Saturday, October 25, 2014

She Blinded Me with Science 10/25/14

She Geek Eris drops a knowledge egg on dat ass via her segment on local radio show The Week in Geek. Here are this week's topics:

ZOMG Ebola Is Going to KILL US ALL!!!1!!11!
Mickey Mouse is coming for your SOUL!

Listening to the news, it sounds like the end of days is upon us. We will all soon be dying a horrible, bloody, miserable death from that seemingly inescapable terror named Ebola. Thousands are dead in West Africa. Thousands more infected; many of whom are expected to die. It's already crossed the border into our great United States where we're teetering on the precipice of a full on, Hollywood style, end-of-the-world outbreak. We are all doomed. Except that we're not. Not even a little. 

Don't get me wrong, Ebola is a deadly virus that has taken the lives of over 2,000 people in West Africa in the last 6 months. The current outbreak is a serious issue, and not something to be taken lightly. Those infected require quick, professional, medical attention to ensure the victim's survival and the containment of the virus. Unfortunately, that level of care is precisely what many victims in West Africa have not be able to receive, which is why this outbreak has become the worst in recorded history. That is, however, the exact level of care an infected individual would receive in the United States. So, let's take a look at some facts about the Ebola Virus so that we can perhaps remain calm and redirect our concern back onto the less fortunate parts of the world that are actually suffering from this outbreak:

1.  What the hell is Ebola anyway?

Ebola Virus Disease is one of two viral hemorrhagic fevers in the family Filoviridae. It is important to note that filoviruses thrive in non-human animal hosts, many of which are native to Africa (which is why nearly every known outbreak has occurred or originated from Africa). Ebolavirus was identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

2. I heard it's super contagious and now it's in America! I'm totally gonna get Ebola, aren't I?!?! 

Not likely. While Ebola is highly contagious, it's spread under very specific conditions. Namely through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. That's it. Period. Furthermore, even with an incubation period spanning anywhere from 2 to 21 days, Ebola is not contagious until the victim becomes symptomatic. That means that you could sit next to an asymptomatic woman infected with Ebola for let's say a 6 hour flight and still be less likely to contract it than you would be of catching a cold by sharing an elevator with Bob from Accounting when he's got the sniffles. Seriously, unless you are a medical professional working with Ebola victims or are rolling around in a patient's vomit like a dog in poo, right now you're chances of contracting Ebola in the United States are slim to none.

Commercial aircraft air flow.
3. Don't we need to cut off travel to and from West Africa RIGHT NOW to stop Ebola??

Whoa! Slow down there, cowboy. First, take a deep breath and remember that a patient must be symptomatic in order to transfer Ebola to another person. Now, let's take a moment to learn a little about air circulation on a commercial aircraft: In the majority of modern aircrafts (while in flight) the air in a plane’s cabin is replaced every two to three minutes. Air is taken in via the engines, cooled, pushed through the mix manifold where it is mixed 50/50 with recirculated air and sent through powerful HEPA filters before being supplied to the cabin from overhead outlets. At the same time, cabin air is being sucked through ventilation ducts (usually along the floorboards) where it is either expelled from the plane or sent back through the filtration process in the mix manifold. Again, you're more at risk of contracting an illness in places like elevators than on an airplane. 

More importantly, if travel were to be heavily restricted to or from affected areas, it could actually make matters worse. Air travel, for instance, is incredibly easy to track. If need be, officials can quickly learn exactly when a patient flew, where they originated, the exact route they traveled to get to their destination, and who they may have had contact with along the way. Should travel be restricted, however, individuals desperate to escape conditions in affected areas could turn to clandestine forms of travel, coming into contact with countless unknown persons along the way, all of which would be nearly impossible to trace should they turn out to be infected. Additionally, restricted travel could cause delays or even block essential supplies and assistance from reaching the areas that need it most. So, no, we shouldn't cut off travel.

Batman says: Proper diagnosis is key! (Also, this never stops being funny.)
4. Bob from Accounting flew in from Dallas this morning and just sneezed on me! I'm totally going to get Ebola, right?!

Nope. That's gross, but Bob from Accounting probably doesn't have Ebola; you might catch his wicked cold though, so you should still be cross with him. While symptoms of Ebola are similar to other illnesses like Dengue Fever and Malaria, and a few of those symptoms can be flu-like, you're not likely to mistake Ebola for a cold. (If you really, really think that you are one of the few Americans who could possibly have been exposed to Ebola you should limit contact with others and consult a physician.) The symptoms of Ebola are as follows:
  • sudden onset fever
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • sore throat
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • rash
  • impaired liver and kidney functions
  • unexplained internal and external bleeding/bruising 
Note that coughing and sneezing are NOT symptoms of Ebola. They could, however, be symptoms of a cold or flu, and since your chances of coming down with the flu are astronomical compared to your chances of contracting Ebola, your all around best line of defense is to wash your hands regularly, tell Bob from Accounting to use a damn hanky, and get yourself a flu shot.

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