Ebola Optics and Questionable MSM Smiley Narratives

Conservatives can be forgiven if, after having carefully reflected upon a sampling of MSM Ebola narratives, they conclude that something seems a bit askew.

Certain optics and associated stories appear to put a giant smiley face on the Ebola situation.  Nothing to worry about here. Move along. However, certain omissions raise troubling questions in regard to what we have been told -- especially when the omissions are conjoined with scientific findings on Ebola.

We’re to understand that there’s nothing at all to worry about, and there are some not-so-subtle intimations that resistance to the government’s Ebola narrative is to be attributed to nothing other than the irrational, fear-based sentimentalities of the “racist,” flat-earther strain.  For example, there are plenty of articles with patronizing, stupid titles like “Can My Keyboard Spread Ebola” (which appears at the insufferably pretentious Slate; I think those people might well have New Yorker Magazine Disease.)

So, everything’s under control, which, together with humanitarian sentiment and American capability, surely explains why the ostensibly Ebola-infected Dr. Kent Brantly was whisked back from Africa to a hospital in Atlanta for continued treatment.  Incidentally, would someone please tell us exactly who authorized the returns, when they did it, and on what legal basis?  And why hasn’t a press conference been delivered?

Brantly seems to have been given what amounts to a magic, experimental serum (birthed by Mapp Pharmaceuticals) that thus far has proven so effective that, upon his arrival in Atlanta, Brantly was able to enter the hospital under his own power (click here for video).  CNN captions the video with “Source: Ebola Victim’s Condition Reversed Within One Hour Of Taking Secret Serum.”

A shocking reversal, wouldn’t you say?  So shocking that CNN was moved to comment (see preceding link) that:

It's a story that could have come from a cinematic medical thriller: Two American missionary workers contract Ebola. Their situation is dire. Three vials containing a highly experimental drug are flown into Liberia in a last-ditch effort to save them.

ABC next took the baton, and remarked that the drug might even have worked within 20 minutes of its administration (incidentally, based on the picture of Brantly that appears at ABC, I’d be surprised if he hasn’t been compared to Friend Matthew Perry on more than one occasion).

ABC, too, was very surprised at Brantly’s light speed recovery.

Not to spoil your smiley burger, but here are few simple observations conservatives should reflect on.

First, we have no real idea how Brantly and Writebol are supposed to have been infected.  Instead, MSM representations coalesce around the idea that “well, they were in Africa helping people and something must have happened.”  One has the sense that there is an ellipsis here, and that the continuation runs something like “stop asking questions; the doctors are victims and were helping other victims in Africa.  Therefore, it is irrelevant to ask how the doctors were infected, and probably racist to boot.”

Very well then; what sort of thing happened, exactly?

“Just a mishap; but it has nothing to do with a possibly airborne variant of Ebola, because that can’t happen.”

Peer reviewed scientific research supports the idea that the Zaire variant of Ebola can, at least under certain circumstances, exhibit aerosol contagion between pigs and monkeys.

And, the prestigious medical journal Lancet (1995) 346: 1669-1671 states at 1671 by way of summarizing findings of non-direct contact monkey to monkey transmission of the Zaire variant of Ebola:

While airborne transmission of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has not been documented in humans, only limited tissues have been available for complete virological and histopathological examinations. Our present findings emphasise the advisability of at-risk personnel employing precautions to safeguard against ocular, oral, and nasopharyngeal exposure to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control has since incorporated recommendations for eye and oronasal mask protection in its updated guide for the management of viral haemorrhagic fever patients. These data also suggest potential avenues of exploration regarding the routes of infection for index human cases of Ebola fever, which remain a mystery.

Next, from Lancet (2005) 365: 989-996 we have, at 993-4:

Viruses causing viral haemorrhagic fever, such as ebola and lassa, have also been the focus of media attention and have been investigated for potential transmission while aboard an aircraft. Although aerosol spread of ebola has not been documented in man, this mode of transmission occurs in non-human primates. Lassa, known to be transmitted via large droplets, is thought to have an incubation period of up to 3 weeks, making infectious passengers potentially symptom-free and unaware of their status at the time of travel. A study of passengers exposed to an index case of lassa fever in-flight noted no evidence of transmission, even in the 19 passengers seated within two rows of the index passenger. Because both lassa and ebola viruses have frequent fatal outcomes and no vaccine is available, appropriate infection control procedures should be followed to prevent the transmission of these diseases.

