Tag Archives: World Health Organization

The Great Coronavirus Scare of 2020: Capitalism Can’t Handle It

US Centers for Disease Control estimate of disease burden for influenza for the USA’s 2019-20 flu season.  They don’t even bother to count the cases!  They don’t have a clue how many US workers die each year from influenza! What do we pay them for? “22,000 – 55,000 flu deaths”? Meanwhile, the entire capitalist world is going crazy over 5,000 GLOBAL COVID-19 deaths!   Source: US Centers for Disease Control

The capitalist classes of the world – and especially of the USA – are proving once again that they and their crappy capitalist system can’t handle natural disasters. From Katrina to the Coronavirus there is one bright green thread running through the US Government’s responses to natural disasters: they don’t want to spend the money necessary to protect the lives of the working class!

Every winter half of the planet experiences what we call “flu season”; in the USA it runs roughly from October to May. This year the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that there have been “at least 36 million flu illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths from flu.” The annual US death toll from common flu has an *estimated* range of from 20,000 to 80,000 – no one knows exactly how many die – because our capitalist government doesn’t give a damn! And every year these statistics are COMPLETELY IGNORED by the US capitalist press and our bought-and-paid-for Republicrat politicians! No one knows or cares why tens of thousands of US citizens are dying every year from the common flu – a disease whose mortality rate is allegedly 10 times lower than that for the COVID-19 epidemic. Does this have something to do with the fact that the USA is the ONLY nation in the modern industrialized world in which the citizens do not enjoy a socialized medical care system? No one knows and no one cares except the socialist left apparently. Neither of the twin capitalist-owned-and-operated political parties of the USA has said a word about it. We believe this is because it’s mainly poor workers who have no health insurance who die from it; and the capitalist classes of the world can’t make money off poor people so as far as they are concerned poor workers might as well just die anyway.

Latest COVID-19 data from World Health Organization’s “Situation Report 53” (13 March 2020).  Why does a “pandemic” of 132,000 cases of flu virus and less than 5000 deaths cause global panic while in the USA a “mere” “epidemic” of 36 MILLION cases of flu and 22,000 deaths doesn’t even make the headlines?  Capitalism is *not* a rational system.  Source: World Health Organization

So what makes the COVID-19 flu epidemic (now “pandemic” according to the World Health Organization) any different from the common flu virus epidemic? So far there have been a mere 5,000 deaths WORLDWIDE from COVID-19. The total number of confirmed cases WORLDWIDE are estimated to be under 150,000 (which is a flat out LIE, by the way; the number of cases is at the very least ten times higher than that)! [NOTE: all stats as of 13 March 2020 – IWPCHI] If we were to average out the death toll for COVID-19 by subtracting the number of cases and deaths from Wuhan, China, (which experienced the highest number of deaths of any region in the world) and the death toll from the country with the lowest number of cases and deaths (we could pick from dozens of countries with no deaths or just a handful) the death toll would instantly drop from 5,000 to around 2,000 worldwide, and the mortality rate would drop down to a level not all that different from the common flu. Also, no one seems to be attempting to estimate how many people have acquired the COVID-19 virus but have not become so ill that they required hospitalization. If we did such an estimate, the total number of cases would be in the millions, and the case-fatality and mortality rates would also decline to a flu-like number. THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A VERY NASTY FLU VIRUS, FOLKS! So WHY is it that THIS flu virus is producing the level of panic that hasn’t been seen since the 1918 flu pandemic? And in countries where the number of confirmed cases are still very manageable, why is the working class facing increasing pressure to stay home from work until this epidemic is over? HOW THE HELL ARE WORKERS IN CAPITALIST NATIONS SUPPOSED TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES AND PAY THEIR RENTS, MORTGAGES, CAR PAYMENTS AND UTILITY BILLS IF WE CAN’T WORK FOR A MONTH OR TWO?

The capitalist world isn’t Socialist China! There, thanks to the Chinese Revolution that overthrew the capitalist system in 1949 the workers are essentially guaranteed jobs, food, clothing, housing and health care. No Chinese worker will be made homeless or made to starve if he or she must take a month or two off of work! CAPITALISM DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY! If the workers in capitalist countries are forced to take a month or two off work, we will lose our cars, we’ll have our utilities disconnected, we’ll be thrown out of our apartments and houses by landlords and bankers, and many of us will also lose the health insurance we’re being forced to pay way too much for which we will need if we or our kids get sick! What makes these stupid-ass so-called “leaders” of the capitalist nations of the world think it’s no big deal if they decide to shut down the entire global economy because 5,000 people died? The workers in the capitalist world will be facing the loss of everything we own if we miss even just a few paychecks! If you needed proof that the rich capitalists like Donald Trump and his cabal have no idea how the workers live, this idiotic coronavirus panic is providing all the proof you’ll EVER need!

These greedhead capitalists like alleged billionaire Donald Trump have never given a moment’s thought to how to develop any kind of rational public policy initiative ever in their lives. Capitalists spend their lives trying to do one thing and one thing only… no scratch that! The capitalists spend their lives trying to do two things only: get laid and steal as much money from “their” workers as they possibly can! You can rest assured that born-with-a-gold-spoon-in-his-mouth real-estate and casino swindler Donald Trump and his kind have never lost a nights sleep worrying about how his tenants are going to afford to pay him the rent they owe him. Workers are given two options: you can either pay or be evicted. That’s it! Trump has never spent a moment of his life until now trying to develop any kind of rational public policy of any kind. He and those in his capitalist class are as perfectly incapable of understanding the struggles of the working class as your dog is. And he and his “team” of capitalist criminals are proving it to you in their pathetically inadequate response to this stupid coronavirus scare.

The bourgeois press’ weeks-long newspaper and advertising sales fest spreading fear and loathing about COVID-19 have scared the greedhead world so badly that they have triggered one of the worst economic crises since 1987 – all over practically NOTHING! The fundamental irrationality of the unplanned capitalist system has been on full display this past week as what SHOULD have been a rationally-managed response to a relative handful of cases of COVID-19 outside of China was handled so badly by the capitalists that panic was spread throughout the capitalist world to such a degree that it even got the attention of the Wall St. money-grubbers. Suddenly made aware of the possibility that the shutdown of Chinese cities would have a very bad effect on their stock portfolios, they reacted as they always do when someone threatens to take their money away: they freaked out! They started dumping stocks like crazy, driving the US markets to one of their worst performances on record, erasing a couple trillion dollars in fictional “value” in a week’s time and precipitating a global economic meltdown. If you needed proof that the capitalist system is not even close to being an ideal system to depend upon when you try to plan your family’s future, you just got another couple of cruise ship loads of it dropped right in front of you! Are you going to remember it this time and do what’s necessary to prevent capitalism from destroying your family’s lives for the second or third time in the past 20 years? Fellow workers: the capitalist system has got to go! We need a revolutionary socialist planned economy, not this chaotic capitalist horror movie on perpetual rerun!

