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Medicine Technology

Racing To Contain Ebola 112

An anonymous reader writes "Ebola, one of the most deadly diseases known to humans, started killing people in Guinea a few months ago. There have been Ebola outbreaks in the past, but they were contained. The latest outbreak has now killed over 100 people across three countries. One of the biggest difficulties in containing an outbreak is knowing where the virus originated and how it spread. That problem is being addressed right now by experts and a host of volunteers using Open Street Map. 'Zoom in and you can see road networks and important linkages between towns and countries, where there were none before. Overlay this with victim data, and it can help explain the rapid spread. Click on the colored blobs and you will see sites of confirmed deaths, suspected cases that have been overturned, sites where Ebola testing labs have been setup or where the emergency relief teams are currently located.'"
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Racing To Contain Ebola

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  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @10:40AM (#46733343)
    I thought for a moment that racing is to Ebola what cookies are to flour. Then again, too much sport can kill you anyway. ;-)
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @11:00AM (#46733415)

    I thought I had read someplace that severe hemorrhagic fever diseases (and maybe it was Ebola specifically) weren't large-scale pandemic risks because they incapacitated and killed people too quickly, inhibiting their spread. Whereas other diseases like pandemic flu or smallpox were a bigger pandemic risk because the host wasn't knocked down so fast and could be mobile and communicable for longer.

    • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @11:03AM (#46733429)

      Back in the mid 1900s sure, but today even Ebola's average of 13 days between infection and onset of symptoms is plenty for someone to get on a plane with a transfer in JFK International...

      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday April 12, 2014 @11:35AM (#46733573) Journal
        It would wreak havoc in the urban population centers if it ever mutated into an airborne pathogen, but since it is widely believed to be spread via host-to-host contact and human bodily fluids its capacity for epidemic is low.

        A partially immune host, one who's symptoms delay or remain minor, could conceivably have much more time to spread the often fatal disease, but it's not going to "take off" due to poor transmission rates.

        Humans have exhibited an ability in past plagues to leave oozing, infected bodies alone... but if something this virulent ever learns to spread like the flu there will be no more overpopulation worries.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          This Ebola strain is not communicable via air, but others are, e.g. Ebola Reston. Luckily, Ebola Reston is not as deadly to humans, but it still dissolves monkeys. We are one mutation away from an air-born deadly strain which can cause a pandemic.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          It will be a fine balancing act to ensure transport routes sea and air are cut off to prevent transmission of Ebola before it reaches out from less populated regions to major cities where direct contact between persons becomes possible, keeping in mind sneezing, transfer of perspiration from person to person in public transport systems and other transitory methods of transfer that can extend physical contact be actual direct physical contact.

          So major cities throughout the world are under direct threat an

          • So major cities throughout the world are under direct threat and likely acting early rather than latter in cutting off sources of infection would be far safer.


            We were receiving cargo onto the boat less than 48 hours out of Guyana, less than 2 weeks ago. Since then 1/4 of the crew will have crew-changed to (mostly) Louisiana, another 1/4 to Europe, another 1/4 to various places in Africa (including Guyana and Liberia), and half of the Philippine labourers will be lining up for their crew change.


        • but if something this virulent ever learns to spread like the flu there will be no more overpopulation worries.

          ... for about 3 generations.

          • I can see you're going to make me work for it. Okay. A generation is historically 20-25 years at the mean, 15-35 years at the extreme, and we can probably safely project something on the low side of average after a massive worldwide loss of life... nearby death seems to act as a bit of an aphrodisiac. I will sample 23 years using these predictive assumptions, and not at all because the multiplication of factors 3 and 23 results in a product of 69.

            Depending on the strain, an ebola infection is lethal upon c

            • Using the back of a different envelope, let's hypothesise some mutation to ebola that gives it a 70% mortality rate (the mean of the mortality rates you cite), and a flu-like transmission profile. Then in around 5 years of cycling through the population, we'll be down to about 2.1 billion people left on the planet. That's around the population in the late 1920s to late 1930s.

              Add on your 69 years for 3 generations and we'll be back to a population situation of 1933 + 69 = 2002. In short, we'd be back to the

      • one of the interesting things about this outbreak is that it is close to the Tai forest in Cote d'Ivoire, so we can guess where it came from.

        Except that it turns out not to be that strain, it's similar to the strains found in the RDC, 2500 kilometers away.

        How does a disease move 2500 kilometers in less than 14 days?

        • My guess would be a bird, or that it was carried by an animal or person that for whatever reason wasn't affected.

          • The only way you could get from the RDC to Guinea in less that 14 days is by plane. There are no usable roads for much of the distance. (It can take more that 14 days to get from the interior of the RDC to the capital, never mind getting from there to Guinea).

            (Maybe by boat, but I doubt it).

            • So bird is a distinct possibility then, as is concurrent infections from pre-existing sources.

              • A bird is extremely improbable - Ebola is a mammalian disease.

                As I've said before, the pre-existing disease in the close geographical area (near to where my wife's family live :-)) is a different strain.

                It seems to me that this virus is airborne (with a little help from big-brained primates).

                • A bird is extremely improbable

                  Because it's not like a pathogen has ever learned to hop from one species of host to another leaving utter devastation in its wake.

