Ebola – Err on the Side of Caution (Part 3)

In this article I want to address:

  • The current status of air traffic from Ebola afflicted areas
  • Mechanisms for spreading the disease
  • Exactly where geographically Ebola has broken out
  • The incubation period for Ebola
  • The demographics of those dying from Ebola today
  • The error of over confidence

It is very good news that Nigeria’s biggest airline Arik has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone.  We should remain hopeful that all airlines follow suit and suspend flights in and out of the afflicted areas. News reports concerning Ebola and their representation of difficulty in contracting the disease Global authorities on alert over Ebola outbreak from USA Today are likely false.  Ebola has been shown to be spread through fluid droplets between monkeys and pigs and it is easily conceivable given a large enough density of afflicted people to be communicated the same way in humans.  See From Pigs to Monkeys, Ebola Goes Airborne. For this reason it is clearly not a good idea to misrepresent the threat.

Yesterday I showed a chart of air traffic in the world but did not post an image of the afflicted regions.  Below is an image posted by The Economist showing the areas afflicted by Ebola.


Yesterday in conversation I was asked what the demographics of those who die from Ebola are compared to those who die from wars.  He also asked what the incubation period for Ebola was so as to understand the potential for spreading the disease without any knowledge of having it.   His questions led me to reading research articles on Ebola and an understanding of the effect of research on our ability to protect ourselves from high risk situations.  The best research I found was published by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention under the heading Emerging Infectious Diseases Volume 16, Number 7—July 2010 (*Note: This article has been pulled from the CDC website.)

The incubation period for Ebola, or the period between when you contract the disease and when you have symptoms, can be anywhere from 2 to 21 days with the medium period being 7 days. The incubation period reported is a data point with enough variance that we can accept it with extreme confidence.  This makes the threat of accidental transport extremely high.

The information provided in the report about the demographics of those dying from Ebola are as follows:

Case-patients’ ages ranged from 3 weeks to 70 years (mean 34 years, median 35 years). Most 40 (36%) case-patients were crop farmers; 14 (12%) were healthcare workers.

Clearly, all members of society are at risk contracting the disease and it is not just the young or old that die from contracting Ebola.

The analysis of this report indicates that most contracted the disease because they participated in burial rituals and that the disease is, in general, hard to contract.  It is on this point that we must be most careful.  This is the point that USA Today is using to pacify our fears and misses the mark completely on the reality of how diseases and their interaction with the global auger of humanity spread. The spread of disease is much more like water poured on a table than water poured into a crafted channel.   The water will spread according to least resistance and find invisible paths that  our cursory observations of the table missed.  Confidence and our desire to remain calm in this situation are our worst enemies.  We do not have the luxury of believing that transmission is so difficult and our health care systems so robust that there is minimal threat.

Is it possible that somebody could be infected in one of these countries and fly to the U.S.? It is certainly possible. Given our health care system, it’s unlikely that we would have widespread disease as a result. We would be on top of it, and we would be able to contain it. Our health care system affords people access to gloves and gowns and personal protective equipment. I don’t think there’s reason for panic that we’re going to be hit with an outbreak of Ebola. – W. Ian Lipkin told National Geographic

Our analysis should be less concerned with what situation transmitted the disease and more with the percentage of contractions based on density without extreme mobility.  The overall attack rate in some districts was 43 cases/100,000 population.  What this number does not represent is the concept of acceleration and momentum that occurs in a population with enough density and rapid transportation escalating the probabilities of exponential growth.  To exemplify this concept suppose Tom, a 35 year old business owner and long time allergy sufferer, contracts Ebola while on safari in Africa without having any idea that he has contracted the disease.  Tom returns to New York city 3 days after being on safari and plays basketball at noon with a group of players he has played with for years.  The players on the court change up from day to day and are known for entertaining business travelers in the finance industry from California, London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.   Within the first week of returning Tom plays basketball with 40 different men ranging in age from 20 to 55, half of whom travel back to their perspective cities clueless of their having been in contact with Ebola.  How many people might have Ebola after three months if at the end of the first week 4 players, or 10%, have contacted Ebola from contact with Tom’s sweat while playing basketball? The number of possible people contracting Ebola after 3 months is 16 million people with a death rate of 40% amounting to approximately 6 million people.   These numbers exaggerate the potential because they assume extreme body fluid contact at a rate of 40 people a week.  It is not, however, unfathomable that the rate of close contact between the original 4 that contract Ebola is 1 person a week.  The total number of people with Ebola under these circumstances is 1 million after 12 weeks.