12 March 2020: US markets collapse, ostensibly over a coronavirus “pandemic” that has so far killed 0.000064% of the world’s population and 0.00001% of the US population. We had NO IDEA the US capitalist class cared so much about human life! Or is it really just proof that they freak out over ANYTHING that threatens their wealth?   Source: MarketWatch

New viruses have always emerged from time to time; some like Ebola are truly deadly, killing 80% or more of the people who become infected with them; but most, like the flu, are far less lethal, killing the old and those with serious life-threatening illnesses already. As Socialist China proved, under a socialist system a calm and rational science-based response to novel emerging diseases can be achieved with a minimum of disruption of the lives of the working class. Under a system where the basic human needs of the working class are guaranteed, taking an unscheduled month or two off work does not threaten to destroy the lives of millions of workers in order to save the lives of a few thousand workers. Under socialism even if this happened each and every year it would be a manageable problem. This is not the case with capitalism!

The capitalist system is based on an anarchic economic model where the kind of centralized planning that is absolutely essential in the event of a major natural disaster simply does not exist! The motto of the socialists is of universal cooperation among all the workers of the world, uniting for the common good as sisters & brothers, harnessing all of our individual strengths for the benefit of all. “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is the credo of the socialist workers movement.

Under capitalism the motto is: EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! Whether or not the rich help the poor or the strong help the weak is up to each individual to decide under capitalism. Capitalist society upholds the primacy of the individual over collective humanity. Capitalism is based upon a philosophy the exact opposite of socialist philosophy. “Look out for #1” is the capitalist credo! This is why the response to natural disasters you see in the capitalist world – as with Hurricanes Katrina and Maria and to the current COVID-19 epidemic – demonstrates none of the calm cohesiveness we saw with the Socialist Chinese societal response. Socialism defends the interests of the working-class majority; capitalism works only for the wealthy minority. This is why the capitalist world’s response to COVID-19 has been a wide range of responses, from almost adequate to completely inept. There is no rationality in the capitalist system, it’s just “every man for himself”, “save yourselves” and “pray for a cure”.

Getting back to public policy: in our opinion it is neither necessary nor rational to shut down the world’s economy over a novel flu virus that has a average 98% survival rate for those who get it. A rational socialist response would make certain that every flu season we would have enough testing kits and equipment to quickly convert empty arenas and buildings into quarantine centers to handle the overwhelming numbers of cases we have seen with this COVID-19 epidemic. We KNOW that these kinds of emerging illness events will occur on average once a decade. Under socialism we would be prepared to handle an outbreak like this each and every year; we would simply allocate the funds necessary because it must be done to prevent the kind of social upheaval we’re seeing in the capitalist world. In a socialist society that prioritizes the guaranteeing of every fundamental human need of the working class over all else it would be easy to become prepared for and to remain prepared for this kind of challenge.

The excellent response to COVID-19 we saw in China had its flaws no doubt. We think one of them was a massive over-reaction when it came to shutting down Wuhan and Hubei. Was it really necessary to quarantine non-symptomatic but COVID-19-positive people in order to control the spreading of the virus? How much did that really stop the spread of it? Is it necessary to shut down schools and workplaces if the workers there aren’t in close contact with each other? Obviously Wuhan’s epidemic was out of control for a while; but the rest of China was hardly affected at all by it. This question needs to be closely studied in the next year.  There is no “one size fits all” response to these kinds of things, but shutting down a metropolitan area of 58 million people to postpone the deaths of a few thousand very frail elderly citizens by a few months might not be the best way to do it.  If it was an Ebola- or bubonic-plague-like illness, that would be a different story, obviously; but COVID-19 is not even close to that level of lethality.

The US capitalist class and their political puppets in the Republicrat parties tell workers the USA “can’t afford” a socialized “healthcare for all” system; but when Wall St. catches a cold, the sky’s the limit to what they can “afford” to spend on a cure.                      Source: Wall St. Journal

In the capitalist world, where most countries are only seeing a relative handful of cases: why can’t we simply institute mandatory quarantines of everyone who tests positive for the virus as well as their close contacts? If we did this, we would not have to shut down huge sections of the economy just out of fear for what might happen. Unless the capitalist countries are going to pass laws guaranteeing that workers will be able to be paid their usual wages while they are under quarantine, how can governments – or individual capitalists like $130-billion-dollar swindler Jeff Bezos of Amazon – propose that workers be laid off for anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months? It’s easy for THEM to do! But unlike Jeff Bezos or Donald Trump workers don’t have a billion-dollar-cushion to protect us from the loss of a couple of months’ pay! It’s going to destroy the lives of millions of workers for no rational reason! The capitalist politicians – who in the USA were quick to approve $1.5 trillion in aid to provide “liquidity” for the US bond markets – will not provide that kind of aid for the workers who will lose weeks or months of paychecks! We saw that during the US housing market crash, where trillions were used to shore up capitalist enterprises but not a dollar was spent in comparison to prevent workers from losing their homes! Workers can not permit the bought-and-paid-for political puppets of the US capitalist class to declare state and national emergencies that will keep us from going to work while doing NOTHING to guarantee our pay in the meantime! And if they would simply impose quarantines on those who get sick and their contacts, we wouldn’t have to miss work at all! It’s only because of the fundamentally selfish and greed-based nature of the capitalist system that our nations are completely incapable of handling a few hundred or a few thousand cases of COVID-19. They can’t just shut down the economy to cover THEIR asses and let we, the workers suffer the consequences! If we, the workers, are going to be forced to take two months off to stop the spread of COVID-19 we are going to have to get PAID FULL WAGES for that “time off”!

It’s easy for a capitalist swindler like $130-billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon to show how much he “cares” about the lives of “his” underpaid non-union workforce by laying them off until his irrational coronavirus fear subsides, but how are they supposed to survive until he deigns to let them return to work?  Source: Forbes

The vast majority of the deaths from COVID-19 have been elderly people (60s and up) who also had pre-existing serious health issues, including things like lung cancer, organ failure, etc. These folks have one foot in the grave already; it’s highly likely that many of them would have died COVID-19 or NO COVID-19. The common flu would be enough to kill them, unfortunately. So does it make sense to make hundreds of millions of workers suffer by shutting down the economy to save the lives of literally , what? 5,000? 10,000? people who are frail and not long for this world anyway? It’s not an either/or kind of decision; obviously as many lives should be saved as possible. But laying off workers by the millions is going to cause a lot of suffering as well – including deaths by suicide & homicide and domestic abuse – and no one of our wonderful capitalists or their politicians seem to be making any plans to deal positively with that side of the question. Epidemiologists and virologists like Dr. Anthony Fauci – who literally looks at the world through a microscope and thus literally does not see the “big picture” – can propose “solutions” to the spread of COVID-19 that make perfect sense to an epidemiologist who looks at the world through a microscope but which will raise holy hell when examined from a “big picture” panoramic societal perspective!

