Ebola Spreads

Ebola. If you have never heard of this disease, you are truly out of touch with the world.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a disease caused by a virus that begins very much like the flu. Symptoms first appear between two and twenty days after the person is infected. This is a hemorrhagic fever, meaning that the infected person will bleed from various parts of the body. Between 50 and 90% of the people infected will die as a result.

There is no vaccine. There is no treatment, but some experimental ones are being developed.

Dead bodies can transmit the disease. The semen of a recovering man can spread the disease up to 50 days later.

Scared yet?

Good news about Ebola.

Only contact with blood or other bodily fluids from the sick spreads Ebola. It does not become contagious until after the symptoms appear. The disease was first detected in 1976. It has never spread from to the rest of the world

This current outbreak began in March of this year. It began in Guinea. It spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Most recent it has spread to Nigeria. Normally Ebola kills so quickly and completely that it wipes people out before they can spread the disease very far, especially in a rural setting.

Why does Ebola appear in rural settings? Scientists believe that the disease has a natural reservoir in the population of fruit bats. The fruit bats are also a form of bush meat in rural communities.

Why is this outbreak different?

The disease has not burned itself out. It has spread instead. Furthermore, it’s spread from rural to urban settings. Lagos, Nigeria has a population of 21 million. That’s much larger than Monrovia, which only had four hundred thousand citizens.

From these cities, cases or potential cases have appeared in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Benin and Uganda. The miracle of modern air travel brings people across the globe in hours.

How are conditions in Monrovia, Liberia?

Initially the people of the city denied that the disease actually existed insisting it was only a plot by the government to take greater control, and spend more money. (Sound like Republicans?) Then the rumors began. Doctors are harvesting organs from those that die for rich Europeans. Someone poisoned the water in the wells.

The reality is worse than the rumors. Medical staff have left their jobs to avoid the disease. For this reason, people with other diseases cannot find treatment. People are afraid to go to the hospital in case they are forced into quarantine with those infected with Ebola. Food prices are rising faster than the death toll.

Desperate to avoid the quarantine, people drag the dying from their houses to leave them in the streets.

In rural areas, aid workers and nurses in hazmat-like suits have been threatened and attacked.

The government has declared a state of emergency. It has closed schools and forbidden large gatherings.

British Airways has suspended its flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Troops have been deployed to quarantine the border.

Yet life continues.

The city is open, but different. Before entering a building, you must wash your hands in chlorinated water. The locals quip, “Our hands will really get white.” Some people are wearing masks and gloves. No touching. Many institutions have asked non-essential staff to stay home.

Finally, true to their nature, some politicians have attacked the government’s approach to fighting the disease.

What lies in the Future?

Despite the media campaign, there remains a strong distrust for the government’s efforts. With medical staff getting sick or deserting their posts, and the closure of one hospital in Monrovia, medical treatment for any illness is more difficult.

There have been riots because the government is too slow to pick up the bodies of the dead along the road. To speed this up the government is turning to cremation instead of burial.

Imagine Lagos, a city that is forty times as large. There are nine confirmed cases there.

To confirm Ebola, a blood sample must be taken, deactivated, and then tested for a specific genetic material. This can take more than forty-eight hours.

We can only hope that governments and people take the middle way. Life must continue. Trucks must carry food to the stores, and the fuel to the gas stations. On the other hand, vigilance, and care are required.

As for me. I think I’ll watch Contagion again, pick up some hand sanitizer, gloves and a mask, just in case.

Latest news:

Zambia has banned entry to all people coming from the West African nations where the Ebola virus has broken out. It becomes the second African nation after Ghana to impose a travel ban.

Test have shown that the suspected cases in Saudi Arabia, New York,  Ontario and Hong Kong  were not Ebola.

Nigeria has banned movement of dead bodies from within and outside the country as part of its measures to avoid the spread of the Ebola virus.

The Christian Council of Ghana has dismissed suggestions that the Ebola disease that has hit some West African countries is a punishment from God.

Contractors at ArcelorMittal SA’s iron ore mine in Liberia are evacuating the country and other miners are sending staff home to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Romanian health authorities said on Sunday that a 51-year-old Romanian man suspected of having contracted a severe infectious disease during a visit to Nigeria last month did not have Ebola.

Even later

In Nigeria, health officials say they have ten confirmed cases and two deaths.

In Sierra Leone all bars, cinemas, video parlors and nightclubs were told to stop their activities. All “mushroom” and private health clinics must stop their operations. The Sierra Leone Police will organize regular patrols to prevent illegal activities including unauthorized movement of Ebola-infected persons. Non-essential travel will be restricted between the Ebola epicentres of Kenema and Kailahun and the rest of the country.

Monday snippets

The Nigerian Government has set up an isolated area at Mainland Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

In the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos,  a middle -aged man slumped and died, while queuing up to get the yellow card. The new Minister of Aviation, Mr Osita Chidoka, was on tour of the Lagos Airport for the first time when he and his entourage stumbled on the corpse.

An airplane traveling over Norway was forced to land in Trondheim after a coughing fit in an African passenger triggered an Ebola panic.

