Discussion:
Ebola and the Western powers
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Philip Ferguson
2014-10-22 02:59:05 UTC
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While it's horrible that anyone is dying form Ebola, it's a bit strange
that western media are so focused on it, when the vast majority of people
in Africa die from easily preventible other diseases.

Indeed, it seems part of the exoticisation of Africa and western paranoia
about 'the other'.

See:
http://rdln.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/what-have-people-in-africa-been-doing-since-the-ebola-outbreak-started/
Jeff
2014-10-22 11:42:53 UTC
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At 15:59 22-10-14 +1300, Philip Ferguson via Marxism wrote:
>
>While it's horrible that anyone is dying form Ebola, it's a bit strange
>that western media are so focused on it,

While all of us like to find politically-motivated imbalances in the media or government propaganda, I could not disagree more with the above statement, and the rest of the article that attempts to support that thesis. If I needed to criticize the media and response of the international community, it would have to be that it had taken much too long for them to come to terms with the magnitude of the crisis. Arguably the Western media's response was accelerated by a handful of cases in America and Europe, but it was still too little too late.

The bar graph in the article showing the relative death toll between ebola and other diseases in Africa is extremely misleading for reasons I will lay out. If it were the result of an intentional campaign to reduce resources addressing the epidemic then I would even call it criminal. It would be like Hitler displaying a graph comparing the total number of deaths in the world in 1944 with the relatively small number of Jews who "died" in concentration camps.

1) First, like any such comparison, it compares a large number of deaths with a much larger numbers while avoiding the main conclusion: that almost all of the deaths from HIV, malaria, hunger, TB, and syphilis are avoidable and shouldn't be offered as an excuse for one single avoidable death. For instance, I protested the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa without comparing that death toll (9) with the other death tolls in Nigeria such as presented in this graph, for which I don't apologize.

2) The graph is somewhat misleading (and this relates to point (3)) because it accumulates all the deaths over the last 7 months whereas half of the ebola deaths have been in the last month, so a fair graph showing the numbers over the last month would show only about 1/4 the disparity displayed.

3) But most of all, the graph and entire article seems impervious to the fact of exponential growth of ebola (whereas the other death rates displayed are more or less stable). The incidence and death rate of ebola is doubling every month! That means that the same graph plotted next summer would show ebola exceeding all the other deaths in Africa. But that's just for starters. At the current rate of increase, in just about two years the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE would be DEAD. Does that concern anyone? Anyone?

For reference, here are graphs showing that exponential growth:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_epidemic_in_West_Africa#Timeline_of_cases_and_deaths
http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2014/10/how-many-ebola-cases-are-there-really

This isn't my field, but I'm pretty sure that there has never in recorded history been a widespread epidemic with any similar rate of exponential growth. Never had the human race only two years left if current rates of infection continued. And although the spread of ebola (like any disease) can in principle be turned around (so that the exponential growth becomes exponential decay), this hasn't yet happened in countries where it became widespread EVEN THOUGH people are aware of the dangers and reducing their exposure.

Unlike HIV or TB, normal infection control measures are insufficient, as the continued exponential growth rate indicates. With many hundreds of specialized medical workers in space suits (some of whom still get infected), the care provided is wholly insufficient. With the growth rate of the epidemic, the number of such medical workers would have to more than double every month in order ever come to grips with the problem. Otherwise the only possible response to saving the human race would be the one you've probably seen in some sci-fi horror movies, where the army is called out (wearing space suits) to shoot all diseased people from a safe distance, or just nuke affected areas. I'd prefer to see an increase in the level of care givers well in excess of doubling every month, as well as public health measures to reduce transmission. Beyond the current measures I would have to say, since these have been inadequate except in situations where there were only a handful of cases.

I'm sorry to have written an entire post where I didn't address the class struggle. It's just that if the ebola epidemic isn't turned around (or at least slowed) in the next two years, then there won't be a class struggle :-(

- Jeff
Lüko Willms
2014-10-22 14:56:41 UTC
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on Mittwoch, 22. Oktober 2014 at 13:42, Jeff via Marxism wrote:

> This isn't my field, but I'm pretty sure that there has never in
> recorded history been a widespread epidemic with any similar rate of
> exponential growth. Never had the human race only two years left if
> current rates of infection continued.