Update:  From the Public Health Agency of Canada, last updated 8/1/14:

In the laboratory, infection through small-particle aerosols has been demonstrated in primates, and airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated (1, 6, 13).  The importance of this route of transmission is not clear. Poor hygienic conditions can aid the spread of the virus.

From these we can distill the following irrefutable proposition: nobody can state with certainty that it is impossible for at least the Zaire variant of Ebola to be communicated in ways the general public considers to be “airborne” and, in fact, the supposition of the possibility of such transmission is well within the bounds of rational scientific discourse.

By way of conclusion, here are a couple of other considerations.

The MSM is obviously populated by many people whose mouths are as big as their brains are tiny.  It is therefore no surprise that many such people do not know how to recognize when a question is really statistical in nature and, if it is, how to analyze it. 

Thus, in response to the omnipresent, lazy, and uninformed claims that Brantly, Writepol, and others contracted the virus in the same ordinary way (exposure to gouts of contagious blood, for example) people have in the past, we should reply as follows: if transmission mechanisms are basically the same now as they've always been, we should not expect observe a statistically significant increase in the rate of infections among doctors caring for the sick when we compare with previous years (after controlling for relevant factors such as incidence rates and geography).

Along these lines, we have, from Yahoo news on August 4th:

Lagos (AFP) - The World Bank has pledged $200 million to help contain the deadly Ebola virus causing panic across West Africa, as Nigerian authorities say a doctor in Lagos has contracted the disease, the second case in the sprawling city.

The confirmation that a fourth doctor in the region had developed Ebola came Monday as fear and anger about the dead being left unburied in Liberia's capital Monrovia brought protesters into the streets there.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone's president said that the regional epidemic threatened the "very essence" of the nation.

It may well be that if matters continue to unfold the way they have so far, there will come a point fairly soon at which sufficient data exists for even the general public to statistically test whether continued MSM claims about Ebola contagion mechanisms are true. 

Finally, it cannot be gainsaid that the seeming efficacy of the hitherto obscure Mapp Pharmaceuticals’ magic experimental serum is, if true, a very lucky stroke indeed.  Whether anything even remotely like it has ever occurred in the annals of virology I do not know.  What I do know is that Mapp’s webpage is decidedly strange and that, with a retinue of only nine employees, the company seems to have struck gold (although they do seem to have some interesting ties to military collaborators like these folks).

Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno.  You can reach him at crimprof2010@hotmail.com.

Conservatives can be forgiven if, after having carefully reflected upon a sampling of MSM Ebola narratives, they conclude that something seems a bit askew.

Certain optics and associated stories appear to put a giant smiley face on the Ebola situation.  Nothing to worry about here. Move along. However, certain omissions raise troubling questions in regard to what we have been told -- especially when the omissions are conjoined with scientific findings on Ebola.

We’re to understand that there’s nothing at all to worry about, and there are some not-so-subtle intimations that resistance to the government’s Ebola narrative is to be attributed to nothing other than the irrational, fear-based sentimentalities of the “racist,” flat-earther strain.  For example, there are plenty of articles with patronizing, stupid titles like “Can My Keyboard Spread Ebola” (which appears at the insufferably pretentious Slate; I think those people might well have New Yorker Magazine Disease.)

So, everything’s under control, which, together with humanitarian sentiment and American capability, surely explains why the ostensibly Ebola-infected Dr. Kent Brantly was whisked back from Africa to a hospital in Atlanta for continued treatment.  Incidentally, would someone please tell us exactly who authorized the returns, when they did it, and on what legal basis?  And why hasn’t a press conference been delivered?

Brantly seems to have been given what amounts to a magic, experimental serum (birthed by Mapp Pharmaceuticals) that thus far has proven so effective that, upon his arrival in Atlanta, Brantly was able to enter the hospital under his own power (click here for video).  CNN captions the video with “Source: Ebola Victim’s Condition Reversed Within One Hour Of Taking Secret Serum.”

A shocking reversal, wouldn’t you say?  So shocking that CNN was moved to comment (see preceding link) that:

It's a story that could have come from a cinematic medical thriller: Two American missionary workers contract Ebola. Their situation is dire. Three vials containing a highly experimental drug are flown into Liberia in a last-ditch effort to save them.

ABC next took the baton, and remarked that the drug might even have worked within 20 minutes of its administration (incidentally, based on the picture of Brantly that appears at ABC, I’d be surprised if he hasn’t been compared to Friend Matthew Perry on more than one occasion).

ABC, too, was very surprised at Brantly’s light speed recovery.

Not to spoil your smiley burger, but here are few simple observations conservatives should reflect on.