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan  has stated that worshippers would henceforth receive the Holy Communion bread in their palms instead of the usual practice of sticking out their tongues to receive the bread. He also suspended the shaking of hands, a practice usually observed regularly during church service.


In Liberia people are turning to traditional healers to combat Ebola.  Some try exorcism performed in the church with touching and chanting. Other healers rub the body with limes and onions.

Con men sell ‘Ebola vaccinations’ in the markets.

In Nigera, rumor has it that Ebola can be prevented with ordinary hot water with salt. Two leading Nigerian newspapers, citing unnamed sources, reported that excessive salt consumption led to two deaths and 20 hospitalizations.

Wednesday and Thursday Snippets

Guinea, where the outbreak has killed at least 377, declared a “health emergency” on Wednesday and ordered strict controls at border points and a ban on moving bodies.

The United States ordered the evacuation of diplomats’ families from Sierra Leone.

The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) on Thursday said that people who have contract Ebola would not be allowed to  perform this year’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Over 60,000 Nigerians are expected to participate in the 2014 hajj.

In Sierra Leone, the country’s chief medical officer, Dr Brima Kargbo, told of the difficulties facing health workers. “We still have to break the chain of transmission to separate the infected from the uninfected. There is a rejection among people of the existence of Ebola and hostility towards health workers.”

The Ebola virus has killed 56 people in just two days, bringing the global death toll to 1069, the World Health Organization says. The number of confirmed infections jumped by 128. New cases and deaths had been registered in all four west African countries.

Friday and Saturday

Makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus. Natural Solutions Foundation said that it’s product contains microscopic silver particles. Rima E. Laibow, posted an “open to heads of Ebola-impacted states,” dated July 29, claiming that NanoSilver cured Ebola.

Several widely available drugs that were initially developed to treat patients with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes may be effective. They don’t treat the Ebola, but they reduce the chances of organ failure from Ebola, which decrease mortality rates. This suggestion came from David S. Fedson,  a retired professor of medicine at the University of Virginia, and  Steven M. Opal,  a professor of medicine at Brown University.

Finally the World Health Organization (WHO) is reconsidering a potential Ebola treatment tried as far back as 1976. The treatment uses the blood of people who have recovered from an infection to treat those still fighting the virus. Convalescent serum has been used in other outbreaks (eg in China during SARS).

Kenya Airways has suspended commercial flight operations to Liberia and Sierra Leone temporarily effective Tuesday 19th August 2014.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month issued the first extensive guidelines for hospitals on how recognize and treat Ebola patients. The C.D.C. says that health care workers treating Ebola patients need only wear gloves, a fluid-resistant gown, eye protection and a face mask to prevent becoming infected.

No “moon suits”. Not everyone agrees.


A crowd of several hundred local residents, chanting, ‘No Ebola in West Point,’ drove away the burial team and their police escort. The mob then forced open an Ebola isolation ward and took the patients out, many saying that the Ebola epidemic is a hoax. The isolation center, a closed primary school originally built by USAID, was being used by the Liberian health ministry to temporarily isolate people suspected of carrying the virus. Some 10 patients had ‘escaped’ the building the night before, according to a nurse, as the center had no medicine to treat them.


the number of Ebola virus cases surpasses 1,600 in four African countries.

The authorities in countries affected by Ebola should check people departing at international airports, seaports and major border crossings and stop any with signs of the virus from traveling, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.

Beware of Ebola virus e-mails! Cashing in on the Ebola virus syndrome, cyber criminals are using the fear of the virus as bait leading to malware infections. Anti-virus experts have already found three malware operations and one phishing campaign using the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa as a social engineering theme.


  • Cases in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak this year have risen to 2,240, including 1,229 deaths, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

In parts of Liberia they cannot bury the dead because they have no body bags.

The Liberian government has imposed a night time curfew.


Riot police and soldiers acting on their president’s orders used scrap wood and barbed wire to seal off 50,000 people inside their Liberian slum Wednesday, trying to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Liberian soldiers on Wednesday fired into a crowd of young men who were trying to escape a quarantine that cordoned off an Ebola-stricken neighborhood in the capital.

More than 700 Air France crewmembers, including pilots, have signed the petition. “They say we are trained to spot Ebola,” he told Le Figaro. “That’s false. We’re not trained to do anything other than put on rubber gloves and surgical masks and lock suspected patients in the lavatories. That’s not enough.”

Air France is the last remaining major European airline still flying directly to the Ebola-affected West African cities of Conakry, Guinea, and Freetown, Sierra Leone, causing ample concern.

The authorities in countries affected by Ebola should check people departing at international airports, seaports and major border crossings and stop any with signs of the virus from traveling, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday. – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/world/more-world-stories/story/ebola-hit-countries-must-screen-all-departing-travellers-says-wh#sthash.fgyfqbUb.dpuf
The authorities in countries affected by Ebola should check people departing at international airports, seaports and major border crossings and stop any with signs of the virus from traveling, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday. – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/world/more-world-stories/story/ebola-hit-countries-must-screen-all-departing-travellers-says-wh#sthash.fgyfqbUb.dpuf

On a Different Topic

I’ve been tracking down my stories that are available on the Internet and setting up pointers to them from my website. If you haven’t visited it recently, you’ll find new material.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net