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Ebola Pandemic Unlikely, Experts Say, But Other Threats Loom
Without effective human intervention, epidemics and pandemics typically end only when the virus or bacteria has infected every available host and all have either died or become immune to the disease. But, as Kim and Farmer noted, society is not likely to allow that to happen today. “It would be scandalous to let this crisis escalate further when we have the knowledge, tools and resources to stop it,” they wrote. “Tens of thousands of lives, the future of the region, and hard-won economic and health gains for millions hang in the balance.”
By definition, an epidemic has exceeded the ability of people to satisfactorily contain its spread. But how it plays out is only a question of scale. Without an adequate response, an epidemic can develop into a pandemic, which generally means it has spread to more than one continent. Ebola has not reached that level, but because viruses can mutate, including in response to treatment measures, even the most educated statements about Ebola -- including conclusions about its potential to spread -- carry an asterisk.
….One reason the current Ebola outbreak is so much worse than previous ones (the virus was first identified in 1976, and has cropped up numerous times, until recently primarily in Central Africa), is that it began in a new area where three nations intersect. Cross-border travel enabled it to spread to cities that offered concentrated opportunities for growth.
Further complicating matters, Podolsky said, is that those cities, which do not have adequate health care systems to start with, had little experience with treating Ebola [NO experience!]. In the worst-case epidemic -- what’s known as a virgin-soil epidemic -- a population caught in its grips has no experience with it at all, and therefore no physical antibodies and often little understanding of the disease’s causes or how to treat it. That is how Native American populations were decimated by the spread of European diseases like smallpox.
….The 1918 flu seems to run counter to the notion that nations with good health care are less prone to epidemics. As John Barry noted in his 2004 book “The Great Influenza,” the world’s worst pandemic is believed to have originated at an army camp in Kansas, spread from base to base and to Europe with U.S. troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 in the U.S.
Barry wrote ….only 83 countries in the world – less than half – participate in WHO’s surveillance system, which means diseases that could spread are not uniformly monitored. In Barry’s view, “unless WHO gets more resources and political leaders move aggressively on the diplomatic front, then a new pandemic really is all too inevitable.”
….Already, mutations have resulted in antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis and malaria, and similar treatment mutations are being found in certain strains of HIV and influenza. Treatment failures owing to resistance may soon make the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea untreatable, because no new drugs are in development, according to the WHO website. Given that, Ebola – for which there is no cure or vaccine -- may be far less a concern than a familiar disease that develops resistance.
WHO’s 2014 report on global surveillance of antimicrobial resistance noted that “antibiotic resistance is no longer a prediction for the future; it is happening right now, across the world, and is putting at risk the ability to treat common infections in the community and hospitals.”
….As WHO’s 2014 report warned, “Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading toward a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill.”
originally posted by: lostbook
a reply to: soficrow
I'm not a scientist or a doctor but I think it has to do with our changing climate. Cold weather keeps viruses in check warmer weather = more viruses. Makes sense to me.