If workers are forced to stay home from work and receive no pay or any compensation from the government, there are going to be literally tens or even HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of workers who will lose their cars, homes, their families will break up… there will be divorces and there will be suicides. Shutting down the world’s economy – or large sections of it – is going to have severe repercussions on the lives of MILLIONS of people in ways that will have little to do with mere money. The half-witted policy-makers of the capitalist world, fearing that their own careers will be jeopardized if they don’t “DO SOMETHING!!!” can be counted upon to do the WRONG thing, ruining millions of workers lives workers lives without giving it the least thought in a futile attempt to cover up their vast incompetence! Many of these impromptu “cures” for the COVID-19 epidemic being promoted by capitalists and the politicians they own could very well cause more far-reaching damage in workers lives than the loss of a beloved grandparent. This is not a simple calculation of “save as many lives as possible” in a capitalist world where human lives have never been held in very high value to begin with. If the US capitalist class and their bought-and-paid-for Republicrat politicians actually gave a damn about workers’ lives we’d have a socialized medicare system already!

In conclusion: we are pretty certain that once this COVID-19 epidemic is over it is going to look a lot more like a slightly-more-nasty-than-usual flu outbreak, and a lot of clueless capitalist politicians and government officials are going to be exposed for their incompetence and lunatic over-reactions to this really trivial health care and economic crisis largely manufactured by the capitalist class and their antiquated third-rate system itself. We can’t shut down the world every time a new flu virus emerges unless we overthrow capitalism and build a socialist system in its place where going without a paycheck for a couple of months won’t wipe out our life savings and make us and our families join the ranks of the homeless. Capitalism sucks! #Build A Workers Party; fight for a workers government! We need to overthrow capitalism and build a working-class-run planned socialist economic system “with American characteristics”!

— IWPCHI

Zika Virus: Capitalist Press Spreads Inaccurate, Fear-Mongering Unscientific Information [UPDATED 17 Apr 2016]

Countries with reported cases of Zika virus as of December 2015.

Countries with reported cases of Zika virus as of 4 December 2015.  Source: ECDC, “Rapid Risk Assessment: Zika virus epidemic in the Americas: potential association with microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome -10 December 2015”

[UPDATE (17 April, 2016): The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have now BOTH announced that they believe that the latest scientific evidence DOES IMPLY THAT A CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ZIKA VIRUS INFECTION AND BIRTH DEFECTS EXISTS.  We agree with this statement made by World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan: “Though the association [between Zika virus infection and birth defects] is not yet scientifically proven, [researchers have] concluded that there is now scientific consensus that Zika virus is implicated in these neurological disorders. The kind of urgent action called for by this public health emergency should not wait for definitive proof.” We plan to write a new article incorporating this latest information; in the meantime you can review the latest announcements here:

World Health Organization (WHO): (22 March 2016)  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/zika-update-3-16/en/

WHO:  Zika Virus – Questions and Answers  http://www.who.int/features/qa/zika/en/

CDC:  (April 13, 2016)  http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/t0414-zika-update.html

New England Journal of Medicine:  (April 13, 2016)  http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMsr1604338

—IWPCHI]

[Author’s note: this article, though slightly revised today, Mar 15th was originally written on 3 February 2015.  In a fit of uncharacteristic timidity we hesitated in publishing it due to the rather broad declarations made by the author, who is not a medical professional.  Having seen very little to date in the scientific literature that contradicts the gist of the author’s arguments we have decided to “let this bird fly”. We have appended links to latest peer-reviewed preliminary studies on Zika virus released this past week by the New England Journal of Medicine.  – IWPCHI]

As usual, the bourgeois press are eagerly trumpeting the latest health scare news in order to increase their profits, with little or no regard for the accuracy of their statements about the disease or the impact their horror stories will have on the public.

We were doubtful about the first scare stories we heard late last year (2015) as they were big on spreading fear and contained little useful information – as usual. It seems that it is beyond the ability of the capitalist press to report any science story without gross distortion of the facts or, in the case of “emerging diseases”, scare-mongering. But after all, the purpose of the capitalist press is not to educate but to make money. And so we are being bombarded by a flood of absurd and inaccurate fear-inducing articles about Zika virus and its possible effects.  We hope that this article will shed some light on the subject.

Our research into this topic took us to the websites of the New York Times, the Guardian (UK), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as a number of scientific papers on the subject. The links you’ll find throughout the article will take you to many of the sources we used to compile this review of the current status of the Zika virus epidemic.

No scientific evidence exists at this time proving a link between Zika virus and microcephaly

We are happy to report that our investigation of the Zika virus reveals little that should terrify anyone. A Zika virus infection almost never leads to death; in Brazil, where somewhere between 440,000 and 1,300,000 cases of Zika virus infection are belived to have occurred in 2015, fewer than a dozen people had died as of 30 November 2015.  [Source: ECDC – Zika virus epidemic in the Americas 10 December 2015 (see pages 3 and 8)]  Only an estimated 1 in 5 people who are exposed to the virus will even develop any noticeable symptoms! The Zika infection itself usually causes either no symptoms at all or mild illness (such as fever, rash and sometimes vomiting) and is over without any lasting complications usually in less than 2 weeks after onset of symptoms. In other words: Ebola it ain’t!

The loudly and irresponsibly spread stories comparing Zika virus to AIDS and linking Zika virus infections in Brazil to birth defects including microcephaly are – so far as we can determine at this time – utterly without foundation.

A note about how science suffers in the hands of the capitalists

All of these organizations are products of capitalist society and bourgeois science. They exhibit all the weaknesses inherent in all governmental and corporate endeavors in the “for-profit” capitalist world. The governmental and quasi-governmental scientific organizations of the capitalists are forced to justify their existence and the expenditures made in their support to a capitalist ruling class that would much prefer to keep the money in their own pockets rather than spend it on scientific inquiry. In order to keep the government channeling money into their bureaucracies, even “scientists” running organizations like the World Health Organization must remind the world from time to time just how important it is to keep the funding flowing in their direction. Epidemics like Ebola and Zika virus can be expected to be exploited for this purpose by national and international health organizations as well as by the for-profit news media. This is why we often see the supposedly “impartial” scientific bodies of the capitalist world exaggerating or understating the dangers of emerging diseases – depending on which way the political winds are blowing in the capitalist nation-states in which these scientific organizations are based.

