18 October 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 28 comments

So, hurricane, looting, civil unrest. Quite a month for me, September was.

Now here we are in mid-October, and I’m watching the headlines about the U.S. Ebola spread and shaking my head.

Why? Well, let’s see. First, out of pure self-interest. The area of Mexico I live in sees a ton of American tourists. There are direct flights from places like Dallas every day. Which means that an outbreak of a contagious pathogen in the U.S. is only a few hours flying time from me. And because Mexico is dependent on tourist dollars it won’t do what it should, which is stop all travel from the U.S., where, in spite of the double-speak of the media, there is now an active Ebola outbreak whose scope and severity is a big question mark.

And the way the U.S. has handled the outbreak so far is beyond criminal. It is so bad it borders on evil.

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BREAKING NEWS: Here’s a fun little slice of what’s wrong with the U.S. handling of the Ebola “outbreak that isn’t an outbreak – because that’s a scary word and we are avoiding scary words.” These are photos of the symptomatic Ebola nurse being transported. Note the nice man wearing nothing at all that will protect him. Now, when I see this, I kind of go, WTFF, are you f#cking sh#tting me? This is our system at work? This is how we’re going to contain one of the most deadly viruses in the world? I couldn’t invent this. 
* * *

The administration knew in September that there was a 25% chance of Ebola showing up in the U.S. within 3 to 6 weeks. And yet everyone from the President to the CDC lied and said the odds were “extremely low.” If you have a loaded gun being held to your head, and one of the four chambers has a bullet in it? Those odds aren’t extremely low. They’re unacceptably high. I quote from Reuters: “First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low,” Obama said.

Except that’s not in any way true. It’s false, misleading…a bald faced lie. Just as is his statement this morning that the U.S. is not facing an Ebola outbreak and thus we shouldn’t give in to hysteria. Really? See, where I come from, if you have cases of Ebola popping up and you aren’t sure how many people are affected or how far it’s spread, that’s an outbreak. That’s certainly an outbreak in Africa. It’s actually the textbook definition. Only in the U.S., it’s not an outbreak – it’s, what, a little Ebola soiree? Only in the modern U.S. could a one-in-four chance of a deadly plague surfacing in weeks be described as “extremely low” and an obvious outbreak somehow be “not an outbreak.” Doesn’t everyone start to get really nervous when we are assured that a dog isn’t a dog, by the guy who just got finished telling us a cat’s really not a cat?

Of course, the CDC has been mishandling public health threats for some time, so that’s nothing new, nor have instances of American presidents lying through their teeth proved particularly rare – it’s almost the national pastime to tally the falsehoods these days. But during this little adventure we’ve seen literally countless examples of ineptitude bordering on treasonous. Let’s take allowing a feverish, symptomatic health care worker who was on a watch list as exposed to Ebola, to get on an airliner. Flying from a busy Ohio airport into one of the larger hubs – Dallas. When the worker called the CDC and asked if it was acceptable to fly commercial even though she was presenting with a fever, and after one of her colleagues was already diagnosed as the first case of Ebola transmission in the U.S., the geniuses at the CDC said, “sure.”

The same liars who knew there was a 25% chance of it arriving within 3 to 6 weeks are assuring us that the safeguards in place – which consist of taking temperatures and asking questions (the same safeguards that have a 100% fail rate the only time they were tested so far – by the Dallas patient who subsequently died after infecting nobody knows how many yet) – will protect us all. No, sweetheart, they didn’t, and they won’t. They are no more going to stop the spread of Ebola in the U.S. than having high school dropouts searching 80 year old grandmothers at airports will serve as a meaningful deterrent to organized terrorists. It’s all bullshit. It’s doing things that are ludicrous so you can appear to be taking action. And it doesn’t. Work. At. All.

The CDC recommendations for dealing with the disease for hospital workers is basically what you’d use for BSL-2 level diseases (Biological Safety Level 2) – but Ebola is a BSL-4 disease. So folks? It’s probably not a “breach in protocol” that resulted in these nurses getting sick, and it’s not going to be further breaches – it’s that the precautions the CDC recommends aren’t adequate to protect people from BSL 4 diseases. Here’s an excellent link that explains why.

Anyone with even cursory understanding of epidemiology will take one look at a nation with proven outbreaks, that has no travel restrictions, no effective quarantines in place, inadequate protocols that fail on their face, and whose borders have a welcome mat out for the afflicted from hard hit Ebola epicenters, and cringe, because there is absolutely not a chance in hell of this ending well.

