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Ebola is coming!

In the news these days is a nasty illness known as Ebola.

This is what most people think of when they think of Ebola:

[screenshot from Day Of The Dead]

Yup. That's right. Ebola is this weird plague that turns people into zombies. There are entire African nations that consist of nothing but slowly decomposing zombies. That fact that this stuff isn't all over the news is thanks to CIA keeping a lid on this.

In reality, you might have noticed that this horrible illness with its insanely high mortality rate is not quite playing out like it did on films like Outbreak. Even though we had the classic situation of an infected person travelling on an airplane, and the requirement for the authorities to track down everybody else on the plane, people are not dropping like flies in the US or Europe. Actually, as far as I am aware, most of those affected have been healthcare workers dealing with already infected people.

So - wait - what gives?

The answer is simple. At the time of writing (and believe me, we are utterly screwed if this changes), Ebola is not airbourne. In fact it is debatable if simply touching the skin of an infected person is enough to infect yourself. The common vectors are getting body fluids from the infected (urine, poop, vomit/spit, snot, blood...) into either an open wound or into your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth (or via sexual intercourse). Sweat has been dismissed as a vector. Tears, they're not sure about.
While it is entirely possible given the onset of the yearly flu season that one person coughing in a public space might cause a mass panic, a person coughing won't give you Ebola unless they cough directly into your face or you do something rancid like drag your finger through the droplets of their cough (if they recently coughed on a flat surface) and then pick your nose with the same finger. Then the fact that you'll probably infect yourself, get sick, then die - it's called Natural Selection.
If somebody over the age of five urinates on you or takes a dump in your lap, you might have reason to worry. There are some jobs where pee and poop are a normal part of the job (anybody remotely connected with nursing in old people's homes, for instance), but if you should get that on your hands and then into a wound and/or eyes, mouth, etc - then trust me, you have serious hygiene issues.

This is why Ebola is providing lots and lots of column inches and air time to hysterical news programmes but the world has not descended into Martial Law just yet.
It isn't leaping from person to person like the Martian Heat Ray. It affected so many people in Africa because of burial practices which require the infected-deceased to be handled, a lot. Couple that with a lower level of basic hygiene, you can see why the score is under 20 in First World nations and somewhere over 4,500 in Africa.

However, it isn't usually in the interests of the news media to tell the truth. Block print can scream "EBOLA KILLS THOUSANDS IN AFRICA!" (true) "IT IS COMING HERE" (probably true) "WE'RE NEXT!" (unlikely to be true) but their distorted we're all gonna dieeeeee! view of the world only serves to play with your emotions, scare you, whip you into a frenzy, and ultimately sell themselves to you. You watch their programme, you buy their paper, you trust in what they say. That's the intention.

If you want to suffer a panic attack and a nervous breakdown at the same time, at least wait for Ebola to mutate to be an airbourne illness. Then all those scary headlines will be true. Otherwise, it comes down to something closer to "PEOPLE THAT DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO MODERN MEDICINE AND GOOD STANDARDS OF HYGIENE ARE DYING OF A VIRULENT ILLNESS!" - that's somewhat less "argh!", isn't it?

A bunch of people will still die, though we've woken up enough to take some sensible precautions. We might even get around to providing proper help to Africa (if only to slam a lid on this illness for our own sake).
Remember - SARS from 2002/2003 which is viral and has no cure nor vaccine, spread to 37 countries and... fizzled out. It's still around (it is a coronavirus), but over a decade later, we're still here. All those scary headlines? You tell me.


Anyway, if I'm going to be eaten by a zombie, I want it to be a good looking zombie. Sadly, Ebola neither makes people zombies, nor Japanese, nor schoolgirls. I guess it'll be a long wait before we have a virus capable of doing that. Until then, there's always television.

[screenshot from Sailor Zombie, complete with the fakest looking blood imaginable]



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joe, 9th November 2014, 03:22
You said it: "You watch their programme, you buy their paper, you trust in what they say", they also make the vaccines.
Rick, 9th November 2014, 10:23
I think you misunderstand, Joe. Western governments and research facilities may make vaccines; however News Corp, Fox News et al DO NOT. That was who I was referring to with the "they". The media, with their typically over-dramatic slant on things. And then they act so surprised at stories such as a school cancelling an exchange student from a country not even affected, after having painted a picture in which swathes of Africa is nothing but hordes of the undead...

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