The World Health Organization was severely criticised for its slow response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa. That is a major reason why we think they may be “bending the stick too far” in the opposite direction, overreacting to an alleged microcephaly “epidemic” which is in fact merely coincident to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil. As with everything else, greed-based capitalism poisons scientific inquiry and the news media reportage on scientific topics. The scientific truth is buried under political and economic imperatives of a profit-mongering ruling class that places its own petty self-interest above all else. Political appointees to important governmental posts responsible for the health of millions or even billions of people have proven over and over again to have placed their careers ahead of the public welfare. We’ve seen this with the AIDS epidemic, the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, the Ebola outbreak, the Flint, Michigan (USA) water scandal, the “debate” over global warming and now once again with the Zika virus.

Added to this weakness inherent in bourgeois press reportage on scientific subjects in general and the motivations behind the sensationalist claims made by national and international medical organizations we must add the current hatred of the United States Government and its proxies for the government of Brazil, which is partner to a new economic union of the nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (known collectively as the “BRICS” nations) which represent a serious threat to the current domination of the world’s economy by the United States.  Elements of the Zika virus hysteria appear to be motivated by the US desire to do anything it can do to weaken the government of Brazil economically (Brazil of course being the “B” in “BRICS”).  By exaggerating the impact of Zika virus the US hopes to reduce tourism to Brazil, in particular during the upcoming Olympic Games to be held there this year, thereby putting severe economic pressure on the increasingly unstable current left-reformist capitalist government of Dilma Rousseff of the corruption plagued and grossly misnamed “Partido dos Trabalhadores” (“PT”: in English: “Workers Party”).  This campaign by the US and European press is already bearing its malignant effects; sales of tickets to this summer’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro are reportedly going very poorly, and tourism is generally down as well.

The longer the working class allows the capitalist greedheads to run the world, with each passing day the more serious become the environmental and economic problems we all have to face. It is just a matter of time before these idiots destroy the planet through a combination of wars, epidemics and environmental destruction.  While workers pretend that there is nothing they can do to change the world, the capitalists, constantly focusing on satisfying their mad lust for money, will make our lives more and more difficult to bear.  With their new, idiotic campaign against Zika virus, they have undertaken to pointlessly scare the crap out of the world’s expectant mothers over something which has been demontrated for decades to be relatively harmless.

As a revolutionary Trotskyist political party we are not here to make money selling newspapers – we are here to tell the working class the truth about what is going on in the world as best as we can. We don’t benefit by spreading scare-stories like the bourgeois press does; that is one of the benefits of having a political party like ours solely dedicated to defending the rights and interests of the working class.  Sensationalizing such an important story would only bring discredit upon our political party – we have nothing to gain from such chicanery.  So here’s what we’ve been able to discover so far about Zika virus and its alleged link to microcephaly.

Brief historical background on Zika virus

Millions of people have been infected by Zika virus since 1947 and NEVER had there been a related outbreak of microcephaly reported anywhere – until late last year. Is there any reason to believe that something new is happening with Zika virus all of a sudden?  We think it is unlikely.  We could be wrong – we’re not doctors or virologists, and viruses can undergo evolutionary changes that transform harmless viruses into very dangerous forms.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen very often – if it did, the human race would have been wiped out long ago. 

The Zika virus was first detected in Uganda in 1947; starting in 1951 the virus was detected in humans throughout Africa and, later on, in Asia. In Nigeria in the late ’60s – early ’70s it was found that antibodies produced in response to Zika virus infection were present in the blood samples of 40% of the people tested – meaning that human exposure to the virus was extremely common and that chances of long-term survival after exposure were very high. [Source: Edward B Hayes – Zika Virus Outside Africa]  During all this time that the virus was causing illness in human beings in many countries on two continents NO ONE reported cases of birth defects caused by the virus, nor were there any accompanying epidemics of microcephaly reported anywhere until in the recent Brazilian outbreak of 2015.  In a Zika virus epidemic in French Polynesia during 2013-14 there were reports of Zika virus illness accompanied by the development of Guillain-Barre syndrome  but those reports have not yet been confirmed as it is quite difficult to diagnose accurately.

News reports from Brazil, where an apparent epidemic of cases of microcephaly is now occurring, have screamed that the Zika virus is responsible for these microcephaly cases. BUT AS OF THIS WRITING, THERE IS NOT A SHRED OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE INDICATING THAT ZIKA VIRUS INFECTION CAUSES BIRTH DEFECTS IN HUMANS!  Something very unusual appears to be happening in Brazil… but it’s so very new that scientists simply don’t yet know what exactly is going on with the apparent birth defect outbreak there.  A closer look at the evidence indicates that the reported microcephaly outbreak may be greatly overstated.

Distribution of microcephaly cases in Brazil as of 28 November 2015. Source: ECDC

Distribution of microcephaly cases in Brazil as of 28 November 2015. Source: ibid., ECDC

Notified - NOT confirmed - cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil, 2010 - 2015. Source: ibid., ECDC

Notified – NOT confirmed – cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil, 2010 – 2015. Source: ibid., ECDC  Scary-looking graph – but over half (66%) of the reported cases of microcephaly examined so far turned out to have been falsely diagnosed, according to Brazilian health authorities quoted in the New York Times (see story below).

Over half of reported microcephaly cases in Brazil proven to have been wrongly diagnosed so far

The hysteria generated in Brazil by the idiot bourgeois press in their lust for profits has led to overstating of the number of actual cases of microcephaly in newborn Brazilian babies. The New York Times reported this past week that in well over half (462 out of 700 cases, or 66%) of the reported cases of microcephaly either no microcephaly was found, or it was equally likely to have been caused by something other than an infection like alcohol or drug abuse by the mother during pregnancy” according to the Brazilian Health Ministry.

Microcephaly is not always easy to diagnose in newborns, as many children are born with slightly smaller heads; in some cases, the parents themselves simply have slightly smaller skull sizes in comparison to the “average” – which is, by itself, not indicative of any brain abnormality at all. The “average” human skull is the median size between the largest and smallest – there is variation in human beings’ “normal” skull sizes. Except in extreme cases it is often necessary to wait for some time – months – before it becomes clear that a baby’s growth rate is not progressing normally.  Since many of the people whose babies are suspected of suffering from microcephaly are poor, their ability to obtain the proper medical care necessary to provide an early and accurate diagnosis is lacking – thanks to the crappy capitalist system which only provides quality health care to those who can pay for it.

Microcephaly cases in Brazil concentrated in northeastern provinces

The current hysteria over Zika and the perceived increase in Microcephaly cases in Brazil may well be leading to overdiagnosis of microcephaly by overly cautions medical personnel. It would be more accurate to say that what we are seeing in Brazil is not necessarily an increase in microcephaly, but an increase in the number of cases diagnosed as microcephaly.   Only time will tell how many actual cases there are.  As these suspected cases of microcephaly are studied over the next few months, it is highly likely that many of the babies will turn out to be developing normally.  It is crucially important at this stage of the investigation into this apparent unaccountable increase in microcephaly cases that all potential causes are looked into, not just Zika virus.  The distribution of microcephaly cases may be indicative of regional exposure to environmental toxins, contaminated food or milk or water or any number of other things.   Focusing solely on Zika could prove to be a costly mistake if it turns out that something else is causing the alarming rise in microcephaly cases.

