Wednesday, October 29, 2014

EBOLA and the firefighters

This Ebola thing has everyone worried stiff.

Besides the mangling, the bungling and the bumbling that goes on and still does in circles of high intellect, this entire exercise is a human failing of fear. This fear is furthered by information asymmetry that plagues the senses of the many. The intangible thoughts are housed in intangible silos of il-logic. It is neither the blue pill or the red pill, but the mere act of thinking that throws us into the ethereal world of intubated existence based on nonsensical force-feed.

Assuming that you dear reader are reasonably versed in the language of today, where fear mongering is a game for thrones and every word is crafted to incite the amygdala to release some synaptic electrical impulse, then surely you realize that Ebola by in itself in the U.S. is not too much a cause for concern.

However and here is the however that everyone shudders to bring to the fore in their mind’s eye; West Africa is in trouble, a shaky economic foundation, a paltry infrastructure and a government by, for and of the government. Those countries are going to need a lot of our hard earned tax dollars in the future via the United Nations or through its barbed tongue of ridicule invoking redistribution of wealth. Now where does that leave us over here in the scrutinized, carefully configured and elegantly crafted western world? Through the worm hole of cognitive dissonance, doesn't it?

Getting back to the facts here are some that we should chew upon:

1.      1.  Ebola is a virus.
2.       2. Ebola is contagious through body fluids including saliva.
3.       3. Ebola does not spread through air – unless you are within 3 feet of a coughing infected individual or if it decides to mutate. It hasn't yet, has it? Don’t think so.But it can be aerosolized (mixed with air as in a cough associated saliva being dispersed out of the trachea at 70-200 mph with 40,000 droplets ).
4.       4. Of the 10,100 or so infected 4990 have perished, a mortality rate just under 50%.
5.       5. ONE diseased individual traveler from Liberia died on the US soil.

Now for some stubborn facts in the United States:

1.      1.  Lightning Strikes kills 6000 people annually.
2.      2.  Car wrecks kill 43,000 people or 24/100,000 hours of driving per annum.
3.      3.  General Aviation killed 444 in 2013 or 0.04% or 0.65 fatalities/100,000 flight hours
4.      4.  Tornadoes killed 908 people in 2013.

You get the drift…

Now what gives Ebola such an overwhelming emotional force that makes everyone tremble with anguish and fear?

Therein are the twin slaps of human frailty and desire. Something sinister comes this way and we don’t know what it is. If you were to peek in the theaters, they are filled with thrill seekers watching zombie movies and other blood curdling suspenseful artistic endeavoring to make one jump off the seat. Another place to look at the long lines is the bungee-jumping sites, “free fall” at adventure parks and the like. The thrill from these bete-noir is something to gloat about, but, they are a “known, known.” The risks are reasonably well mitigated and the thrill lasts a few minutes. But with Ebola there is something surreptitious, something alien, something to be feared because it cannot be easily seen, touched nor controlled.

Everyone talks about it without foundation, as an expert. From lawyers to engineers, from radio talk show hosts to TV hosts, from political pundits to artists all have an opinion to express. And the conversation thus grows and grows till it comes out of the pores of every editor of a newspaper, magazine because fear sells and they need to sell. Interestingly "experts' convey the deaths associated with Influenza as a more serious event of which we should be more concerned. Really? Influenza has a mortality rate of just under 0.01% with its annual pandemic march! Imagine Ebola on that scale?  This vortex, vicious in its intensity consumes the minds of all and then it fades as all vortices eventually do. The mental discourse moves on as this one will too.

But seriously what drives us, is the invisibility of the hazard (the risk) and its unknown quantity. It can arrive in any form, on an airplane, in the movie theater, in a crowded bus or on a stretcher in the Emergency Room of a hospital. These unknowns drive us; the quantifiers with wearables, up the proverbial wall. We want to know, to be able to see the risk and mitigate it by donning the “no skin visible, paper garments!” We want easy, identifiable transparency within the microscopic world of the microbial. We feel given our lofty sense of “know” that is how it should be. Only nature does not behave that way. Now does it?

What will Ebola do? It will do what is written in it's RNA code, namely, to go forth and multiply and survive! Ebola will over time find a happy medium of existence but before it does that there will be the parabolic curve. Every epidemiologist like a firefighter worth her/his salt would know to curb an epidemic or to douse the flame they need to burn a ring around the site. Well in our loftiest of thinking we keep expanding the index sites. What utter rubbish emanating from faulty reasoning. Sometime I wonder...

So take a deep breath and let the lawyer spokesperson spin it the way it will become music to all our ears. Let us continue to widen the circle of the exposed by not “nipping it in the bud.” Let us look for vaccines first rather than prevent the clustering so with the immune selective pressures we can force it to mutate. Let us give some free reign to the virus in the meantime and maybe it will douse its own flames as the HIV did. But then, I digress…

Ah we of such lofty thoughts and ideals don’t see the ground we walk upon.

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