And what did the U.S. just do as its response to a plague that could spell the end of days for the U.S., as well as most of the planet if it runs unchecked? Why, appoint an “Ebola czar.” You’d probably think that given the stakes this would be a seasoned public health expert, a doctor with decades of epidemic containment experience, right? Well, what you actually got is a party hack attorney with no more experience in public health and plague containment than my dog.

I just can’t make this crap up. If I wrote it in a novel it would get laughed off the page. “Nobody’s that stupid. The real world doesn’t work that way. There’s no way that the government would do everything possible to seemingly ensure the spread of the virus. One star for realism. Blake’s a moron.”

Last year I wrote a novel that scared the living bejesus out of me, so much so I almost didn’t publish it. That novel, Upon A Pale Horse, chronicles the fictional spread of a deadly virus for which there’s no publicized cure (those determined to spread it of course developed a vaccine in secret, but only for their elite circle), and which has a very high mortality rate – the perfect mechanism to reduce the population of the world by two thirds or more, especially in the “undesirable” areas, while eliminating what remains of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In that novel, rich, privileged zealots, whose bought and paid for politicians kowtow to their whims, engage in social engineering using bio-weapon-developed retroviruses. It scared the crap out of me because as I researched it I realized that even though it was presented as fiction the science behind it was frightening, and the historical basis for the story was far too plausible, if not eerily factual (don’t even get me started on the chimps used for bio-weapons development in Liberia that were later used in vaccine development, and the history of simian contamination of vaccines, like the polio vaccine).

And here we are, about 15 months after I published that cheery little tome, and a virulent virus is spreading in Africa, and now, in the U.S., while the public health apparatus takes steps that are about as effective as prayer in stopping its spread. Nobody seems to be going, “Um, your society is highly mobile and travels constantly – isn’t confined to its rural village or one metro area – increasing the odds of it spreading to pandemic levels in no time, because you won’t be able to quarantine a hundred outbreaks as they occur – the direct result of failing to close your borders and pretending to take effective quarantine steps while just posturing.”

I also keep hearing these insane claims that we’re not to worry because there will soon be an antidote or a vaccine. You know, because we have the power of 10 scientists with our superpowers. But of course that ignores that after 34 years of working on one for HIV, there isn’t one. Same bright minds that have been unable to develop one for AIDS are suddenly going to have one within a year or so for Ebola. Just cause. About the only positives I’ve seen are announcements by companies in China, Canada, and Japan that they have possible “promising” treatments – which haven’t been tested on humans, and which, like the promising treatments for HIV in the early days (like AZT, which turned out to be poison), are so speculative as to be happy dreams at this point. Maybe one of these treatments will do something other than enrich the shareholders of the publicly traded companies touting their “progress.” I hope so, but have learned not to hold my breath. Looking at the first ten years of HIV, and the last 35 of Ebola, promising isn’t a word I’d toss around lightly.

Folks, I am trying very, very hard not to be alarmist. But when I read the lawyerlike parsing of language that the CDC uses I pucker.

For instance, not only per Obama is the outbreak of Ebola in Dallas not an outbreak, but Ebola isn’t “airborne” per the CDC’s definition – if someone sneezes and a cone of mist sprays five or six feet, that’s not “airborne,” because technically that mist isn’t air, it’s droplets – so when you hear pundits saying, “but it’s not airborne” they’re technically correct in the same way Clinton was correct that oral sex wasn’t “sexual relations” – in a way that would be laughed out of any reasonable discussion, but which liars hide behind.

When someone from the CDC, or some well-intentioned talking head, says, “Well, at least it’s not airborne,” they are saying that the virus doesn’t literally float in air and thus can’t be caught through inhalation. But it does exist in saliva and sweat. So when they’re saying that, to assure you it’s okay to get on a plane or not worry about the guy coughing in the hall, you have to understand who’s doing the saying, and why they’re using very narrow definitions that don’t mean what you think they do. The fact is that depending upon the viral concentration levels in the victim’s saliva and mucous, of course them sneezing on you, or on a surface you later touch, is going to carry an infectious risk. To say it doesn’t is as misleading as telling you that the risk of Ebola coming to the U.S. is “extremely low” when they knew it was about one in four.

