Tuesday, September 16, 2014

US will send troops (engineers and military medical personnel) to west Africa to counter Ebola; concern over future mutation voiced

The United States will send up to 3000 troops to West Africa to help construct treatment clinics and provide medical and nursing training to local medical caregivers in several countries.  The Obama administration wants to offer high level supportive care in place in Africa.  CNN’s news story with a video is here

The troops apparently will be deployed (at least) first to Liberia.  There will be an emphasis on distributing home care supplies, although it is hard to see how this could work.
The president has said before that he fears that the Ebola virus could mutate and become airborne.
That was reported to happen with the monkey “Ebola Reston” virus in the US in 1989, but it was not transmissible to humans. But in the mid 1990s, right wing politicians and “doctors”, particularly in Texas, speculated that this could happen with HIV.  If it could, HIV would become a very different virus, probably less lethal and no longer a “gay disease”. But that speculation led to an attempt to strengthen the Texas anti-sodomy law in 1983.
The concerns, were Ebola to become airborne and circulate in western countries, would obviously be grave, just as with a resurgence of smallpox (perhaps engineered by terrorists) or bird flu. Imagine the “social distancing” issue that could develop.  As for bioterror, it is much harder to weaponize most agents than most conservative columnists think.  We need to get moving faster with the Ebola vaccine. 
Just as with violence in the middle East and Africa from terrorists and conflict, disease like Ebola makes it very challenging for church groups to send volunteers (sometimes older youths) to these more primitive areas.  It would become an issue were national service proposals to be developed further (as Stanley McChrystal has proposed).  
Kent Brantly warned, in testifying, that Ebola was like fire from the underworld.  

Update: Sept. 19

Sierra Leone has started a three-day lockdown of the entire country today to try to control Ebola, CNN story here

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