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Don’t Count Too Much on a Vaccine

By Shlomo Maital  

Dr. William Haseltine

   The Tyee is an independent online Canadian news magazine that primarily covers British Columbia. [Thetyee.ca].   Contributing writer Andrew Nikiforuk writes about a world-leading virologist Dr. William Haseltine, vilified in the past for doubting an AIDS vaccine could be produced (apparently, it can’t), and now sharing doubts about a COVID-19 vaccine. His views are worth heeding….   Warning: This blog is 1,000 words, twice as long as usual!

   “William Haseltine: People should regard everyone they meet as infected and act accordingly. ‘That’s the only safe assumption you can make. And don’t assume that if you’ve been infected, you’re protected.’

   When William Haseltine told a group of fellow scientists in 1986 that an AIDS vaccine would be unlikely because of the difficult nature of the virus, he was booed off the stage. His colleagues even threw stuff at him. “But we still don’t have a vaccine for AIDS,” he recently told Reuters. “We don’t know for sure that a [COVID-19] vaccine won’t be developed, but I can say with the same conviction — don’t count on it.”

   In the last couple of weeks the virologist also has offered some jarring observations on the nature of the coronavirus, self-promotion by drug labs, the hazards of rapid reopenings and our global unpreparedness for what is yet to come.

Here are Haseltine’s eight key observations…

  1. Beware of those who purvey premature hope.

   Haseltine’s years of experience cause him to caution against being manipulated by emotion. A number of firms have been giving “a false impression of progress” on the vaccine front, he worries. Cambridge-based Moderna, for example, made headlines last week with news of a safety trial on just eight healthy individuals for its vaccine. The value of the company’s stock exploded. Although the company said their experimental vaccine raised neutralizing antibodies, it said nothing about levels

  1. Even a vaccine that works likely won’t solve the pandemic.

Haseltine also wants citizens to appreciate this bit of wisdom: a vaccine will not likely end this pandemic for several reasons.

   For starters the most affected population, people over the age of 60, are the most difficult population to develop vaccines for. As the immune system ages, the effectiveness and duration of vaccines wanes with it. “It is very difficult to develop a vaccine for older people,” notes Haseltine.

Second, coronaviruses make difficult vaccine candidates because they produce many proteins that allow them to trick and evade the immune system.

   Third, Haseltine doesn’t think an adenovirus-based vaccine such as the one proposed by CanSino Biologics, and now being tested in Halifax, will do the trick either.

  1. A flattened curve is not a road to victory.

Haseltine also thinks many people aren’t taking the disease seriously enough. The veteran virus fighter compares COVID-19 to polio. It, too, was a cold virus with a nasty bite. One in 200 people infected came down with paralysis and of those 10 to 15 percent died of muscle paralysis. It, too, spread through what white coats call “the oral-fecal route” on people’s hands and contaminated surfaces.

As the world experiments with reopening after the first wave, often without adequate testing, contract tracing and isolation facilities in place, people should regard everyone they meet as infected and act accordingly.

“That’s the only safe assumption you can make,” he said. “And don’t assume that if you’ve been infected, you’re protected.” He advises people not to let down their guard or stop wearing a mask in crowded places until their city and region hasn’t recorded a COVID-19 case for a month.

  1. ‘Herd immunity’ is a dubious prospect.

Haseltine also thinks you can forget about herd immunity as some kind of saving grace. There is a reason that we all get colds every year and that’s because immunity to the four corona viruses that cause colds doesn’t last long.

“There’s no such thing as herd immunity for this disease. I doubt it will ever exist,” Haseltine said in a Reuters interview, because “people who have had it are getting reinfected.” He thinks Sweden made a bad mistake going for herd immunity, and then cites the nation’s death rate which is higher than any other Scandinavian country.

  1. We remain woefully unprepared.

The next thing Haseltine wants you to think about is our chronic and ongoing lack of pandemic preparedness. COVID-19 caught the world with its pants down because governments and corporations ignored all the warnings. If you want to know how predictable pandemics can be just watch the film Contagion, says Haseltine.

Nearly 15 years ago the emergence of SARS and then MERS demonstrated that coronaviruses could be an existential threat. Although researchers started work on 20 potential drugs for these coronaviruses, they all got shelved.