                  Swing Flu []
                  Bird Flu []
                  Goat Flu []
                  (funny I meant the last one as a joke but searching for the family guy video, it appears goat flu is real [])

                  Anyone know someone who'll make book on what the next animal flu will be? My money is on a karma induced pangolin flu wiping out poachers...

                  • Let me know when you find a non-mamalian rabies virus.

                    • Good thing there's no such things as mammals that fly OH WAIT

                    • 2500 km?

                      Why would bats migrate from the RDC to Guinea?

                      Which animal species are you going to suggest next? Fish? Insects?

                    • Do I LOOK like an expert in bat psychology to you? All things being equal the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. Either there was a pocket of the disease in the other location already or it was somehow carried there. Maybe it was an animal, maybe a person in the incubation period, we don't know and probably never will.

                    • 2500 km?

                      Why would bats migrate from the RDC to Guinea?

                      Errr, because it was caught in a cargo shipping container?

                      (It might be an idea to read my previous - last 15 minutes - posts in this thread.)

                      Do I sound unconcerned? Of course I am. It's the same risks that I am exposed to in searching for oil to fuel your lifestyle.

                      Do you sound concerned? [I shrug] It's the same risks (etc) but they strike at your home. [Shrug.]

                      Welcome to the globailsed economy, where any organism anywhere in the world, be they plut

        • by Anonymous Coward

          How does a disease move 2500 kilometers in less than 14 days?

          Perhaps some form of mechanical horse or - and I'm being crazy here - some form of mechanical bird!

        • There could be some natural reservoir of the virus that was already nearby but is now on the move due to climate change or habitat destruction. Or maybe some unlucky souls found this new vector.
          • That's the point - there is a natural reservoir, it's the Tai forest in the Ivory Coast.

            But the strain in Guinea turns out to be from the RDC.

            So it seems highly probable that Ebola has already taken it's first trip on a plane.

            Have an appropriate amount of fun.

            • That's the point - there is a natural reservoir, it's the Tai forest in the Ivory Coast.

              How would that explain the 1979 outbreak of Ebola in N.Kenya/ S.Sudan in 1979?

              • I didn't say that Tai was the only reservoir, it's just the obvious one for an outbreak in the Guinea - Sierra Leone - Liberia area.

        • I suspect it involves coconuts and swallows.

    • The benefit of Ebola is that it makes the sick bedridden quickly. In countries with hygiene standards the disease dies out quickly since the pathways of transmission are severely limited. There is research that shows diseases will(in the evolutionary pressure sense, not free will) soften the symptoms to stay in the population. The most successful diseases are the ones where the majority of hosts will ignore the symptoms and go about their daily life.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 )
      Consider how fast the flue spreads with a faster onset... The only reason it has not gone global is that travel out of the regions with it so far can take a week or more. If you want to have a few sleepless nights, read "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston. It is a true story of Ebola Rushton... []
    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      That is true.
      However, a complication is that people do move about in the short time before they become incapacitated.
      Plus, we really don't understand well how it is transmitted and where the natural reservoirs exist so it's hard to find the source and eradicate it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2014 @11:04AM (#46733433)

    just escape to Madagascar, the virus won't probably reach you there.

  • It seems this one is being spread by birds, but frankly doesn't it seem like other diseases are killing way more than this instance of ebola?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      The common flu is killing several orders of magnitude more each year. The problem with Ebola is that once it reaches a certain level, society collapses. Then then you need to contain what is left by force, just to prevent panic. And _that_ is what will kill a lot more people that the disease itself ever could.

  • At worst a few thousand people die. That's fewer than die in the Arab world because they keep murdering health workers, because THAT's disrespectful of Allah or some such shit.

  • I'm currently in Columbus, OH - currently undergoing a mumps problem, with almost 200 cases reported. The number is still growing. This is a dumb problem to have to worry about. Get your vaccinations.

    • There is no vaccine against ebola.

      That said, because I'll be back to work in Africa (to fuel your lifestyle) shortly, I'll be getting a booster on my typhoid jab tomorrow. Because ... that disease didn't stop killing people with Mozart.

  • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @01:11AM (#46738175)

    Let's see what we are working with:
    (1) 90% mortality rate,
    (2) No known vaccine,
    (3) Spreads by bodily fluids,
    (4) Area with poor hygiene,
    (5) All experts recommend letting the virus "burn itself out."

    Objectively, is there really anything to do other than to strictly and conservatively quarantine every country (and sub-quarantine cities as necessary) with a positive case?

    We should not even be sending in aid workers, who could potentially be exposed. Medicine and water can be airdropped.

    That's the short term solution. In the long term, you need to educate the population, improve hygiene and infrastructure, and figure out where the infection is coming from. In general, the African governments have not really been interested in doing any of the above.

    • Objectively, is there really anything to do other than to strictly and conservatively quarantine every country (and sub-quarantine cities as necessary) with a positive case?

      We need the MDT-MRPQ tool that we sent back to that field base for service last month, and we'll need them at the end of next month.

      Are you going to pay the consequential costs of your "advice"?

      (Bear in mind - the lead time to manufacture an MDT-MRPQ tool is around 8 months. Which is why we rent them from Franco-American corporations i

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