This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is Ebola Over?

According to the New Yorker, Fox News has officially ended its coverage of Ebola as of today. Does this mean that Ebola is over? Well, obviously not, but Nature News also raised the question of whether early models of the disease's spread were accurate, since so far the number of cases and deaths in Liberia, for example, have been below the model estimates.
Epidemiologists normally use mathematical models to estimate the trajectory of an outbreak, and to estimate where and how to direct scarce medical resources. But for the current crisis, on-the-ground data contradict the projections of published models, says Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, and a member of the WHO’s multidisciplinary Ebola Response Team.
The very first thought I had when reading this was the tremendous flack that Paul Ehrlich has taken over the decades for "incorrectly" predicting that continued population growth would lead to famine and death. As he said in the Population Bomb and has repeated often since then, the "penalty" for being wrong is that fewer people die--but would that have happened if he had not helped to raise the alarm? This strikes me as a similar situation. Models that showed what could happen if the disease went uncontrolled may well have contributed to the global response, which seems to be picking up. On that score, I thanks Professor Rumbaut for linking me to a New Yorker story about Cuba's response team that has been sent to Sierra Leone to head off the spread of Ebola there. He also provided a link to a great map of Africa--the "true size" of Africa--reminding us how far any disease has to travel in order to spread throughout that incredibly vast continent. Take a good look at this to get the perspective.

1 comment:

  1. I am going back on your earleir articles. Isn't it amazing how the US media puts an issue on the "hotspot" for two weeks, and then suddenly it is dead? Tey sure know how to milk the profits fro the news business?

    Is Ebola ...dead and gone? I seriously doubt it! It is still active in Sierra Leona and Liberia. Sadly, their populations acquired resistance to the new strain the hard way ... some lived ...and some died. This means that future generations will start to have some inherited resistance to this virus.

    For the rest of humanty ... what we have is a brief intermission. Ebola is still out there. It is clearly active and mutatiing in the African environment. We still do not know exactly how and why. This latest strain of ebola was far more "effective" at killing people. The new variation of the virus gave up some "lethality" ... in exchange for better chances of transmission. This tradeoff (actually a Darwinian evolution) worked remarkably wel, and the tragedy in West Africa was a direct consequence. The real fear is that the next evolution of Ebola will trade off more lethality, but will acquire a far better ability to spread between humans .i.e. it will be airborne. Heaven help us if that one comes along soon.

    Hopefully our researchers are seriously working on an effective innoculation now.

    Pete, Redondo Beach