“Those drugs lay dusty on the shelves in China, in Singapore, in Hong Kong, in Europe, in the United States, and in the [United Arab] Emirates and Saudi [Arabia] where they were discovered and shown to work in animal models of both SARS and MERS.” The reason: there was no economic model to develop them. Haseltine thinks it is more likely researchers will find a suitable drug treatment for the virus before they develop a safe vaccine.

  1. Nature is not nearly as controllable as we wish.

The pandemic is also sending people a deep and profound message, says Haseltine. “We are part of Nature. We don’t control Nature. Do we control volcanoes? Do we control hurricanes? Viruses are part of nature and their job is to grow in us,” Haseltine recently told Reuters.

  1. Much bigger threats loom.

Globalization and human population growth have created pretty good ecosystems for new colonizing viruses. Every day the viral world makes trillions of random mutations and some of these mutations produce viruses that can adapt to human environments better than others. More pandemonium is coming, warns Haseltine.

“It is only a matter of time before a coronavirus that is far more lethal and contagious than this one emerges to ravage the world’s population,” says Haseltine. “When that happens, we will no longer be talking about a global death toll in the ‘mere’ hundreds of thousands.” He also suspects the world is overdue for a deadly influenza outbreak capable of removing one to two billion people from the planet.

  1. Changes in behavior can save us now. And far more certainly than any vaccine.

Last but not least, we should pay more attention to the most important part of this story: changing human behaviour can stop COVID-19 dead in its tracks.

 

 

 

Winter the Llama – Can She Save Humanity?

By Shlomo Maital

Winter the Llama

 OK, so I can see how an MIT scientist can save the world.

   But a llama? Winter the llama?

   So here’s the story, by Jillian Kramer, writing in the New York Times today:

   “Winter is a 4-year-old chocolate-colored llama with spindly legs, ever-so-slightly askew ears and envy-inducing eyelashes. Some scientists hope she might be an important figure in the fight against the novel coronavirus.   She is not a superpowered camelid. Winter was simply the lucky llama chosen by researchers in Belgium, where she lives, to participate in a series of virus studies involving both SARS and MERS. Finding that her antibodies staved off those infections, the scientists posited that those same antibodies could also neutralize the new virus that causes Covid-19. They were right, and published their results Tuesday in the journal Cell.

       “Scientists have long turned to llamas for antibody research. In the last decade, for example, scientists have used llamas’ antibodies in H.I.V. and influenza research, finding promising therapies for both viruses.   Humans produce only one kind of antibody, made of two types of protein chains — heavy and light — that together form a Y shape. Heavy-chain proteins span the entire Y, while light-chain proteins touch only the Y’s arms. Llamas, on the other hand, produce two types of antibodies. One of those antibodies is similar in size and constitution to human antibodies. But the other is much smaller; it’s only about 25 percent the size of human antibodies. The llama’s antibody still forms a Y, but its arms are much shorter because it doesn’t have any light-chain proteins.”

“This more diminutive antibody can access tinier pockets and crevices on spike proteins — the proteins that allow viruses like the novel coronavirus to break into host cells and infect us — that human antibodies cannot. That can make it more effective in neutralizing viruses.”

Why New York Dropped the Ball – Part Two

By Shlomo Maital

In my previous blog, I quoted Charles Duhigg, The New Yorker, who explored why Seattle escaped the “valley of virus death”, largely, while New York City foundered in it. I focused on what Seattle did right. Now, I would like to share with you what New York City did wrong. You guessed it – it has to do with politicians, who feud.

[Special thanks to New Yorker for freely sharing all their great reporting on COVId-19].

And…once again, it is long – 2,500 words. But I think worth reading.

   “The initial coronavirus outbreaks in New York City emerged at roughly the same time as those in Seattle. But the cities’ experiences with the disease have markedly differed. By the second week of April, Washington State had roughly one recorded fatality per fourteen thousand residents. New York’s rate of death was nearly six times higher.

   “There are many explanations for this divergence. New York is denser than Seattle and relies more heavily on public transportation, which forces commuters into close contact. In Seattle, efforts at social distancing may have been aided by local attitudes—newcomers are warned of the Seattle Freeze, which one local columnist compared to the popular girl in high school who “always smiles and says hello” but “doesn’t know your name and doesn’t care to.” New Yorkers are in your face, whether you like it or not. (“Stand back at least six feet, playa,” a sign in the window of a Bronx bodega cautioned. “COVID-19 is some real shit!”) New York also has more poverty and inequality than Seattle, and more international travellers. Moreover, as Mike Famulare, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling, put it to me, “There’s always some element of good luck and bad luck in a pandemic.”