SOMETHING is going on in northeastern Brazil which is causing a significant number of babies to be born with measurably smaller skulls.  The fact that never before have there been reports of increased incidence of microcephaly accompanying Zika infection – even after hundreds of millions of people having been exposed to it – is very good news and hopefully this long-term trend of no Zika virus-microcephaly link will continue.

 The Brazilian government seems to be focusing on eradication of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus. This may turn out to be a waste of time and money as well as a wild goose chase that may have deleterious impacts on the environment. A very broad investigation encompassing all possible ways that pregnant women whose babies are confirmed to have microcephaly may have been exposed to chemicals or toxins known to cause such birth defects must be undertaken. It appears to us to be doubtful that Zika virus is in fact the cause of any actual microcephaly outbreak taking place in Brazil.

Adding to our suspicions that the world is going off on a wild goose chase is the latest data coming in from an even more recent outbreak of Zika infection in Brazil’s next-door neighbor, Colombia. There, additional thousands of people have come down with Zika virus illness – but as yet, thankfully! – no increase in the number of microcephaly cases has been reported there so far (as of 3 February 2016).  That is very good news!

Since the virus and its infection run their course so quickly it is impossible to say for certain whether or not a woman was infected with the Zika virus during her pregnancy unless blood and perhaps even spinal fluid samples were taken from her during the time she was suffering from a Zika infection. Reports that Brazilian women had been infected with Zika virus during their pregnancies were often based on surveys conducted with the women after they have given birth – months after their alleged Zika-related illness may or may not have occurred. It’s quite possible that many of these women whose babies have been born with severe birth defects and who THINK they may have been exposed to Zika virus during their pregnancy were not in fact exposed to the virus while they were pregnant. The media-induced hysteria could be creating create “false memories” in people who are only now, retrospectively “remembering” experiencing symptoms of the disease that were caused by other things.

Intensive studies of the apparrent microcephaly epidemic are underway now and we expect that the scientists investigating this mysterious outbreak of birth defects will be able to determine its cause over the next year.  At this time there is no reason for pregnant women to fear for the health of their babies due to the spread of the Zika virus. Health agencies are urging women living in or traveling to countries where the Zika virus outbreak is ongoing to take basic precautions to prevent exposure to the mosquitoes that carry the virus.  Since the mosquitoes that carry the virus are active in the daytime as well as night, pregnant women are urged to use insect repellent all day as well as mosquito netting while sleeping or resting.   

Based on our survey of the available literature from the WHO, PAHO, and the CDC and ECDC there is no solid scientific evidence at this time indicating that Zika virus definitely causes microcephaly or Guillain-Barre syndrome. The Zika virus has infected millions of people all over the world since the late 1940s and has proven so far to be as harmless as the common cold for the vast majority of people who are exposed to it. Zika is nowhere near as dangerous as “Ebola”.  There is at this time absolutely no reason for people to panic over the spread of this relatively innocuous virus.  We advise people to continue to monitor the situation as it develops over the next year.  Panicking does no one any good – unless you happen to be an owner of a print or broadcast media empire – or the head of state of a declining imperialist power like the United States.

—IWPCHI

[UPDATE 15 Mar 2016:  The latest information on the developments in Brazil relating to the Zika virus and its possible links to microcephaly cases that we have found was published over the past two weeks in the New England Journal of Medicine.  The titles and links are available below.  — IWPCHI

“Zika Virus Associated with Microcephaly” (reporting on ONE confirmed case);  New England Journal of Medicine, 10 Mar 2016

“Zika Virus Infection in Pregnant Women in Rio de Janeiro – Preliminary Report” NEJM 4 Mar 2016.  This article relates the findings of the first 88 pregnant women who have been enrolled in a study of the effect of Zika virus in them and their babies.  While prenatal ultrasound exams indicated microcephaly in 4 of the 88 babies examined so far, those results were only confirmed in just one case; two predicted cases of microcephaly based on ultrasound proved UNFOUNDED at birth.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, "Zika Virus Infection in Pregnant Women in Rio de Janeiro - Preliminary Report", 4 March 2016 NEJM (4 Mar 2016) at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1602412#t=article

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, “Zika Virus Infection in Pregnant Women in Rio de Janeiro – Preliminary Report”, 4 March 2016
NEJM (4 Mar 2016) at
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1602412#t=article

Ebola Epidemic: Good news from Africa & Texas; Political Games in New York Threaten to Spread Epidemic Globally

Unidentified Nigerian man and World Health Organization rep celebrate victory over Ebola in Nigeria

Unidentified Nigerian man and World Health Organization rep celebrate victory over Ebola in Nigeria, 20 October, 2014.  Source: World Health Organization/Andrew Esiebo

There was good news this week from the World Health Organization (WHO): both Nigeria and Senegal were declared by WHO to be free of Ebola virus transmission! We congratulate the heroic health care workers in both countries and from around the world who contributed to stopping those outbreaks in spite of tremendous obstacles beyond their control.

Nigeria’s outbreak, thanks to strenuous efforts by the government and health care workers was limited to only 19 people infected, of whom 7 died.  Senegal was more fortunate: it had only 1 case of Ebola and that man survived and has since returned to Guinea where the epidemic continues to rage.  The World Health Organization, in an update published on 25 October 2014, states that as of that date, “There have been 10,141 EVD cases in eight affected countries since the outbreak began, with 4922 deaths”.   There is much to celebrate, but this epidemic is far from over and threatens the lives of thousands of people in West Africa.

Breaking down the numbers, WHO points out that “[a] total of 450 health-care workers (HCWs) are known to have been infected with EVD up to the end of 23 October: 80 in Guinea; 228 in Liberia; 11 in Nigeria; 127 in Sierra  Leone; one in Spain; and three in the United States of America.  A total of 244 HCWs have died.”  These women and men are heroic workers who gave their lives selflessly in this battle against Ebola in order to prevent the epidemic from spreading out of control globally – we honor their memory!

We mourn all of the victims of this largely preventable disaster and send condolences to the friends and families of all who have died.  They were and are our sisters and brothers!

Good news came in the form of the recovery from Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) of another heroic health care worker, Ms. Nina Pham, the Texas nurse who has completely recovered from her bout with the disease. Just 15 days after she contracted the disease she was declared to be “Ebola-free” and was allowed to travel to Washington D.C. this week for a meeting with President Barack Obama during which, to prove to the nation that there was nothing to fear from survivors of the disease, he awkwardly hugged her at a press conference.