I’ll end this rant with one key takeaway: Just about every Ebola expert in Africa is now dead, of Ebola, after underestimating its virulence. That’s not a particularly stellar track record for the experts. As an example, Doctors Without Borders, whose protocols are held out as noteworthy examples of success with the virus? 16 of their people in South Africa alone had contracted Ebola as of four days ago. So much for bulletproof protocols and having it all under control.

I sincerely hope my read on all this is overly pessimistic, and that the party functionary lawyer with zero related experience in anything approaching medicine, or science, or being more than a party hack, directs the efforts of the public health emergency with an adroit hand. I hope that this outbreak proves to be completely different than every other one seen to date and the spread isn’t scary bad. I hope that the same geniuses that allowed an infected victim into the country, and another infected victim to fly while symptomatic, develop some modicum of logic and reason and do something besides take temperatures (which we know doesn’t work) and ask questions (because people tend to lie, especially if they think not doing so is a death sentence) all the while misstating to us the true risks.

I will be watching this unfold from 1000 miles away, but even that’s too damned close for comfort. I’ll be looking for a small hill town nobody has ever heard of, or a fishing hamlet at the end of a dirt road where they haven’t seen a Gringo for twenty years, because my gut says that in about three weeks we’ll be seeing more ugliness as the inexorable progress we’ve seen in all the other outbreaks continues, and I have no interest in waiting until the crowd understands it’s been lied to, because panicked crowds can do strange things – I just lived through that, and I’d rather pass on a repeat at a much, much, much larger scale. If I’m wrong, which I dearly hope I am, I’ll have gotten a few months of well-deserved relaxation while writing my novels and maybe gotten even more sunburned. If I’m right, I don’t want to consider the lay of the land moving forward.

As always, be well, be good to each other, and try to make a difference, even if it’s only petting a dog or playing with a baby. It may not matter in the scheme of things, but it will to the dog or baby, and perhaps that’s all that really matters in the end.

And of course, buy my crap.



  1. Collette
    Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 9:20 am

    I spent an hour or so last night ranting with my sister on the subject of Ebola. We both know we’ve been lied to and will continue to be lied to by the CDC and every other “expert” that can gain access to a media outlet… mostly government after all so I mostly expect the lies. Sad but true.
    Then there’s the case of a tv network doctor leaving her isolation area to step out for some soup. And the newest example of stupidity is a nurse embarking on a cruise knowing she had been exposed to Ebola. Oh,wait. Just take your temp twice a day. That’ll give you time to expose thousands if you are infected. Ugh… If we can’t rely on doctors and nurses to stay home instead of flying and cruising I can’t imagine anything except full blown spread of Ebola in the US, Canada and Mexico. The newest idea to curtail Ebola in the US is to close our borders to flights from Africa. Another ridiculous idea if you look at how successful we’ve been at closing our borders for any other reasons. Almost as good as take your temperature twice a day.
    I’ve been accused of cynicism and pessimism more than once but I’ve always seen myself as a sarcastic realist. So far I’ve not heard of this outbreak as a conspiracy but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Also sad but true. And yes I thought of your book Upon a Pale Horse when Ebola was first announced to be active in the US. Yes, I’m afraid.

  2. Ken
    Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 9:27 am

    It’ll be interesting to see what ‘updates’ will suddenly appear in the news after the elections next month.

  3. Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 1:25 pm

    All very scary and makes conspiracy theory documentaries seem real.

    Hope this virus doesn’t spread out of control.

  4. Tiffiny Tennyson
    Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Ebola is transferred as most people know through bodily fluids, yet droplet size needs to be more than is contained in a sneeze. More like blood or vomit. There is a possibility that the virus could mutate to be communicable in smaller size making it respiratory transferable.
    Before Dallas, routine health care for isolated patients was adequate for most infections including HIV.
    Ebola is different and revived precautions are now recognized by health care authorities.
    Standards have also been updated: 2-3 days with a fever of 104o incubation time was typical. Now
    the standard quarantine time in days since coming in contact with Ebola patients or products has been increased to 21 days and fever level have been lowered from 104o to 99.5o. This cruise participant didn’t go on the cruise until day 19 and without any measureable fever above 98.6.
    With Ebola the learning curve can be fatal.
    Another consideration with Ebola, unlike HIV, the virus can stay viable on surfaces for several days.
    The above information I received from news reports which I confirmed with the WHO web site.
    2 more interesting characteristics of this virus are:
    -Infected patients given blood transfusions from Ebola survivors who apparently have immunity have a far greater chance of survival. Instead of 50-90% survival rate, it jumped to only 1 death in 9 patients.
    -There has also been cases of people who have contacted Ebola without symptoms or signs of illness, but when checked had the Ebola antibodies in their blood. (since they had no symptoms they were not contagious)
    Viruses are very tricky and can change or mutate.
    So the safety rules are good until they prove to no longer be true.
    There is also a lot on line about why community or country isolation does not always work depending on the country involve and I am sure that others are capable of researching that provided that their fear and prejudice will allow them to.

