Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Monday, December 10, 2001

There has been an Ebola virus outbreak in Uganda, near the border with Congo. Although this is not in any sense unheard of, it does have the potential for causing a lot of death and suffering. For those who have not read either The Hot Zoneby Richard Preston, or The Coming Plagueby Laurie Garrett, this may not mean much. 28 people have died by the latest count. Ebola is a very fast, very deadly hemorrhagic fever virus, that causes nearly total organ failure. It works by a mechanism fairly similar to much less deadly viruses, but is very fast, and humans seem to have very little immune defense against it. Fortunately for humankind, it is relatively difficult to spread by virtue of the blood-borne transfer mechanism and extraordinarily severe symptomatic disease, which prevents a potential vector patient from spreading disease very far. Reasonably effective containment measures are available, but it is still a horrible fate for any person to suffer.