Yes, kids: there’s no need to worry; head Democrat and Wall St. puppet Barack Obama’s on top of the Ebola epidemic: he just appointed a new “Ebola Czar” – Democratic Party spin doctor Ron Klain, “a longtime political hand with no apparent medical or health care background. He did, however, serve as chief of staff to Al Gore and later Vice President Biden.”  By choosing party hack Klain, Obama pointedly ignored the fact that he already has another person who is supposed to oversee the same work as Klain – but, unfortunately for her, she’s not male.  And you can’t have a female “Ebola Czar” now, can you?  “Ebola Czarina” sounds too “girly”.  We’ll have more to say about this later.
[Source:  Fox News, “Obama to name longtime political aide as ‘Ebola czar,’ bypassing senior health official“, 17 October 2014]

In spite of the major success stories there was bad news as well: The first case of Ebola was reported in Mali;  and an American, Dr. Craig Spencer, who works for the French international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB) returned to his home in New York City from his work in the hard-hit West African nation of Guinea and… tested positive for the Ebola virus a few days later. His case has set off a bipartisan, politically-motivated festival of slander and fear-mongering as Democratic Party Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo and Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie declared “a mandatory quarantine for any individual who had direct contact with an individual infected with the Ebola virus while in one of the three West African nations (Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea), including any medical personnel having performed medical services to individuals infected with the Ebola virus. Additionally, all individuals with travel history to the affected regions of West Africa, with no direct contact with an infected person, will be actively monitored by public health officials and, if necessary, quarantined, depending on the facts and circumstances of their particular situation.
[Source: Press release, “Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie Announce Additional Screening Protocols for Ebola at JFK and Newark Liberty International Airports”, Governor’s Press Office at http://www.governor.ny.gov/press/10242014-ebola-screening-protocols%5D

While announcing their politically-motivated quarantine, the scientifically illiterate, allegedly God-fearing, self-aggrandizing coward, Democratic Party Governor Andrew Cuomo, took the time to slander the truly heroic and selfless Dr. Spencer, announcing to the world that Dr. Spencer had wantonly exposed the citizens of New York City to the Ebola virus by refusing to obey the quarantine protocols he was to follow under the protocols established by MSF/DWB: “He’s a doctor, and even he didn’t follow the guidelines for the quarantine, let’s be honest” Cuomo was quoted as saying.
[Source: New York Times: “Cuomo, Shifting His Policy on Outbreak, Opens Up Public Rift With de Blasio,” 24 October 2014]

It turns out in fact that Dr. Spencer was under no such quarantine order and had scrupulously followed – and perhaps even exceeded – the protocols set by MSF/DWB: “As per the specific guidelines that Doctors Without Borders provides its staff members on their return from Ebola assignments, the individual [Dr. Spencer] engaged in regular health monitoring and reported his first symptoms immediately to MSF […] “ ‘Extremely strict procedures are in place for staff dispatched to Ebola affected countries before, during, and after their assignments,’ said Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF. ‘Despite the strict protocols, risk cannot be completely eliminated. However, close post-assignment monitoring allows for early detection of cases and for swift isolation and medical management.’ “As soon as he developed a fever, the MSF staff member was immediately isolated and referred to Bellevue Hospital.”
[Source: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.orgEbola: MSF Staff Member in U.S. Hospital“. 24 October, 2014]

In fact, Dr. Spencer had been so careful about checking his own temperature, he notified MSF/DWB when it reached just 100.3F rather than waiting for it to reach the 100.4F threshold set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (originally the CDC had set the threshold at 101.5F).
[Source: New York Times: “Ebola Patient in New York Is Called a Doctor at Ease in Danger“, 24 October 2014]

Both Cuomo and Christie are engaged in election campaigns and are cynically using the Ebola crisis to “enhance” their political careers at the expense of the health of the citizens of their respective states and of the entire United States. To top it off, “[t]he city’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, was not informed in advance of the Cuomo-Christie mandatory quarantine order and was ‘furious,’ a senior city official who spoke to her said.” Dr. Bassett had also praised the actions of Dr. Spencer, telling reporters that he had “handled himself really well,” adding, “I don’t want anyone portraying him as reckless.”
[Source: New York Times: “Cuomo, Shifting His Policy on Outbreak, Opens Up Public Rift With de Blasio,” 24 October 2014]

This public degradation of the top woman allegedly in charge of New York City’s response to the Ebola crisis is entirely in character for the politicians of male-chauvinist Democratic and Republican parties, who routinely use women’s rights as poker chips in their political games to win votes from the reactionary right wings of both parties. Dr. Bassett was not even asked to appear at the press conference announcing the new mandatory quarantine guidelines. What women think is just not important to the men running the twin political parties of US imperialism – not even in an election year.

The panic-mongering capitalist-owned bourgeois press; the under-funded, broken US health care system and the hired politicians of the US capitalist class can be counted to do only one thing regarding the US response to the Ebola crisis: fuck it up. The US capitalist class has created a situation in which ignorant, scientifically illiterate and superstitious politicians are in charge of the response to a major international health care crisis. They pose and posture as being “in charge” and immediately engage in rampant fear-mongering in response to political polls that show that they might obtain a few more votes from the even more ignorant and backward American voters if they would only take actions that are likely to do more to create panic and even sabotage the efforts to stop the spread of the Ebola epidemic in Africa. Many health-care professionals have criticized the new policy, pointing out the hardships that it will impose on medical personnel considering going to West Africa to help stop the spread of Ebola.

Yesterday’s (October 24) New York Times quoted Dr. Dan Kelly of the Wellbody Alliance, an organization he founded, who is currently fighting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone: “I think we are just digging the grave deeper […] [c]ome on, that’s exactly the move to push people away from going to Sierra Leone and other affected areas. It’s going to escalate the epidemic and not help solve the crisis. If we’re going to get in front of it, we need health care workers from abroad. They cannot feel shunned or discriminated against.”

[Source: New York Times: “New Ebola Quarantine Protocol Seen as Barrier to Volunteers“, 24 October 2014]

 

Of course, the new quarantine rules in New York and Newark will not apply to rich capitalists flying to and from West Africa in their private jets.  They’ll just be waved through customs as usual; the people most likely to be profiled and placed under quarantine will be… you guessed it! – black medical workers and travelers to and from the nations hardest hit by the epidemic.

Under socialism, a quarantine would be made easy for returning medical workers: they would be paid full salary to stay in an isolated retreat in the country they are working in, and it would be impossible for them to lose their jobs due to an unexpectedly long absence.  Or, they could come home and take an extra 21 days off with full pay and lay low until they were completely out of harm’s way and then could go back to work with no problems.  But under capitalism?  What are travelers supposed to do if they are placed under a 21-day quarantine?  Where will they stay and who’s going to pay for it?  What will happen to their jobs?  How will they pay their rent and utilities and take care of their families?  They’ll all just have to fend for themselves – and that is going to lead to people getting sick and still going to work, just as happens now when people get the flu – they go to work because no one can afford to take time off for fear of losing their jobs, cars, homes, etc.  Life under capitalism in the USA is like a dream come true for a virus seeking to spread as widely as possible.  Every year the flu kills an estimated 40,000 US workers thanks to our lack of a comprehensive socialist medical plan for everyone as well as the lack of paid sick days for workers and the constant fear of losing one’s job that is the plight of every working woman and man who lives in any capitalist country.