    • Tiffiny Tennyson  –  Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 7:38 pm

      For Consideration: 1) What constitutes an infectious dose and can the protein molecule encasing the virus attach its self to the intact nasal membrane in an aerosol sneeze dose.
      2)At what stage of the disease is the sneeze dose the most virulent. (probably larger drops the sicker the patient)
      3)Decades of study have not found the virus to be aerosol airborne. (swabbing of vent systems?)

      The following information from Stanford and World Health Org.

      Amongst humans, Ebola is transmitted by contact with infected bodily fluids and /or tissues (2, 3). There is evidence of a possible respiratory route of transmission of Ebola in NONHUMAN primates (3). Even if Ebola is transmitted via the respiratory route to nonhuman
      primates, humans may be resistant to the airborne/aerosol transmission of Ebola
      (may not have the right receptors).

      Ebola virus disease is not an airborne infection. Airborne spread among humans implies inhalation
      of an infectious dose of virus from a suspended cloud of small dried droplets.

      This mode of transmission has not been observed during extensive studies of the Ebola virus
      over several decades.

      Common sense and observation tell us that spread of the virus via coughing or sneezing is rare,
      if it happens at all. Epidemiological data emerging from the outbreak ARE NOT CONSISTANT with
      the pattern of spread seen with airborne viruses, like those that cause measles and chickenpox,
      or the airborne bacterium that causes tuberculosis.

      Theoretically, wet and bigger droplets from a heavily infected individual, who has respiratory
      symptoms caused by other conditions or who vomits violently, could transmit the virus – over a short distance – to another nearby person.
      This could happen when virus-laden heavy droplets
      are directly propelled, by coughing or sneezing
      (which does not mean airborne transmission) onto the mucus membranes or skin with cuts or abrasions of another person.
      WHO is not aware of any studies that actually document this mode of transmission. On the contrary,
      good quality studies from previous Ebola outbreaks show that all cases were infected by direct
      close contact with symptomatic patients.
      No evidence that viral diseases change their mode of transmission
      Moreover, scientists are unaware of any virus that has dramatically changed its mode of
      transmission. For example, the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has caused sporadic human
      cases since 1997, is now endemic in chickens and ducks in large parts of Asia.

      That virus has probably circulated through many billions of birds for at least two decades.
      Its mode of transmission remains basically unchanged.

      Speculation that Ebola virus disease might mutate into a form that could easily spread among
      humans through the air is just that: speculation, unsubstantiated by any evidence.

      This kind of speculation is unfounded but understandable as health officials race to catch up
      with this fast-moving and rapidly evolving outbreak.

      Some capitalizations are mine to emphasize a point.
      Addresses are include so that you may read full articles.
      Now WHO claims that mutation of viruses hasn’t been observed in various diseases and hopefully they are correct. I do suspect that you have no fear from walking around tourist as long as you don’t have body fluid contact with them. (by the way-I’m trying to calm you, not scare you, but Ebola has shown up in human sperm for, I think, 60-90 days post recovery)
      Also I commented that ‘viruses are tricky and can mutate’, but I am not qualified to repeat that statement in view of the opinion and study by epidemiologists at WHO.
      Hopefully you can limit the terror of your imagination to your exciting novels.

      • Russell Blake  –  Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 7:50 pm

        I’m not speculating that transmission can occur as it does with the flu. I specifically limit my observation to the idea that if someone with adequate serum levels of the virus sneezes on me, or on some hard surface I later touch, there is risk of transmission. I’m not worried about inhaling Ebola and getting it. I’m worried about a tourist sneezing on me at Starbucks, or on the counter or the cinnamon shaker or whatnot, and then I’m touching it. Or I’m settling into my seat on my flight, and unbeknownst to me, the prior passenger was sneezing up a storm on my armrest, etc. I direct you to the second link you posted, specifically: Theoretically, wet and bigger droplets from a heavily infected individual, who has respiratory symptoms caused by other conditions or who vomits violently, could transmit the virus – over a short distance – to another nearby person.