   “It’s also true, however, that the cities’ leaders acted and communicated very differently in the early stages of the pandemic. Seattle’s leaders moved fast to persuade people to stay home and follow the scientists’ advice; New York’s leaders, despite having a highly esteemed public-health department, moved more slowly, offered more muddied messages, and let politicians’ voices dominate.

     “New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has long had a fraught relationship with the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which, though technically under his control, seeks to function independently and avoid political fights. “There’s always a bit of a split between the political appointees, whose jobs are to make a mayor look good, and public-health professionals, who sometimes have to make unpopular recommendations,” a former head of the Department of Health told me. “But, with the de Blasio people, that antagonism is ten times worse. They are so much more impossible to work with than other administrations.” In 2015, when Legionnaires’ disease sickened at least a hundred and thirty New Yorkers and killed at least twelve, tensions between de Blasio and the Health Department came to a head. After de Blasio ordered health officials to force their way into buildings in the Bronx to test cooling towers for contamination, even though the outbreak’s source had already been identified, the officials complained that the Mayor was wasting their time in order to brag to reporters that he’d done everything possible to stamp out the disease. When the deputy commissioner for environmental health, Daniel Kass, refused City Hall’s demands, one of the city’s deputy mayors urged the commissioner of health, Mary Bassett, to fire Kass. She ignored the suggestion, but Kass eventually resigned. He later told colleagues he felt that his rebellion had made coöperation with City Hall impossible.

   “Dan Kass is one of the best environmental-health experts in the country,” Bassett, who now teaches at Harvard, said. “New York has one of the best health departments in the United States, possibly the world. We’d all be better off if we were listening really closely to them right now.”

   “In early March, as Dow Constantine was asking Microsoft to close its offices and putting scientists in front of news cameras, de Blasio and New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, were giving speeches that deëmphasized the risks of the pandemic, even as the city was announcing its first official cases. De Blasio initially voiced caution, saying that “no one should take the coronavirus situation lightly,” but soon told residents to keep helping the city’s economy. “Go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus,” he tweeted on March 2nd—one day after the first COVID-19 diagnosis in New York. He urged people to see a movie at Lincoln Center. On the day that Seattle schools closed, de Blasio said at a press conference that “if you are not sick, if you are not in the vulnerable category, you should be going about your life.” Cuomo, meanwhile, had told reporters that “we should relax.” He said that most infected people would recover with few problems, adding, “We don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”

     “De Blasio’s and Cuomo’s instincts are understandable. A political leader’s job, in most situations, is to ease citizens’ fears and buoy the economy. During a pandemic, however, all those imperatives are reversed: a politician’s job is to inflame our paranoia, because waiting until we can see the danger means holding off until it’s too late. The city’s epidemiologists were horrified by the comforting messages that de Blasio and Cuomo kept giving. Jeffrey Shaman, a disease modeller at Columbia, said, “All you had to do was look at the West Coast, and you knew it was coming for us. That’s why Seattle and San Francisco and Portland were shutting things down.” But New York “dithered instead of telling people to stay home.”

   “By early March, the city’s Department of Health had sent the Mayor numerous proposals on fighting the virus’s spread. Since there weren’t enough diagnostic kits to conduct extensive testing, public-health officials proposed “sentinel surveillance”: asking local hospitals to provide the Department of Health with swabs collected from people who had flulike symptoms and had tested negative for influenza. By testing a selection of those swabs, the department could estimate how rapidly and widely the coronavirus was moving through the city. In previous outbreaks, such studies had been tremendously useful in guiding governmental responses—and this spring Los Angeles effectively deployed the strategy, as did Santa Clara County, in California, and the state of Hawaii.

“In New York City, the Health Department began collecting swabs, but the initiative met swift resistance. Under federal health laws, such swabs have to be anonymized for patients who haven’t consented to a coronavirus test. This meant that, even if city officials learned that many people were infected, officials wouldn’t be able to identify, let alone warn, any of them. The Mayor’s office refused to authorize testing the swabs. “They didn’t want to have to say, ‘There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of you who are positive for coronavirus, but we don’t know who,’ ” a Department of Health official told me, adding, “It was a real opportunity to communicate to New Yorkers that this is serious—you have to stay home.” The effort was blocked over fears that it might create a panic, but such alarm might have proved useful. After all, the official told me, panic is pretty effective at getting people to change their behavior. Instead, the Mayor’s office informed the Health Department that the city would sponsor a job fair to find a few new “disease detectives.” That event was held on March 12th, in Long Island City. The Department of Health official said, “We’re in the middle of a catastrophe, and their solution is to make us waste time interviewing and onboarding people!” (The Mayor’s office eventually relented on the sentinel-surveillance samples, and testing began on March 23rd—almost a month after samples were first collected. By then, the outbreak was well under way.)

