have a means to really spread it.
Now you know a little more about this Ebola outbreak. Should we be more afraid?