|Professor Ebola Mugumbo searching for the 'cure'|
We haven’t heard much of the ebola scare of late. But a scant few months ago it was all over the news. Vaunted as the ‘Doomday Bug’, we were constantly regaled by swivel eyed scientists and politicians about how we were all going to die, horribly, horribly…… Then something new bumped ebola from the front pages. It might have been images of decadent Westerners getting their heads sawn off, I can’t actually remember.
There is no doubt that the ebola virus is particularly virulent with a 90% kill rate. But sober appreciation is required. Since 1976, an estimated 2,500 people worldwide have succumbed to the disease. Contrast this with the 30,000 deaths in the US alone due to influenza, per year. However, unlike influenza, there is no evidence that ebola is an airborne pathogen which can be passed on by coughs and sneezes. Indeed, direct contact with bodily fluids is required for the virus to be transmitted. Even then, the virus has to enter through a cut in the skin or by contact with mucous membranes.
Few in the West fear the influenza virus, although the avian strains detected 10 years ago provoked a similar 'panic button' response. It is salutary to recall that the 'Spanish flu' of 1918 killed 100 million people and accounted for more than five times the deaths suffered in the First World War.
Decades of conflict, poverty and lack of modern medical facilities are the likely explanation for ebola's prevalence in West Africa. Poor hygiene and traditions of close contact with dead relatives don't help. Funeral traditions often require relatives to wash the corpse multiple times over several days. Paradoxically, the deadliness of the disease and the rapid onset of symptoms to death limit the ability of the disease to spread. Countries with a modern infrastructure, efficient medical systems and sanitary living conditions have little to fear. One positive aspect of the 'scaremongering' has been the prodigious effort placed by Western governments and health care systems into developing vaccines. Candidate vaccines are currently undergoing animal trials and it is predicted that an effective treatment for the ebola virus will be available later this year. Shame that an antidote can't be found for the epidemic of strife, ignorance and economic ruin which runs rampant through much of the Dark Continent. Alas, I fear there is no known nostrum for these ills.
|Cured by Ipod Mugumbo. That'll be three chickens- thank you very much|