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October 03, 2014

Tonight's Ebola Update (tmi3rd)

Hi there, Morons and Moronettes. Ace has been all over a lot of this today, so I'm going to bring you up to date on some slightly smaller details, and also give you a little bit of science on catching the bug versus staying away from it.

It's been said that brevity is the soul of wit, and for another night in a row, I'm completely witless. It's a long one.

More beneath the fold...


Okay, so as of last night, Hawai'i had quarantined a man for Ebola testing. It has since been determined that he does not have Ebola. The same linked story notes that there's also a man in quarantine in Salt Lake City, and their health officials have sent samples to CDC for testing.

You're going to see a lot of false alarm stories for at least another week. The media may get tired of the story at that point. I'd advise staying posted on what's happening in west Africa at least through the end of October, and here's why...

Ebola outbreaks in the past have typically burned themselves out quickly because of the sheer lethality of the virus. At 90% mortality, Ebola Zaire would kill everything in its path too quickly for it to sustain itself, particularly when it would happen in remote areas. This outbreak is killing about 50-55% of its victims, and that's a slow enough pace for it to keep itself going. Add to that that it's in cities like Monrovia (Liberia's capital), and it's got a steady food supply.

So How Does It Work?

First of all, let's talk about how viral infections get going.

Viruses are generally considered nonliving infectious particles. They've got a small amount of genetic material in them, and they attach to certain receptors on the surface of specific cells. They are then taken into the cell by a process called endocytosis or by fusing with the cell's membrane.

The virus then hijacks the cell's machinery to produce viral components and assemble new viruses. When enough viruses are created to crowd out everything else in the cell, the cell bursts (called cell lysis).

Ebola is particularly nasty because it attaches to a receptor common to lots of different types of cells. The best explanation I saw came from GuardAmerican on Twitter, who does infectious disease for a living... he describes it as willing to hop into bed with whatever it encounters.

So that means that it doesn't care what kind of tissue it encounters; it's coming in and making itself at home. This is what makes it so contagious- if it can find some cells to penetrate, you've got it.

So let's get to some of the day's news you may not have seen...

An American freelance photographer (working for NBC of late) has tested positive for Ebola, and is being flown back to the US. He had been working with Dr. Nancy Snyderman's crew, and they've been in pretty close proximity to sick people in Monrovia. Given how many stories they shot from inside Ebola wards, I can't say I'm terribly surprised he caught it.

The Liberian government intends to prosecute Duncan for lying on his health form. Well, on one hand, good. He deserves prosecution for a whole bunch of different stuff.

SO WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHY IN THE HELL THE UNITED STATES ISN'T PROSECUTING HIM FOR JEOPARDIZING THE HEALTH OF THE ENTIRE CONTINENT?!

IF he survives, he will have established to the rest of the world that they can come over here with the world's worst diseases, threaten the health of everyone in the country, and the worst that'll happen is that they get sent home. And if he knows he's going to be in trouble when he goes home, what do you suppose the odds are that he'll apply for asylum here?

Oh, by the way, for a bonus round- he was visiting his son and his son's baby mama in Dallas.

I want to get to the enterovirus for a second, so I'd like you to read this piece by a German virologist who spent several weeks in Monrovia working on Ebola cases. It's worth noting that he thinks the screening process is completely useless over there.

Okay, on to the enterovirus...

A ten-year-old girl in Rhode Island died today after being hospitalized with the enterovirus. Now, here's the thing- they're calling the cause of death sepsis from Staphylococcus aureus, which is endemic in about thirty percent of people's noses.

Even though she was hospitalized for breathing difficulty, Rhode Island officials are not blaming her death on EV-68. It certainly didn't help, but it didn't kill her.

What we don't have a handle on is what's causing the paralysis in some patients who are sick with the virus. Nobody can say whether EV-68 is randomly causing it or if some other bug is piggybacking its way into the body with EV.

There's a lot we don't know about it, but apparently, there's enough data to say that there is an enterovirus season that peaks in late September and early October, and tapers off from there. Check this link out for a pretty good Q-and-A with Dr. Rafal Tokarz of Columbia University about EV.

That's what I've got for you this evening- I'm hoping we'll have some good news in the near future.

-tmi3rd

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:31 AM

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