        This could happen when virus-laden heavy droplets are directly propelled, by coughing or sneezing (which does not mean airborne transmission) onto the mucus membranes or skin with cuts or abrasions of another person.

        Based on this, I’m getting that it’s not airborne in the sense that you can inhale it and get it, but it can be propelled through the air on droplets, which could hit you, or something you touch, and then there is risk – but nobody’s all that sure how much risk. The literature concedes that risk, then goes on to say it’s got to be low. But then again, I was just told by the CDC and the President that the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. was “extremely low,” so does that mean that risk (which we know in that case meant 25%), was higher than mere low, which could then be >25%? That’s the problem with imprecise language, if one wishes to qualify lying as being imprecise, which I suppose it can be.

        I will, however, avoid all human sperm, including my own to the extent possible, until further notice.

        • tiffiny tennyson  –  Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 12:40 pm

          Yes, it is good to avoid handling your own sperm since you certainly don’t want to acquire Ebola from yourself.

          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 12:57 pm

            No charge for the sensible counsel. Especially since I know where that sperm’s been…

        • Jim Self  –  Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 6:38 pm

          As Tiffiny pointed out, the virus can survive for several days on unsterilized surfaces. So a guy could sneeze or cough a big wet one on a handrail, and you could receive his gift a couple of days later.

          Buy disposable gloves before they’re all gone.

    • Ann MacKenzie  –  Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 10:01 am

      Ebola is also spread by sexual contact and perspiration!

      • Ann MacKenzie  –  Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 10:03 am

        And, yes, the nurse that hugged Obama had a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor (Doctor).

  5. Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you, Tiffany. You are the voice of reason.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Tiffany is indeed reasonable. We shall see whether the WHO’s projection of 10K new cases a week by year’s end comes to pass, and whether the US outbreak is the first in an ugly progression, or an anomaly. My hope is it’s an anomaly.

  6. Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 12:35 am

    Two things. First, I’m not as worry about Ebola as I am a run on the stores when people panic. I’ve lived through one of those and it’s terrifying. For that reason, we started stocking up on nonperishable foods.. I’m in the “be prepared” camp.

    Second, it is interesting the woman who slept in the bed of victim number one is not sick…yet. The proposed cure is being made from tobacco leaves, so does she smoke? Just a thought.

    Third, (okay three things) the economy will fall too if enough people end up quarantined. Time to safe all our coins again. This is not my idea of fun. My daughter thinks it is air born, otherwise why are they taping off the ventilation system in Maryland?

  7. Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 6:46 pm

    The comments and responses from the CDC and other govt officials concerning travel restrictions have been stupefying. The CDC dope recently refused to answer the direct question, “Have you discussed travel bans?” His answer was “We’ve discussed travel and how it affects the spread of the virus.”

    Some are saying this is because of political correctness – you know, because Africans are black – but that’s like your example of fiction too stupid to be believed. If people that stupid can achieve offices of authority in the US, we’re all morons.

    So I wonder. I worry that this is another crisis-as-political-opportunity moment. Maybe some political hacks think they’ll have a chance to erase the remnants of the Constitution, as you say. I think it would go violently in another direction.

    Lucky for me, I live in a town sorta removed from everything. My parents own a house about two hours away that is removed from everything, and my grandmother, also a couple hours away, is maybe even more isolated.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 19th Oct 2014 at 7:11 pm

      See, I live in Mexico, and there’s no such thing as PC here. I asked on my Facebook page whether if this 70% mortality rate virus outbreak was in, say Kazekhestan, or Turkey, or Armenia, whether there would be this refusal to implement a travel ban.

      If this is PC because of race, it’s idiocy of the lowest order. Pathogens don’t differentiate based on any of the segmentation criteria we as humans do. The color of dead is the same, which we’d do well to remember.

      For the record, my grandparents came from Europe. I’d have no problem with a travel ban to their home countries if there was a deadly pathogen loose there. I wouldn’t take the slightest offense, and if I did, I’d be an ass.

      • Jim Self  –  Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 10:23 pm

        Sounds nice there. Ya know, besides the breakdown of society and all. 🙂

        I think the real reasoning isn’t being spoken. The only logic offered is that a travel ban would make it harder to stop ebola. Literally, in those words. Not believable, at least to me.

