Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Liberia: Not So Fast

The WaPo is cheerfully reporting that Ebola is on the decline in Liberia.
The rate of new Ebola infections here has declined so sharply in recent weeks that even some of the busiest treatment facilities are now only half-full and officials are reassessing the scale of the response needed to quell the epidemic.The turnaround has occurred without the provision of a single treatment bed by the U.S. military, which has promised to build 17 Ebola facilities containing 100 beds each across Liberia. Those treatment units will be constructed, said Bill Berger, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Disaster Assistance Response Team here. But the option of initially opening some with as few as 10 beds is “being discussed,” he said.

So evidently the beds that aren't nearly enough, are now supposedly totally unnecessary, leading yet again to wonder WTF we have troops there at all. Somebody at the Post needs to get their story straight.

The leader of Liberia is not quite saying any of that:
Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has cautioned Liberians not to be too happy over the decline in the number of Ebola related cases in Liberia. The Liberian chief executive wants citizens manage their emotions as the fight against the killer disease intensifies.
More than 2,500 persons have died of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia in March 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Recently, the WHO reported that the Ebola virus in Liberia is declining.
According to President Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia has "reached a place where there's a reduction in the number of people going into treatment centers."
So there could be fewer people actually sick, or there could just be greater unwillingness to go to the death house and wait for the arrival of the Grim Reaper.

Which is not at all the same thing as Ebola being "on the decline."
Just that their ability to count cases and deaths, which has never been particularly confidence-inspiring anywhere at anytime, may have completely lost track of this outbreak.

Neither the UN nor Doctors Without Borders are having any parties:
It's too early to say the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is waning even as reports of empty beds in treatment centers and a decline in the rate of new cases in some areas buoy optimism, a United Nations envoy said.
Transmission has slowed in parts of Liberia and Sierra Leone, though the virus is “advancing rapidly” in other areas, said David Nabarro, the senior UN system coordinator for Ebola. Infections have flared in communities where there had been improvement.
“It’s hard to tell exactly where we are at the moment -- whether we have started to turn the corner or not,” Nabarro said in a telephone interview today from Geneva. “Once the curve starts to come down, we worry like mad that people will take their eye off the ball and it starts to go up again.”
Nabarro joins other health officials in urging continued vigilance.
Stringent control measures, including safe burial practices and rigorous “contact tracing” of people who may have been exposed to the virus, have helped lower transmission rates in areas such as Lofa county in the north of Liberia, on the border with Sierra Leone and Guinea, Nabarro said.
“Maintaining the effort until the very last case is identified and brought under treatment” is critical, he said. “There is always a tendency for people to get excited for a period of time and then move onto something else.”
Koinadugu district in northeastern Sierra Leone recently had its first cases of Ebola, showing the outbreak is still spreading, the WHO said last week.
Doctors Without Borders, which has more than 250 international staff in the three worst-hit countries and is operating six treatment centers, said last week it is seeing “critical gaps in all aspects of the response.”
Save the balloons.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone is quietly going to hell in a handbasket:
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Thousands of people in Sierra Leone are being forced to violate Ebola quarantines to find food because deliveries are not reaching them, aid agencies said.
Large swaths of the West African country have been sealed off to prevent the spread of Ebola, and within those areas many people have been ordered to stay in their homes.
In an address to political leaders in Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma said ordinary people also have to do more. He defended the stringent measures he has imposed and called on all citizens to stop dangerous behavior that has fueled Ebola's spread, such as secret burials where corpses are washed or even people touching the sick.
"We have to take the sick out and take the responsibility with firmness," he said. "We must end Ebola now."
While public health authorities have said heavy restrictions may be necessary to bring under control an Ebola outbreak unlike any other, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization for aid organizations, warned on Monday that they were cutting off food to thousands of people.
"The quarantine of Kenema, the third largest town in Sierra Leone, is having a devastating impact on trade — travel is restricted so trucks carrying food cannot freely drive around," the committee said in a statement. "Food is becoming scarce, which has led to prices increasing beyond the reach of ordinary people."
Because services are not reaching them, people who are being monitored for signs of Ebola — and should be staying at home — are venturing out to markets to look for food, potentially contaminating many others.
Also, nota bene that the AP is covering the story on Sierra Leone from two countries away, and literally "phoning it in"; most stories on the current state of things are being reported after telephone calls from outside, to those inside. Pardon my skepticism on the media's ability to get this right from 500 or 1000 miles away, by remote control. They do poorly enough standing right on the spot.


  1. Shipping Lines Apply 'Ebola Clause'


  2. Might as well declare victory over Ebola because no cases have been found on the moon.
    If folks are dead or just gone to ground to die and wait it out of course there won't be new cases.
    Ebola has to have a live person to infect.

  3. I have been reading Biology of Plagues: Evidence from Historical Populations because it was recommended on one of the other blogs I visit.

    It takes the stance that the Black Death and others in England were not Bubonic Plague because the conditions and the spread etc were wrong. They think it was a Hemorrhagic Plague.

    What is interesting is that the current outbreak in West Africa seems to have more staying power than did the various outbreaks in England ...

    1. I've read where plague victims were exhumed in England and the plague was a mix of Bubonic, pneumonia and Influenza.
      I'd say with the mix Ebola or it's cousin could have been involved also.

  4. From The Biology of Plagues, page 283:

    When her brother returned, not only was Margaret sill alive but clearly much stronger; she recovered and remained convinced that the bacon fat had cured her (Clifford, 1989).

    Bacon is the cure!

  5. Someone who might have Ebola traveled by bus from New Jersey to North Carolina:


  6. Food is scarce so the people eat bush meat and catch Ebola, now food is still scarce and people must go out among people with Ebola and catch bush meat which has Ebola.
    A vicious circle.

  7. 357 in MYC being monitored for Ebola, the vast majority from West Africa ...


    This is the highway to hell.

  8. The science is unsettled:


  9. 12 individuals being monitored in Minnesota go missing:


  10. @ Large swaths of the West African country have been sealed off to prevent the spread of Ebola, and within those areas many people have been ordered to stay in their homes. @

    These are the kind of measures that stopped the first Ebola epidemic, back in 1976. They may still work.

    In the meantime, I am stocking canned food. For the water, you can get empty plastic bladders that go in the bathtub: you fill them in place, so you don’t need to haul heavy water barrels. The chlorine in the water helps keeping it from spoiling. When drinking it, I plan to use pitchers with Brita filters. I am getting almost everything delivered by Amazon, so no need to do any hauling at all: using Amazon Prime Pantry, you can get 100 small cans of tunafish delivered to your door in a big box for $90. (I still have several boxes on the way, they should be here by the end of the week.) I am also getting cans of salmon, roast beef and beans from Costco. The Costco stuff tastes best, but I need to carry it home myself. You can also get huge containers of olive oil at Costco: with good olive oil, canned kidney beans or garbanzos are a delicacy.