     “As New York City schools, bars, and restaurants remained open, relations between the Department of Health and City Hall devolved. Health supervisors were “very, very angry,” one official told me. In particular, health officials were furious that de Blasio kept telling New Yorkers to go out and get a test if they suspected they were infected. On March 4th, he tweeted, “If you feel flu-like symptoms (fever, cough and shortness of breath), and recently traveled to an area affected by coronavirus . . . go to your doctor.” This was the opposite of what city health supervisors were advising: people needed to stay inside and call their doctor if they felt sick. Making trips to doctors’ offices or emergency rooms only increased the odds that the virus would spread, and the city’s limited supply of tests needed to be saved for people with life-threatening conditions. De Blasio’s staff, however, had started micromanaging the department’s communications, including on Twitter. Finally, on March 15th, the Department of Health was allowed to post a thread: “If you are sick, STAY HOME. If you do not feel better in 3 to 4 days, consult with your health care provider”; “Testing should only be used for people who need to be hospitalized”; “Everyone in NYC should act as if they have been exposed to coronavirus. . . . New Yorkers who are not sick should also stay home as much as possible.” One City Council member told me that health officials “had been trying to say that publicly for weeks, but this mayor refuses to trust the experts—it’s mind-boggling.”

   “As the city’s scientists offered plans for more aggressive action and provided data showing that time was running out, the Mayor’s staff responded that the health officials were politically naïve. At one point, Dr. Marcelle Layton, the city’s assistant commissioner of communicable diseases, and an E.I.S. alum who is revered by health officials across the nation for her inventiveness and dedication, was ordered to City Hall, in case she was needed to help the Mayor answer questions from the press. She sat on a bench in a hallway for three hours, away from her team, while politicians spoke to the media. (Layton declined interview requests.) At press conferences, Layton and other physicians played minimal roles while de Blasio and Cuomo, longtime rivals, each attempted to take center stage. The two men even began publicly feuding—arguing in the press, and through aides, about who had authority over schools and workplace closures.

   “Eventually, three of the top leaders of the city’s Department of Health met with de Blasio and demanded that he quickly instate social-distancing rules and begin sending clear messages to the public to stay indoors. Layton and a deputy health commissioner, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, indicated to de Blasio’s staff that if the Mayor didn’t act promptly they would resign. (The next day, Layton’s staff greeted her with applause, and at least one employee offered to give her some money if she had to make good on the ultimatum.) De Blasio was in a corner: he had long positioned himself as a champion of the underclass, and closing schools would disproportionately hurt the poor and vulnerable. What’s more, unions representing health-care workers had threatened that nurses, orderlies, and others might stay home unless there was a plan to provide child care.

     “Nevertheless, de Blasio finally acceded to the health officials’ demands. On March 16th, after a compromise was reached with the health-care unions, city schools were closed, and Cuomo ordered all gyms and similar facilities to shut down. The messaging remained jumbled, however. Right before the gym closure was set to take effect, de Blasio asked his driver to take him to the Y.M.C.A. in Park Slope, near his old home, for a final workout. Even de Blasio’s allies were outraged. A former adviser tweeted, “The mayor’s actions today are inexcusable and reckless.” Another former consultant tweeted that the gym visit was “Pathetic. Self-involved. Inexcusable.”

     “De Blasio and Cuomo kept bickering. On March 17th, de Blasio told residents to “be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order.” The same day, Cuomo told a reporter, “There’s not going to be any ‘you must stay in your house’ rule.” Cuomo’s staff quietly told reporters that de Blasio was acting “psychotic.” Three days later, though, Cuomo announced an executive order putting the state on “pause”—which was essentially indistinguishable from stay-at-home orders issued by cities in Washington State, California, and elsewhere. (A spokesperson for de Blasio said that City Hall’s “messaging changed as the situation and the science changed” and that there was “no dithering.” A spokesperson for Cuomo said that “the Governor communicated clearly the seriousness of this pandemic” and that “the Governor has been laser focused on communicating his actions in a way that doesn’t scare people.”)