        • Russell Blake  –  Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 11:06 pm

          Wait. So if this country, which is thousands of miles away from West Africa and which has no direct flights, were to stop issuing visas to those in afflicted countries so they could come here and get free medical care when they collapse of the disease, that would make it harder to stop ebola from entering the country? I must be missing some critical piece of logic in that equation. They can simply not issue visas to the afflicted countries (preventing them from entering legally), they have the ability to figure out whether someone’s been in West Africa in the last 40 days with the passport stamps and by looking at the flight records if traveling on a different passport than their home country (if from Europe, where did they arrive in Europe from?) unless you believe the afflicted would be buying multiple fake passports that would withstand computer scrutiny, and you can’t get into the US without a visa unless you want to try to run the gauntlet across the Sonora desert or via the TJ tunnels, paying many thousands to do so, and which requires you to be in pretty damned good shape – but that wouldn’t slow or stop ebola patients who are ticking time bombs from coming in?

          WTFF? See, by my calculations, for every 1000 ebola patients who are thinking this is a free lunch opportunity and a much better shot at survival than staying in WA, maybe one or two might be sufficiently connected, financially secure, and healthy/motivated, to try to make it into the country with either fake or without entry docs. So slowing 1000 potential outbreaks to one or two is somehow…not good? Because we want to see a repeat performance of Dallas, X 1000, or more?

          You see why I believe this is just a total accident waiting to happen? They’re treating a BSL-4 pathogen like it’s no big deal, they have zero barrier to an afflicted carrier entering the country, they’re misstating the risk level, the time you’re contagious, the mortality rate, etc. etc. and it’s supposed to end well?


          Let’s review. The President and the CDC lied about the risk level, have protocol recommendations for a BSL-4 pathogen that are laughably inadequate, have a screening mechanism that provably doesn’t work or the Dallas patient would have never made it in, green lit a feverish, symptomatic carrier to fly commercial, are releasing patients at 21 days as being clear when there are multiple studies showing that the 21 days are based on 1976 small cohort studies of a single outbreak and fail to account for the considerably longer incubation times seen in later and the current WA outbreak (which is why the WHO waits until over 40 days to declare a country “Ebola free” – not 21 days), has just issued new protocols that will still result in a spread to health workers as they aren’t sufficient for a BSL-4 pathogen, have a party hack attorney running the effort rather than a medical professional, refuses to ban new asymptomatic carriers from entering the country on an hourly basis…

          I’m sorry. I do not see how this goes anywhere good. If this idiocy manages to only have 3 Ebola cases from this first outbreak it’s a minor miracle. I predict there will be many more outbreaks over the next 3 to 6 months. Mainly because there’s absolutely nothing stopping it from happening but a lot of “we’re ready and innately superior” attitude being thrown around. I keep trying to see where I’m wrong on this, and I’m not coming up with much to reassure myself with. I’d love to be wrong. With every fiber of my being.


  8. Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 9:07 am

    Morning, Russell,

    Two articles I read this morning (Globe and Mail & Times) contradict your mention that Nigeria closed its borders. Links below:



    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Hey, Claude. I also saw one in Scientific American.

      I was told by a physician friend that Nigeria and Senegal had closed their borders to travelers from the afflicted countries.

      It appears he was wrong. Per the article, they have kept the borders open. Mea Culpa. I shall edit to reflect that new info.

  9. Richard Fox
    Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 11:58 am

    Two things to consider:
    1.) The hajj was earlier this month. Muslims from all parts of the world were in very close and sweaty proximety to each other. Given the published incubation rate for ebola, we would see new cases popping up…right about now.
    2.) Flu season. There will be a flood of flu sufferers self-diagnosing as ebola, and ebola sufferers self-diagnosing as flu. Niether scenario is helpful.

    Forgive my panic mongering. We writers do enjoy making any situation more perilous.

  10. Teri Babcock
    Tue 21st Oct 2014 at 2:02 am

    Biochem degree here. I started worrying about Ebola the moment I woke up to the radio with Obama telling us there was no risk and we shouldn’t worry.
    Because I know better.
    Almost all our super-highly-contagious pathogens are NOT airborne. Adenovirus, rhinovirus, enterovirus, flu of all types; surface contact only. Doesn’t stop them from spreading like crazy.
    The only thing saving our ass right now is that Ebola is – unless new data should surface – not contagious until someone starts to show symptoms. If it was – as so many diseases are – contagious prior to symptoms, we would be completely and utterly fucked.

