Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Ebola The Natural and Human History of A Deadly Virus - David Quammen and A Lot to say about the true FACTS about Ebola

  • File Size: 1627 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 3, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00O3GS0FE

This book is mostly excerpts from the author's book Spillover (which I have in my TBR pile pending still).  It has been updated in light of current events.  It is an incredibly educational and informative book about Ebola, its history and what is known about the disease.  it is an excellent resource for those who want to get to the truth of all these fear-ridden headlines in the news right now.  I have read many of the source materials the author used, and found this to be a well thought out and put together presentation and summation of what we really need to know on the subject.  And the best part, is that the author presents the information in a readable and understandable way.  HIGHLY recommend.

Some of the facts and my thoughts in this time of Media-Induced FEAR:

Ebola has been around since 1976 where two outbreaks occurred in the Sudan and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Formerly Zaire).  Since that time, as of today's date - 6,599 deaths have been reported per the website below:

Chronology of Ebola Virus Disease outbreaks, 1976-2014

In 38 years, that is an average of 173.66 deaths per year.  Now I am not saying that is good or okay, but compared to the Flu, or Malaria or even rotavirus (which killed kids in the midwest this year in the US) which kills about 1/2 Million children every year, it is still not the killer the media makes it out to be.

Why the big deal?

Well - it is SCARY!  

The GROSSness factor and the high lethality rate for those who do get it make it terrifying - the stuff of nightmares.  

But the way to put fear into perspective is to examine the facts:

The high lethality rate in Africa is due to a number of factors:

  • Misdiagnosis - When you go to the doctor, they need to examine the most likely causes.  In Africa, there are quite a few to examine - Malaria being incredibly common and having many similar symptoms.  You never look for the exotic at first, you look for the most likely.  You eliminate the most likely, then look further. Unless there is an outbreak, it is not your first thought.
  • An outbreak starts with exposure to the reservoir (the animal, insect, plant or whatever that harbors the virus naturally and does not get sick from it).  In the case of Ebola it is unknown, but bats are suspected.  All other cases result from contact with the bodily fluids of the sick individual (OR as frequently occurs, Gorillas and Chimpanzees also get infected and die from Ebola).  These first cases are in rural areas where medical care is not necessarily equipped to handle a disease such as Ebola.  So the disease starts in these rural areas, where family and friends care for the victims without appropriate facilities or barrier nursing supplies and procedures to reduce exposure.  So they get infected, and then those who care for them get infected, and so on.
  • Burial practices - Family members or friends wash the body in preparation for burial.  That means they are washing bodily fluids infectious with the virus and exposing themselves to it.  
                   Look at your hands - do you have any scratches or torn cuticles or any other breaks in the skin on them?  I can see several on mine at the moment.  The virus could get into any of those.  And that is only the ones I see - many are too small for that.  Then you have to wonder about the hands of those rural peoples, working the land and what their hands are like...

               Another thing that is a practice in African countries is kissing the corpse to say goodbye.  Many do it here as well.  But think of all the virus in that corpse and see how it can spread...

  • Slow response to outbreaks - these are rural areas, with rough roads or dirt trails.  They are not experts in medicine or the spread of disease.  By the time an outbreak is occurring and someone notifies someone and it makes its way up the chain to the right person to get an appropriate response - how many are already infected?  The current outbreak was well underway before appropriate response teams arrived and by then, it needed more than they could provide.
  • Superstition -  Many still believe that sorcerers cause this disease or that the government or medical workers or those trying to help are the cause of it.  They hide from those who come to help.  They shun the sick.
  • Political instability -  Coups, rebels, wars -- the continent has been rife with them for years.  Often it is difficult to get to infected areas as a result.
  • And the outbreaks are all over -- the borders are not secured very well.  It is hard to predict.  And it isn't just in Central Africa anymore.

So that said - why am I talking about all this?  Well - I have been fascinated by epidemiology and infectious diseases and reading on the subject for over 20 years.  Many of the source books, Quammen lists in his book are ones I have read.  that's another reason I loved his book - it is incredibly well-researched.

Now -- for the facts about the disease itself.  People have visions of bleeding eyes, organs turning to mush and big pools of blood.  Uhmmmm - NO.  A lot of that was inspired by Richard Preston's The Hot Zone.  Which is a really good read by the way - he just liked to embellish for dramatic effect IMHO.  And it IS labeled as FICTION BTW.

So - the disease itself was originally called Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.  That name has since been changed to Ebola Virus Disease since in over 50% of the cases - there is no hemorrhaging.
There are five known types:
  1. Ebola Virus (Originated in Zaire) and that seems to be the most prevalent and the one that is currently spreading now.
  2. Sudan Virus (Originally occurred about the same time as the original outbreak in the Congo/Zaire)
  3. Reston Virus (Occurred in monkeys in a Quarantine Facility in Reston Virginia and did not make humans sick - this was Chronicled in The Hot Zone)
  4. Tai Forest (Originally occurred in Cote' de Ivoire)
  5. Bundibugyo (Originally occurred in Uganda)
Now the symptoms:
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Weakness
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Pink Eye
  • Diarrhea
Symptoms that SOMETIMES occur:
  • Chest Pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • bloody gums
  • bloody stools
  • bloody needle prick sites
  • inability to urinate
  • rash
  • hiccups
The signs that the patient will likely die:
  • rapid breathing
  • urine retention
  • hiccups
(NOT the ones you would think)

So my message to you -- educate yourself before you let the Media increase your fears.  Educate others.  And read this or a similar book to get the truth and maybe we can get the current MAYHEM under control.



  1. Terri you have written a compelling blog on Ebola starting with conception to today. Not only is it interesting and informative but it certainly helped to dispel the mayhem.

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  3. Yeah, Eloba is that type of virus which has got no vaccination yet. You know so many people have died due to this virus. I have also heard that it is growing day by day. I feel very bad for those who suffer and die. Dear, do you have list of viruses as deadly as Ebola?


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