2 comments on “How I Learned To Stop Worrying (And Love Ebola)

  1. Part of the problem with stats is that people don’t take small frequency events seriously enough. At the scale of “Earth” (or at least the human part of it) a small frequency event (let’s say 1:1,000,000) happen hundreds to thousands of times per day. Even though the R0 of HIV is roughly twice that of Ebola it is much harder to get than Ebola. The only reason for the higher R0 is because it is mostly asymptomatic so people continue to engage in risky behavior with the infected. Health organizations always over represent the communicability of emerging diseases. It’s sometimes necessary in order to have people adopt necessary preventative measures. They did this with HIV for example. Consider these stats: The actual infection rate of HIV in the standard risk group (unprotected sex with random partners) is 0.005% to 0.1% on a per “event” basis . The variance in there is based on whether you include or exclude certain sex acts ( I want to keep this PG13) . Either way is a far cry from the 100% that it is characterized to be. Even the same exposure with one partner being confirmed HIV+ has around a 0.2% transmission rate. The highest risk group (again I will keep this PG13) has a 5% transmission rate even when one partner is confirmed HIV+. But here’s my point: those numbers seem small until you realize that at 0.1% in a population of 6 Billion you optimistically expect about 6 Million new infections EVERY YEAR. even 1/3 of that number (in the case of Ebola estimates) is civilization altering if let go unchecked .

    • Big difference between Ebola and HIV: people aren’t irresistably drawn to stick their hands into pools of corpse vomit. If HIV weren’t sexually transmitted it would never have been an issue. That being said, I’ve updated the blog to reflect the fact that Ebola is in fact a problem, it’s just not one that people in the hinterlands of the US need to be going crazy about. Even as far as Africa goes, malaria and HIV are still way bigger threats and almost certainly will be basically forever.

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