 

After the twin debacles of the CDC screwing up its protocols for protecting health care workers from Ebola and then the hospital in Texas refusing to hospitalize and sending home a now-deceased Ebola patient, you might think that the government-appointed medical professionals and the for-profit hospitals would have learned something and finally properly trained their workers to handle Ebola cases, right?  WRONG!

 

In spite of Democratic Party clown, NY Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s fatuous and vastly delirious statement that “We have the finest public health system, not only anywhere in the country but anywhere in the world”, the fact is that in New York, just as in Texas, hospital workers report that they have received little or no training to handle the crisis.

At Bellevue Hospital, where Dr. Spencer has been taken and is being treated in a special isolation ward used for tuberculosis patients, a “veteran nurse” who works at the hospital told the New York Times: ““We’re wondering how Ebola is being spread. Is it airborne? There is a lot of concern about it.”

 

The head of occupational safety and health for the New York State Nurses Association – who has been working with the for-profit hospitals “for months” preparing them for the Ebola crisis – told the Times that much of the worry of nurses over Ebola was coming from workers who had received “no training” because they weren’t going to be assigned to work in Ebola wards!

[Source: New York Times, “Bellevue Back on Front Line in Another Crisis” 24 October 2014]

To a hospital worker, that might seem to be a strange way of looking at things seeing that medical workers can only work in Ebola wards wearing the oppressively ponderous protective gear for only a few hours at a time; they also suffer from the disease itself as a result of their handling of infectious fluids from Ebola patients and many have given their lives fighting the epidemic.  But to a capitalist owner of a hospital, every penny not spent on properly training hospital workers to safely treat Ebola patients is a penny he or she can put in one of their offshore bank accounts!  Now doesn’t that make sense?

As if that’s not bad enough: a Canadian company actually developed an Ebola vaccine years ago that was proven effective in monkeys – indicating that it had great promise as a vaccine for humans, seeing that humans and chimps – being closely related members of the same branch of the tree of evolution –  share 99% of the same genetic information in their genes.

A human vaccine was developed by researchers in Canada in the early 2000’s and tested by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) in 2005 where it “protected all the monkeys injected with the virus”.  The Canadians tried to sell the vaccine to a number of major pharmaceutical companies so that it could be prepared for human trials –  but to the capitalists running the show at Big Pharma “an Ebola vaccine didn’t look like a profitable undertaking”.   The people who were mostly affected were poor Africans living in impoverished nations – how could the capitalists make big money developing a vaccine for them?  So it was never done, and only NOW – after some 4900 people are dead from Ebola and the epidemic is spreading uncontrolled – are human trials of the vaccine being scheduled by WHO.  The small US pharmaceutical firm that had purchased the contract to develop the human vaccine never moved forward with it, so the Canadian government canceled the contract and gave it to WHO instead.

“‘If this vaccine had been developed on time, probably people would be living now who are dead,’ said Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa.”

“Heinz Feldmann, who developed the vaccine, complained angrily:  ‘It’s  a farce; these doses are lying around there while people are dying in Africa,’ he told Science Magazine.”

[Source: Canada.com (via Postmedia News), “Canada’s Ebola vaccine delays may have cost lives, professor says” 21 October 2014]

The US Government and the US Military have long studied Ebola and Marburg virus for possible use as biological weapons; they have also sponsored development of vaccines for Ebola.  One of the new vaccines had its development halted in 2012 when the US Defense Department cut funding for the project; another vaccine development program was halted by the US Food and Drug Administration on July 3 of this year in order to ensure that proper protections for subjects participating in the human trials would be in place before the trials began.  When the lives of poor workers are in the balance, the capitalist class and their agencies are in no hurry to do anything to save them.  Only after a major disaster takes place is the capitalist class government stirred into action. This happens time and time again with such predictable events as famines, earthquakes, hurricanes and transmittable diseases.  Human life means nothing under capitalism, when it comes right down to it, compared to profits.

[Source: Science magazine, “Ebola Drugs Still Stuck in Lab” 25 July 2014]

The longer the working class allows the US capitalist class and their worthless political cretins in the Democratic and Republican parties to run the country, there is only one possible trajectory for the handling of the Ebola epidemic: it’s going to go from bad to worse.

ATTENTION: Workers of the United States!  You need desperately to put down your TV remotes and your joysticks and start taking control – not of the cable box or the video game but of your future and the future of your children! Get up off your couches and start fighting the capitalist system before it kills us all! You have sat by for far too long, expecting that someone else would come along and save your sorry asses! It is up to every working woman and man in this country to get involved in the fight for a better future for our kids and grandkids and to build revolutionary socialist workers parties – like ours – so that we can not merely pressure the Democrats and Republicans to do the right thing but to take power from the hands of the greed-infected capitalist class and their paid shills in every state capital in the country and place it in the hands of people who give a damn – the political leaders of, by and for the US working class! As the sudden appearance of the medical crisis of Ebola shows, the long-running US working class “strategy” of hiding your heads in the sand and/or voting this year for a Republican and next year for a Democrat just isn’t going to save your asses when Ebola comes to your town! Does half of the country have to die from Ebola while the capitalist class and their politicians run around like headless chickens before you working-class wage-slaves wake up? Will you sit there watching reality TV shows while your children die? What is wrong with you? WAKE UP AND JOIN US!

Workers of the World, Unite!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago

World Health Organization Fact Sheet: Ebola Virus Disease – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

With the long-expected news that the United States has just experienced its first case of a person coming down with the Ebola Virus Disease, we would like to give our readers some accurate, factual scientific information about the nature of the illness caused by the Ebola virus – its symptoms, methods of treatment and preventative measures that can be taken to reduce transmission rates.

There is no doubt now that the international response of the capitalist world to the outbreak of Ebola in Africa has proven to be – typically and quite predictably – completely inadequate, resulting in an uncontrolled outbreak of the disease there.   It is just a matter of time before more cases start popping up in the United States and the rest of the world.  The advanced capitalist countries are in a position to potentially limit the casualties resulting from this virus; it remains to be seen if they are as prepared to spend the money necessary to deal with this serious health crisis as they should be.  The tremendous suffering of the victims of EVD in Africa today is a direct result of the greed and indifference of the capitalist world to the endemic poverty, lack of adequate health care, food and clean water that exists in Africa as a result of centuries of colonial exploitation of Africa and her people – our brothers and sisters.  Just as the greed of the capitalist classes of the world caused them to cut funding for UN health care services for Africa just before the epidemic began, the greed of the US capitalist class – which has refused to provide a comprehensive national health care system for ALL the citizens of the United States – could well prove fatal for many US workers – as well as for many others all over the world.  The US working class may very well pay an extraordinarily high price in the near future for its continued support of the US capitalist class and its rotten capitalist system.