First, we have no real idea how Brantly and Writebol are supposed to have been infected.  Instead, MSM representations coalesce around the idea that “well, they were in Africa helping people and something must have happened.”  One has the sense that there is an ellipsis here, and that the continuation runs something like “stop asking questions; the doctors are victims and were helping other victims in Africa.  Therefore, it is irrelevant to ask how the doctors were infected, and probably racist to boot.”

Very well then; what sort of thing happened, exactly?

“Just a mishap; but it has nothing to do with a possibly airborne variant of Ebola, because that can’t happen.”

Peer reviewed scientific research supports the idea that the Zaire variant of Ebola can, at least under certain circumstances, exhibit aerosol contagion between pigs and monkeys.

And, the prestigious medical journal Lancet (1995) 346: 1669-1671 states at 1671 by way of summarizing findings of non-direct contact monkey to monkey transmission of the Zaire variant of Ebola:

While airborne transmission of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has not been documented in humans, only limited tissues have been available for complete virological and histopathological examinations. Our present findings emphasise the advisability of at-risk personnel employing precautions to safeguard against ocular, oral, and nasopharyngeal exposure to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control has since incorporated recommendations for eye and oronasal mask protection in its updated guide for the management of viral haemorrhagic fever patients. These data also suggest potential avenues of exploration regarding the routes of infection for index human cases of Ebola fever, which remain a mystery.

Next, from Lancet (2005) 365: 989-996 we have, at 993-4:

Viruses causing viral haemorrhagic fever, such as ebola and lassa, have also been the focus of media attention and have been investigated for potential transmission while aboard an aircraft. Although aerosol spread of ebola has not been documented in man, this mode of transmission occurs in non-human primates. Lassa, known to be transmitted via large droplets, is thought to have an incubation period of up to 3 weeks, making infectious passengers potentially symptom-free and unaware of their status at the time of travel. A study of passengers exposed to an index case of lassa fever in-flight noted no evidence of transmission, even in the 19 passengers seated within two rows of the index passenger. Because both lassa and ebola viruses have frequent fatal outcomes and no vaccine is available, appropriate infection control procedures should be followed to prevent the transmission of these diseases.

Update:  From the Public Health Agency of Canada, last updated 8/1/14:

In the laboratory, infection through small-particle aerosols has been demonstrated in primates, and airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated (1, 6, 13).  The importance of this route of transmission is not clear. Poor hygienic conditions can aid the spread of the virus.

From these we can distill the following irrefutable proposition: nobody can state with certainty that it is impossible for at least the Zaire variant of Ebola to be communicated in ways the general public considers to be “airborne” and, in fact, the supposition of the possibility of such transmission is well within the bounds of rational scientific discourse.

By way of conclusion, here are a couple of other considerations.

The MSM is obviously populated by many people whose mouths are as big as their brains are tiny.  It is therefore no surprise that many such people do not know how to recognize when a question is really statistical in nature and, if it is, how to analyze it. 

Thus, in response to the omnipresent, lazy, and uninformed claims that Brantly, Writepol, and others contracted the virus in the same ordinary way (exposure to gouts of contagious blood, for example) people have in the past, we should reply as follows: if transmission mechanisms are basically the same now as they've always been, we should not expect observe a statistically significant increase in the rate of infections among doctors caring for the sick when we compare with previous years (after controlling for relevant factors such as incidence rates and geography).

Along these lines, we have, from Yahoo news on August 4th:

Lagos (AFP) - The World Bank has pledged $200 million to help contain the deadly Ebola virus causing panic across West Africa, as Nigerian authorities say a doctor in Lagos has contracted the disease, the second case in the sprawling city.

The confirmation that a fourth doctor in the region had developed Ebola came Monday as fear and anger about the dead being left unburied in Liberia's capital Monrovia brought protesters into the streets there.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone's president said that the regional epidemic threatened the "very essence" of the nation.

It may well be that if matters continue to unfold the way they have so far, there will come a point fairly soon at which sufficient data exists for even the general public to statistically test whether continued MSM claims about Ebola contagion mechanisms are true. 

Finally, it cannot be gainsaid that the seeming efficacy of the hitherto obscure Mapp Pharmaceuticals’ magic experimental serum is, if true, a very lucky stroke indeed.  Whether anything even remotely like it has ever occurred in the annals of virology I do not know.  What I do know is that Mapp’s webpage is decidedly strange and that, with a retinue of only nine employees, the company seems to have struck gold (although they do seem to have some interesting ties to military collaborators like these folks).

Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno.  You can reach him at crimprof2010@hotmail.com.