   “To a certain extent, de Blasio’s and Cuomo’s tortured delays make sense. Good politicians should worry about poor children missing school just as much as they worry about the threat of an emerging disease. “That’s why E.I.S. training is so important,” Sonja Rasmussen, a former C.D.C. official, told me. In a pandemic, “the old ways of thinking get flipped around.” She added, “You have to make the kinds of choices that, if you aren’t trained for them, are really hard to make. And there’s no time to learn from your mistakes.”

   “Today, New York City has the same social-distancing policies and business-closure rules as Seattle. But because New York’s recommendations came later than Seattle’s—and because communication was less consistent—it took longer to influence how people behaved. According to data collected by Google from cell phones, nearly a quarter of Seattleites were avoiding their workplaces by March 6th. In New York City, another week passed until an equivalent percentage did the same. Tom Frieden, the former C.D.C. director, has estimated that, if New York had started implementing stay-at-home orders ten days earlier than it did, it might have reduced COVID-19 deaths by fifty to eighty per cent. Another former New York City health commissioner told me that “de Blasio was just horrible,” adding, “Maybe it was unintentional, maybe it was his arrogance. But, if you tell people to stay home and then you go to the gym, you can’t really be surprised when people keep going outside.”

   “More than fifteen thousand people in New York are believed to have died from COVID-19. Last week in Washington State, the estimate was fewer than seven hundred people. New Yorkers now hear constant ambulance sirens, which remind them of the invisible viral threat; residents are currently staying home at even higher rates than in Seattle. And de Blasio and Cuomo—even as they continue to squabble over, say, who gets to reopen schools—have become more forceful in their warnings. Rasmussen said, “It seems silly, but all these rules and SOHCOs and telling people again and again to wash their hands—they make a huge difference. That’s why we study it and teach it.” She continued, “It’s really easy, with the best of intentions, to say the wrong thing or send the wrong message. And then more people die.”

 

Coronavirus Genes Tell the Story!

By Shlomo Maital

COVID-19 genome                                           Horseshoe bat

     A saying in the Jewish Talmud: Know where you’ve come from, know where you are going. Based on a New York Times article on the virus genome:

   Where did the novel coronavirus come from in the first place?

     From a Chinese horseshoe bat…but “researchers found the virus infecting humans now split off from the bat decades ago and gained some unique mutations”. (Maciej Boni, Penn State U, using sophisticated computer programs analyzing genetic structures).

   How do viruses mutate?

   Sometimes two different coronaviruses enter a single cell, and the resulting copy made by the cell’s DNA is a combination of the two..a new mutation.

     How different are the various coronaviruses?

       In January a team of Chinese and Australian researchers published the first genome of the new virus. (Kudos to them! They distributed it instantly and widely!). Since then researchers worldwide have sequenced the genes of 3,000 coronaviruses. Some are identical, some are distinctive mutations.

       Implication: For many years we will need to track this virus, lest it mutate viciously and ‘successfully’.

     Where can researchers find the data on the virus genomes?

     Look up the online database GISAID. Evolution experts are analyzing how the virus evolves, in a project called Nextstrain, and constantly update the virus ‘family tree’.

      What did genome researchers learn about the spread of coronavirus in the US?

      Dr. Trevor Bedford, U. of Washington, and team found that it was not spreading in the US “in December”. President Trump poured scorn on those warning about the spreading virus, calling it a ‘hoax’. Had quarantines been imposed earlier, many of the deaths could have been prevented.   “A virus identified in a patient in late February (in New York) had mutation shared by one identified in Washington (state) on Jan. 20”. The current New York pandemic, deadly, could have been stopped if the experts’ warnings had been heeded. But “climate denial” and “science expert denial” seem to go together in the US Administration.

       How many novel coronavirus versions have been found so far?

       Researchers at Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York City, have “identified seven separate lineages of viruses that entered New York and began circulating.” They believe that …”we will probably find more”.

     Is there any good news in all this research?

     Yes! One piece of knowledge that has not been widely reported. “Some viruses evolve so quickly that they require vaccines that can produce several different antibodies”. (This makes producing a good vaccine really hard!). “But that’s not the case for COVID-19. Like other coronaviruses it has a relatively slow mutation rate compared to some viruses, like influenza. ..its mutation rate reveals, things could be a whole lot worse”.