What about the pestilence plague in the Middle Ages?

This did exterminate large parts of the population.

Even the exponential spread of infections -- one person gets infected, and infects two others, etc -- can't continue just by the mathematical formula, since the curve will go down, if not enough people are around to be infected. And effective isolation of infected pations will slow down the spread of the infections (I myself have been in my childhood in an isolation station for having an infectious disease).

Ebola was registered the first time in the 1970ies; there were outbreaks in remote villages in the D.R. of Congo, but it then died down. The difference is that now this virus got into population centers which have multiple interconnections with other population centers. It is also not sure, if the Ebola virus will not die down similiar to the SARS virus.

The real scandal, in my view, is that the total commercialisation of health care and the parmaceutic industry has prevented an early development of a cure and an immunisation, because that seemed not to be profitable because of the small number of people affected in isolated areas of one of the poorest and most poorly managed semi-colonial countries. The development of an Ebola treatment would not have resulted in a spike of the stock prices of those pharma companies working on such.

Qualifying the previous it has to be noted that scientific analyses of the virus had been conducted, but because of the short lived and limited appearences of it, it might have been difficult to test a treatment or vaccination. Nonetheless, the pharma industry which is mainly driven by financial speculations would not have done very much to find a cure.



Cheers,
L?ko Willms
Jeff
2014-10-22 16:37:00 UTC
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At 16:56 22-10-14 +0200, =?iso-8859-15?Q?L=FCko_Willms?= via Marxism wrote:
>
> What about the pestilence plague in the Middle Ages?
>
> This did exterminate large parts of the population.

Well yes, that is about the closest case one could cite. Though I don't
think its rate of exponential growth could have been as high as doubling
every month since each of those outbreaks continued over a few years and
wouldn't have been recognized as epidemics in their earlier stages. And I
believe they were exacerbated in the medieval cities due to rats, poor
sanitation, and overcrowding, while the relative infrequency of
international travel meant that it didn't break out in all areas
simultaneously like we see now. In any case, if we are now comparing the
ebola epidemic to the black plague, then I have made my original point in
regards to the original post whining about the media overplaying the
epidemic's danger.

> Even the exponential spread of infections -- one person gets infected,
and infects two others, etc -- can't continue just by the mathematical
formula, since the curve will go down, if not enough people are around to
be infected.

Yes I thought about that when I was writing it but didn't feel a need to
complicate the formula. I just calculated when the current rate of growth
would equal 7 billion, but didn't literally mean that it would be the end
of human life on earth. The decrease in the infection rate due to a
decreasing human population, which Luko correctly mentions, shouldn't be of
much consolation since it only becomes a significant factor after a large
part of the population has perished! So instead of saying that "all" of the
human race would be killed after 24 months, I could have more accurately
said that "only 1/4 of the human race" would be killed after 22 months. And
in any case I don't literally believe that either because rates of
exponential growth will change due to other factors. And what's more, there
is at least a 50% survival rate given good care (although it isn't clear
that most people would get good care after there were billions of cases) so
not all of humanity would perish but only half. Is that disclaimer
reassuring to anyone??

>And effective isolation of infected pations will slow down the spread of
the infections (I myself have been in my childhood in an isolation station
for having an infectious disease).

And my point is that they are trying to do that in the affected countries,
and the epidemic is STILL doubling every month. So this is obviously an
extremely contagious virus and after it doubles another 5 or 10 times,
there aren't possibly going to be enough medical personnel with space suits
to attend to the victims, let alone insure to public health and the
continuation of the economy and food supply.

> The real scandal, in my view, is that the total commercialisation of
health care and the parmaceutic industry has prevented an early development
of a cure and an immunisation, because that seemed not to be profitable

Well that is absolutely right, and was admitted an hour ago on the BBC by a
spokesman from Glaxo-Smith-Klein. He said that they had consulted with the
WHO earlier this year, but at that point it wasn't clear that there would
be a serious epidemic so they didn't feel working on a vaccine or cure was
needed. He only left out the word "profitable," but unmistakably that is
what he was talking about.

- Jeff
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