    Fucked doesn’t even begin to describe what we would be. We would need a whole new word to describe that state.
    Anyway, it isn’t, and so there’s hope.

    If you want to lay some stuff by for peace of mind, make sure you have
    a) N95 masks (yes it isn’t airborne. But the mask will keep you from touching your face and infecting yourself while you’re outside) These sell out right away if there’s an outbreak.

    b) bleach (for the love of Christ, don’t use those ‘green’ peroxide wipes to sterilize. They are next to useless. Get proper nasty chemical Lysol wipes, or make your own by adding a tablespoon of bleach to a cup of water, and pouring it into a package of wet bum-wipes.)

    Latex gloves you can get, but they are not as useful as you might think for daily wear. Most people have no idea how to take them off without contaminating themselves, and you aren’t going to wear them while you’re at the office, which is where you are most likely to contract something. Walking around with a lysol wipe in one hand to open doors or switches and elevator buttons with is a better plan.

  11. Tue 21st Oct 2014 at 11:04 am

    I disagree with a lot of what you’ve said in the past on other topics, but I’m with you 100% on this one. I’ve read that they expect 1.2 million cases of Ebola by January before the numbers start coming down. What moron assumed NONE of these cases would be in the USA? And, once it reaches those proportions, how are the numbers supposed to start coming down?

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 22nd Oct 2014 at 7:02 pm

      Here’s the likeliest ugly scenario. For the sake of argument, this is what happens if more travelers from WA who have Ebola are allowed into the country:

      The U.S. sees more Ebola cases, and doesn’t get that lucky on the next ones. Ebola goes from being a few people to a bunch of people. Not West Africa level crazy, but bad enough so that it causes justifiable fear that the authorities that keep swearing it’s all under control and not to worry are liars. People don’t fly – nobody wants to be exposed. That tunnels the airline stocks, petroleum falls, hotel stocks fall, etc. etc. The market loses 20%, then another 20%, as it becomes increasingly clear that not only is Ebola not a singularity in the U.S., but it’s a regular visitor that’s starting to take up residence.

      That creates a scenario where the U.S. has a very difficult time funding its massive debt at near zero interest. Because lenders like the Chinese, Japanese, etc. won’t feel comfortable lending a nation that’s got almost $18 trillion in debt, and is accumulating staggering amounts every second, while having $3 trillion in tax revenues. Bluntly, the U.S. ability to fund all the entitlements, as well as its obligations (like Social Security, which is not an entitlement – it’s a retirement scheme you paid into), requires that other countries are willing to continue to lend it money even though it is barely able to pay the interest on its debt at historically nothing rates. To coax anyone to put money into government paper, rates will have to increase, which they can’t because then the U.S. would have to default on its interest payments because they exceed total tax receipts along with total GDP. That will leave the U.S. with the uncomfortable choice of either having to cut handouts and services, cut government size (which will be the last to go), or renegotiate its debt. But the problem is that if the market tumbles and suddenly all that free money printed by the fed isn’t enough to prop it up in the face of whole industries losing fortunes, tax revenues are likely to decrease substantially, which means that the disparity between receipts and debt will be even larger.

      That’s when two things will happen. First, a lot of countries will opt out of using the dollar for trade, because the government will have to go Zimbabwe on our asses and literally run the printing presses round the clock, which will result in a tumble in the value of the dollar from inflation, and because of a loss of faith in the dollar as stable enough to satisfy the demands of being a reserve currency. That happens about every 40 or 50 years, on average, throughout history, and inevitably results in the deck chairs being reshuffled and a new scheme for a reserve currency proposed. But the key takeaway will be that the dollar will lose appeal as a reserve currency with which to settle trades, and be replaced by something else (how this works is right now, if Canada wants to buy some tomatoes from Mexico, it has to convert its currency into US dollars, pay the Mexicans in dollars, and the Mexicans sell those dollars to buy pesos. If the Mexicans want to buy tractors from Germany, they then have to buy dollars, send them to Germany, which then converts them into euros.) The point being that when a currency stops being a reserve currency, it loses a shit ton of its value – that’s not hypothetical – it has happened every time in the past since there have been currencies – and the country goes into a downward spiral, because it can no longer fund its lavish lifestyle with borrowed money.