Shutting down all air traffic in and out of the affected areas will greatly increase our ability to control the disease.  More importantly, this situation is a situation to approach with caution, not over confidence.  Our history is riddled with a reference to the past being our predictor of the future only to be surprised at the outcome.   The past, even with respect to statistical analysis, is at best a potential predictor of outcomes.  It is best not to place all our marbles in the basket of confidence.



Ebola – Immediate Intervention Required (Part 2)

Ebola is number 2 on my Google News list.   I wish Ebola was at the top of my list and every single list presented to anyone who reads the news.  The reasons for elevated awareness are:

  • Extent
  • Immediacy
  • Remediation

One very good reason is that we should all understand the nature of what a threat is and its extent.  The percentage of deaths due to World War II as represented in terms of world population was approximately 4%.  Here is an infographic showing the extent of damage on human population due to wars.

Atrocities Timeline

Atrocities Timeline

Population Control, Marauder Style

Clearly the death toll from pandemics is much more substantial ranging anywhere from 3% to 70% of the population.

The immediacy of any given future event is unknown.  Odds are fickle.  There are, however reasonable expectations that can be set based on data.  We must ask ourselves what are the conditions that favor viruses.  Here is my list:

  • Existence
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Host Density
  • Number of unprotected interactions per period of time

There is a current outbreak of Ebola in Africa.  It is the worst outbreak on record. We are in a time of increasing global temperature and humidity which is a highly favorable environmental factor for the longer survival times for viral transmission.  Although Ebola’s dominant transmission mechanism is contact there is substantial evidence that it can be contracted through several airborne mechanisms.  From Pigs to Monkeys, Ebola goes Airborne is an article discussing a scientific study demonstrating this possibility.  The population of earth is growing exponentially and represents a tremendous host environment for Ebola.  Here is a chart of world population.


Here is an image of global air travel:

Global Air Travel


It should be obvious that if several cases of Ebola are contracted by East Asia, European, or US businessmen that are international travelers the number of interactions with densely populated areas increases substantially.

The conclusion of this evidence is that all the conditions required for a global epidemic are in place waiting for the circumstances to favor the interaction.

It is for this reason that the news should show Ebola as the number one item and that all air traffic should be ceased in and out of the infected areas immediately.

Ebola – The Difference Between Near and Far

World votes are controlled tremendously through the advertisement of disasters that may happen or already have happened whose intercession is highly visible and controllable.  Think of global warming, meteor strikes, solar flairs, genocide, civil unrest, tsunamis, and crop disasters.  We all have to ask ourselves where it is we wish to invest with confidence that the investment in our collective future will have the greatest benefit.  How imminent is global warming on the health and welfare of your family, friends, and country?  How imminent is the probability of global epidemics and what are our policies to avert them.

Right now in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia there is an outbreak of Ebola.  The death rate for those who contract the virus is currently 40%.  The most frequent catastrophic events that have had the greatest impact on the global population are viral outbreak events.  Below is a chart showing the frequency and extent of pandemics.

Pandemic Events

Pandemic Events

Historically it is obvious that pandemics have had a tremendous impact on human history.  It is worth noting that pandemics can shift the axis of political control and send the world into dark ages.  We currently have better control over disease itself than at any time in the history.  However, have much less control over the movement of people from one region to another.

When we consider where we should place the emphasis of our investments in controlling catastrophic future events, we should invest in the global control and the spread of viruses with unknown cures.  Currently, air traffic is moving in and out of the areas effected by ebola in Africa with travel warnings about the virus.  How can we guarantee that an infected person does not board a plane unsuspectingly transferring the threat from a region with little population movement to a region with great population movement such as Europe or the United States?

Epidemics are a human pathogen that spread at times following exponential growth functions.  Ebola is currently doubling the total infected people every month.  Here is the chart for the growth.

Ebola Virus 2014

Ebola Virus 2014

Implementing an Effective Umbrella Social Framework

This article assumes that the current science regarding the biology of thought and irrational behavior in groups to be true. It is clear to me that societal control has been managed by umbrella organizations starting with religion, politics, and now geo-economics. All of these provide an abstract principle consumed by the groups within.

Join the Gathering is in existence to create a framework for ordered society without the redistribution and consolidation of power that exists in previous social control models.