 

Conquering Ebola:  How They Did It

By Shlomo Maital

ebola

  As usual, the deaths and suffering from Ebola got far more media attention than the team of brave and creative people who have conquered it. (Global New York Times, Aug. 1-2, 2015, p. 6)

  It started in Canada.  Researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada created an experimental vaccine (yup – that’s right,  a government agency!).  They took a piece of the virus’s covering and combined it with an animal virus (vesicular stomatitis virus), to set off an immune reaction against Ebola. I can only imagine the risks involved in working with such a virulent and often-fatal virus, in a lab. 

   A private biopharm company, NewLink Genetics, based in Ames Iowa, licensed the breakthrough vaccine, and last November, Merck, Big Pharma, did too. 

   The clinical trial was crucial.  It was led by the WHO,  Guinean Health Ministry, Doctors Without Borders, Epicentre Research and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

    Among the clinical trial innovations: a beer-keg-shaped storage device, the Arkteck, that kept the vaccines at minus 80 degrees without electricity, so that they could be transported.   The keg was invented by Global Good, a collaboration between an investment company Intellectual Ventures and Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundation.

     None of those vaccinated in the trial,  about 4,000 people, contracted the disease, even when exposed to it.  The main use will be to vaccinate medical workers exposed to Ebola, rather than huge populations.

     What do we learn from this?  Simple.   To tackle a really hard problem, you need to put together global collaborations – governments, NGO’s, companies big and small, volunteers, African governments,   and they need to work together seamlessly, each contributing his or her own creativity and energy.  In the end, courageous lab workers did the job, but it took the whole ‘village’ to save a child, or many many of them. 

    The whole ebola virus vaccine eco-system deserves a Nobel.

Ebola — Fact vs Fiction

By Shlomo Maital

ebola

As a would-be journalist, I’ve followed closely how the media report on the Ebola virus epidemic in Africa.   America’s NPR (National Public Radio) is excellent – but even NPR has spread hysteria and has reported very badly on the issue.   There is something about this deadly little virus that kills half the people it afflicts, that frightens people. And the media play into these fears, by amplifying them. Shame on them.

The Economist rides to the rescue. As always it brings us the truth, with the facts well explained.   In the Oct. 18 issue, here is what The Economist explains:

  • The number of infections (in West Africa – mainly Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia) is doubling every 2-4 weeks.   Meanwhile, though, Senegal and Nigeria have been declared ebola free. So it is possible to stamp it out.
  • If something doubles every, say, 3 weeks,   then in 10 doublings (30 weeks, or about half a year), it is 1,024 times greater.   So if 10,000 people have Ebola virus today in West Africa, 10 million will have it in half a year. This is why it is so urgent to come to the rescue of these three countries.
  • If the West does wake up and send help, the goal is simple: Get the infectious rate down, in West Africa,  from 1.5 to 2.2 persons per infected person (i.e. every person who has Ebola infects 1.5 to 2.2 other persons, today), to less than 1.   If this ratio, known as Ro, is less than one, then the power of compounding works to our favor.   Soon, Ebola disappears.     You can only get the Ro number down by having more hospitals, more trained health workers, faster medical care, etc.   Get people infected to quarantine quickly.  This is done instantly in the West,  but West Africa does not have the means. 
  • This is not a Western problem YET.   The West has a moral obligation to help West Africa, whose economies have been devastated.   But it WILL be a Western problem, if a half year goes by and the Ro remains at around 2. Then the Ebola will simply not be capable of being stamped out.
  • Why is Ebola so fatal and so dangerous? Because it is fiendishly clever, even though of course it does not have a brain. Ebola virus invades a cell, and makes it produce more viruses instead of the cell’s own DNA. Ebola has sugars on the outside coating of the virus, making it tough for the body’s immune system to attack it (antibodies stick to the glycoprotein instead of to the virus). The immune cells that the virus attacks race to the spleen, liver and lymph nodes and thus carry the infection there. Soon, the body over-reacts, and blood vessel walls become leaky, organs fail and the body goes into shock. President Obama has sent 3,000 U.S. soldiers to help Liberia. Much more is needed. Europe, of course, is sound asleep. And a lot of the money promised to   West Africa remains just that – a promise.   Unless the rich countries wake up, they will find themselves dealing with a problem that is one hundred times harder to solve.

 

  • All this – from a tiny virus!   How did it get so smart? It evolved – nature’s accidents created viruses that survive to procreate.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital

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