Historically, the fatality rate of the Ebola virus ranges from 25% to over 80%; but that is based on outbreaks confined to very poor countries in Africa, where medical care is almost non-existent, especially in rural areas.  We would expect that with the far more comprehensive and advanced medical facilities in the leading industrialized nations of the world, the fatality rate should prove to be far lower than what has been experienced in the outbreaks in Africa – but this is in fact a very serious disease and must be taken seriously by workers all over the world.  It is not a hoax cranked up by the government to scare people: the Ebola virus is very real; it is very deadly if not treated promptly; and it is now here in the US.

Knowledge is power; we need to educate ourselves so we can understand what it is we are up against.  As we learned from the AIDS epidemic, the initial belief that exposure to the virus was essentially a death sentence proved after the first deadly years of that epidemic to be not true.  Initially, the fatality rate was extremely high, but as scientists and the public came to grips with the illness, ways were found to reduce transmission rates and to provide drugs – very expensive drugs – to keep H.I.V.-positive people healthy for years.  Ebola patients who survive a bout with the illness are said to be immune from a recurrence for up to 10 years.  Thousands of people in Africa have been sickened by the Ebola Virus Disease and have survived and never again experienced a recurrence of it.   Panic is not a helpful response to any kind of health crisis.  We don’t live in the Dark Ages – we can plan ahead and prepare to deal with the challenges that this Ebola epidemic will present to us – if we educate ourselves as to what exactly it is we are dealing with.  And so we republish here the World Health Organization’s Fact Sheet on “Ebola Virus Disease”.

IWPCHI

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/#

Ebola virus disease

Fact sheet N°103
Updated September 2014


Key facts

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

Background

The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

The current outbreak in west Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air (1 traveller only) to Nigeria, and by land (1 traveller) to Senegal.

The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems, lacking human and infrastructural resources, having only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability. On August 8, the WHO Director-General declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

A separate, unrelated Ebola outbreak began in Boende, Equateur, an isolated part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus family Filoviridae includes 3 genera: Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus, and Ebolavirus. There are 5 species that have been identified: Zaire, Bundibugyo, Sudan, Reston and Taï Forest. The first 3, Bundibugyo ebolavirus, Zaire ebolavirus, and Sudan ebolavirus have been associated with large outbreaks in Africa. The virus causing the 2014 west African outbreak belongs to the Zaire species.

Transmission

It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.

Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

Health-care workers have frequently been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed EVD. This has occurred through close contact with patients when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced.

Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola.

People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.

Symptoms of Ebola virus disease

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

Diagnosis

It can be difficult to distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis. Confirmation that symptoms are caused by Ebola virus infection are made using the following investigations:

  • antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • antigen-capture detection tests
  • serum neutralization test
  • reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
  • electron microscopy
  • virus isolation by cell culture.

Samples from patients are an extreme biohazard risk; laboratory testing on non-inactivated samples should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions.

Treatment and vaccines

Supportive care-rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids- and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated. No licensed vaccines are available yet, but 2 potential vaccines are undergoing human safety testing.

Prevention and control

Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation. Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission. Risk reduction messaging should focus on several factors:

  • Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
  • Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission from direct or close contact with people with Ebola symptoms, particularly with their bodily fluids. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.
  • Outbreak containment measures including prompt and safe burial of the dead, identifying people who may have been in contact with someone infected with Ebola, monitoring the health of contacts for 21 days, the importance of separating the healthy from the sick to prevent further spread, the importance of good hygiene and maintaining a clean environment.

Controlling infection in health-care settings:

Health-care workers should always take standard precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis. These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (to block splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.

Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply extra infection control measures to prevent contact with the patient’s blood and body fluids and contaminated surfaces or materials such as clothing and bedding. When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with EBV, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).

Laboratory workers are also at risk. Samples taken from humans and animals for investigation of Ebola infection should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.

WHO response

WHO aims to prevent Ebola outbreaks by maintaining surveillance for Ebola virus disease and supporting at-risk countries to developed preparedness plans. The document provides overall guidance for control of Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks:

When an outbreak is detected WHO responds by supporting surveillance, community engagement, case management, laboratory services, contact tracing, infection control, logistical support and training and assistance with safe burial practices.

WHO has developed detailed advice on Ebola infection prevention and control:

Table: Chronology of previous Ebola virus disease outbreaks

[NOTE BY IWPCHI: The fatality rates shown here are accurate, but we caution our readers not to “speed-read” through these stats.  Where the fatality rates have been shown to be “100%” we see that in almost every case, there was only one person who got sick – and that person died, hence a “100% fatality rate”.  These are indeed very sobering statistics; but we repeat that these outbreaks took place in very poor countries with limited (or no) medical facilities capable of dealing with a disease such as Ebola.  The fatality rate in the industrialized nations like the US therefore should prove to be much reduced from the numbers you see here.]

Year Country Ebolavirus species Cases Deaths Case fatality
2012 Democratic Republic of Congo Bundibugyo 57 29 51%
2012 Uganda Sudan 7 4 57%
2012 Uganda Sudan 24 17 71%
2011 Uganda Sudan 1 1 100%
2008 Democratic Republic of Congo Zaire 32 14 44%
2007 Uganda Bundibugyo 149 37 25%
2007 Democratic Republic of Congo Zaire 264 187 71%
2005 Congo Zaire 12 10 83%
2004 Sudan Sudan 17 7 41%
2003 (Nov-Dec) Congo Zaire 35 29 83%
2003 (Jan-Apr) Congo Zaire 143 128 90%
2001-2002 Congo Zaire 59 44 75%
2001-2002 Gabon Zaire 65 53 82%
2000 Uganda Sudan 425 224 53%
1996 South Africa (ex-Gabon) Zaire 1 1 100%
1996 (Jul-Dec) Gabon Zaire 60 45 75%
1996 (Jan-Apr) Gabon Zaire 31 21 68%
1995 Democratic Republic of Congo Zaire 315 254 81%
1994 Cote d’Ivoire Taï Forest 1 0 0%
1994 Gabon Zaire 52 31 60%
1979 Sudan Sudan 34 22 65%
1977 Democratic Republic of Congo Zaire 1 1 100%
1976 Sudan Sudan 284 151 53%
1976 Democratic Republic of Congo Zaire 318 280 88%

For more information contact:

WHO Media centre
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