Naked Science Forum

Life Sciences => Physiology & Medicine => Topic started by: CliffordK on 15/11/2014 22:25:10

Title: Is the world prepared for the next pandemic?
Post by: CliffordK on 15/11/2014 22:25:10
Currently Ebola is considered an epidemic across a few countries in Africa, but hasn't made significant jumps to other continents, or even across all of Africa.

Part of the reason it is generally contained is that it has a relatively short incubation period, and it is not easily transmitted from human to human. 

We have had a couple of cases of Doctors Without Boarders members returning to the USA as carriers, and a few individuals contracting the disease in the USA as secondary infections acquired from the travelers.  Now, treating and containing the disease in Africa is very important for global health, so one should commend those willing to travel there to aid with the treatment efforts. 

Recently a patient that was critically ill with the disease was brought to the USA.  And, I assume the containment is reasonable based on the low transmission rate and direct contact required. 

What if it was a highly contagious airborne virus like Smallpox (pre-vaccine). 

Would it be better to have "hospital ships" dedicated specifically to the treatment of the specific epidemic/pandemic located near the country of origin?  So, rather than bringing the infected patients back to the USA or Europe, one would bring them to the hospital ship where they would be treated and quarantined away from the USA or Europe?

Individuals don't like to see first class vs second class treatment, but one could even build advanced care clinics in the country where the epidemic is active, so again, rather than exposing more people to the disease, keep it contained.

Also, again because the transmission rate of Ebola is low, quarantined individuals are being instructed to go home and stay home for a few weeks.  But, would be be prepared to isolate and quarantine large numbers of potential carriers of a highly communicable disease, especially without putting them at further risk?
Title: Re: Is the world prepared for the next pandemic?
Post by: alancalverd on 16/11/2014 00:47:38
By definition, a pandemic is an outbreak that you aren't prepared for!

An absolute ban on outward travel wouldn't increase the incidence of disease in an given area since the number of potential travellers is much less than the number who would stay anyway, but it would make it a lot easier to contain and treat.

The probem with ebola is that the necessary "direct contact" can be pretty minimal. The virus seems to be fairly robust and is expressed in all bodily fluids including tears and sweat, unlike HIV which seems to require substantial and intimate contact.