Sunday, October 5, 2014

I really tend not to think this will be the one

Now for the beginning of the article caveats.
  1. While I present the numbers as the best available, they are not truth with a Capital T.  They are data sifted by teams of scientists, working in a hostile environment, funneled through a bureaucracy.  They are the best that I can come up with from my warm and dry kitchen table here safe in the Pacific NW.  GIGO is real and should always be considered as a real possibility.
  2. This may come off as a means of calming the masses and trying to start a disagreement with the latest post of the Archdruid.  Hell, nothing could be farther from the truth.  I also believe that the shelf-life of industrial civilization is approaching its "pull-by" date.  I just want good numbers to do my own analysis.
  3. I do personally suspect that the information that we have is incomplete.  The well documented truth is that that part of Africa seems to be resistant to our western desire to number and catagorize.  The questions being asked by the current public and scientific discussion may be the wrong ones altogether.
Right now, as I spend more time digging into the science behind the current concern re:Ebola, I also want to take a moment to talk about the dependence on numbers and their relationship to reality.

Numbers are dicey little things.  Useful as hell.  A hallmark of science and its corresponding trades.

But they have to be applied back to something concrete and measurable in order for them to have any particular use.  So lets start laying out the confirmed facts of the current outbreak of Ebola.

The latest numbers from the WHO show a total of 4,108 confirmed cases of Ebola. (1)

The best estimate the viral doubling time that I can find is 35 days. (2)

So, we plug the numbers into Excel and we get the following

Now we take those numbers and plug them into a spreadsheet using a 35 day doubling time for the virus.

Now you have some horrific looking numbers.  So lets put it into a historical perspective.  The worst epidemic in current human memory (3) is the Influenza epidemic of 1918 (4).  Nasty little critter. Killed 75 million folks, so lets use that as a benchmark.

So despite all the hoopla, the current set of hard numbers shows a timeline of nineteen months before the current proto-panic even gets up to the "hiccup" stage in human history.

(1) World Health Organization: Ebola Response Roadmap Update, 3 October 2014

(2) Science Magazine, Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak 12 September 2014  Gire345 (6202): 1369-1372

(3) Don't get shitty with me, this is the worst epidemic that anyone alive can remember.  The folks who remember it are over 100 now.


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