Before the Ebola crisis exploded into the international crisis it has become with several deaths in countries other than countries in west Africa, the Andes Institute held a mini seminar on the subject. The seminar was mainly about the science, its origins, its genetics and its virulence. We explored the structure of the virus, how it is transmitted, how it replicates itself once inside a host cell and possible cures and preventative measures.
Our primary reason for putting on this seminar was to educate people so that they could make informed decisions about travel, what to do if they think they have been exposed and most of all to get factual information out to as many people as possible.
One of our participants was a woman who would be traveling to east Africa within two weeks of the seminar. She had many questions and legitimate concerns. However, after attending the seminar she made the informed decision to continue with her travels to east Africa equipped with knowledge that would assist her in the unlikely event she came in contact with an infected person.
One of the most important facts about the Ebola virus is how it is spread. To become infected you must come in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, e.g. vomit, stool, sweat, blood, saliva, and the like. There is no evidence of aerosolized spread of Ebola in the air except in a few lab controlled situations. This is unlike the flu, which can be transmitted through the air and infects millions annually and kills thousands of people all over the world.
However, another critical fact about Ebola is that although it can easily be controlled, that is only IF the correct medical procedures are in place and are strictly followed. As we all recently learned, the United States is not immune to medical mistakes being made, which resulted in the death of Mr. Duncan. Other countries outside of west Africa have experienced similar lapses resulting in both the spread of Ebola and the death of patients. This need not continue to be the case.
It has been pointed out that hundreds of people have died of the flu during the same period in which only one person died in the U.S. from Ebola. While this is true, it certainly is of little comfort to those families who lost loved ones, and it does little to inspire confidence in our health care system. I do not believe that Ebola will become an epidemic in the U.S. and it most likely will not become a pandemic. However, if the correct medical procedures are not put in place and strictly followed by EVERY medical facility in the world, then there will always be an opportunity for the continual spread of the disease.
There are many, including some medical professionals, who are in what I would call the alarmist category. Well meaning though some of them may be, a rational person can best rely upon the facts, good judgement, and sound execution of medical protocols in order to protect themselves and prevent the further spread of the virus. People who are spreading conspiracy theories are hindering not helping this effort. Social and cultural prejudices, whether they be in the form of racism, religious beliefs and practices or just plain ignorance are also detriments to fighting the spread of Ebola.
It seems to me the pharmaceutical industry often knows the cost of doing their business while knowing nothing about the value of human life.
I do agree, however, with some who have observed that a vaccine for this disease could have been found long ago had there not been social and economic prejudices in operation. It seems to me the pharmaceutical industry often knows the cost of doing their business while knowing nothing about the value of human life. When threats to society like the Ebola virus are extant then that is when all pharmaceutical companies should pool their talent and resources to come up with a vaccine to protect our common humanity. They nor we should wait until a crisis is upon us to act.
If the disease and death caused by the Ebola virus does spread and become a pandemic, it will not be because the virus was too virulent to be stopped, it will be because our collective will was not strong enough to overcome the social diseases of prejudice and greed.
Please go to, CDC on Ebola, to find out more about the virus and what you can do to prevent its spread.