      Put simply, the US is like a guy who earns $100K a year, but lives a $1 million lifestyle, complete with chauffeur, maid, private chef, cars, jets, etc. But he doesn’t earn $1 million – so that appearance of wild prosperity is wholly illusory – it’s only as good as the bank’s willingness to keep lending him a million bucks to spend every year. But it does, because he can still make the minimum interest payment with his $100K per year earning. The problem when that scenario is a government is that there is a 320 million population in the US, with some uncomfortable percentage dependent upon the government’s ability to keep borrowing that million a year to spend on subsidizing it.

      When that has to stop, which it inevitably will, that uncomfortable percentage isn’t going to be happy, and you can expect it come apart at the seams. At which point the downward spiral accelerates, as even fewer lenders will lend the government money as it’s not only riddled with a disease that’s spreading either in small outbreaks or in larger and larger outbreaks, but also with civil unrest, or alternatively, a kind of totalitarian police state.

      What got me thinking about all this was talking to a friend today. He’s Mexican, very smart, an architect. He’s also relatively young, in his thirties, and affluent. He said, “I always thought America was rich.”

      I had to explain to him that the prosperity he’s associating with the US is relatively recent – since 1944, when the dollar became the world’s reserve currency. Before that, the US was in a depression, with 25% of its population living in starvation conditions, and poor health the norm (I forget how many males were too unhealthy to go into the army for WW2, but it’s something like 40%). So the uber-prosperous U.S. is relatively recent – once the war was over and the economy was growing by leaps and bounds from rebuilding the world we’d just bombed into nothing, and our currency was in strong demand as those countries were forced to use it in order to borrow to rebuild, the new American era came into being. But before that, the nation had at least a decade of insane ugliness, and shanty towns, extreme poverty, and the middle class virtually wiped out was the norm, not the American dream. (Before that, another cycle of prosperity came to a close in 1929, when most of the middle class was wiped out, and the massive profit from the industrial revolution – a period that made more billionaires than the entire 20th Century did, including computers, nuclear energy, the plane, the car, etc. etc. – was shifted from the burgeoning middle class to a small clique of elite bankers and powerful special interests. So another seventy or so years of prosperity, or about 3 generations worth, transferred from the middle class to the elite, just as in the 2008 financial crisis, untold trillions of the middle class’ prosperity vaporized and was transferred to the same elites. It’s a great trick and one that happens about every three generations, because it takes that long for everyone who remembers the last time to die off or become irrelevant)

      The truth is that when a nation becomes the producer of the world’s reserve currency, it can seemingly do no wrong, until it lives so beyond its means the whole thing collapses. Just as England experienced boundless prosperity while the pound was the world’s de facto reserve currency and then the debt from the first and second world wars crushed it. And before that, as Spain did, and Portugal, Rome. etc. etc.

      The point is that all of this is a cycle, and there’s always a tipping point, something that knocks the top heavy favorite to the mat, and it seems to come out of nowhere. My gut says the Chinese currency will be the next reserve, and then you’ll be able to watch China take off in the prosperity curve as the U.S. fades. That’s been the history of every single one of these cycles, until China loads up on debt and begins living beyond its means, at which point another shift will happen and the new reserve will be something else.

      Epidemics can be the catalyst. They are destabilizing events. So are wars. So are massive financial crises. We came about a day or two away from the currency markets shutting down and the dollar going the way of used tissue during the financial crisis. We won’t have that kind of luck forever.

      I hope I’m all wrong about this, but logic tells me that Ebola will surface again and again, as long as there’s no complete travel ban to and from WA and other hot zone nations. We already know screening people’s temperatures doesn’t work at airports. Now, we’re hoping that we can trust folks to self-monitor – to behave responsibly when their lives are at risk. What we learned in Dallas is that people behave anything but responsibly – they violate quarantines, they put others at risk without a thought, they make mistakes. That tells me we will see more outbreaks, people will avoid exposing themselves to unnecessary risks like flying, and my predictions start to materialize – my only question is how fast it all comes unraveled.

      The other thing that really worries me recently are the articles that are surfacing that are basically saying, “Hey, Ebola, it’s annoying, but it’s not a doomsday bug!” When the media shifts to trying to convince you that a BSL-4 pathogen is really no big deal from denying that it can ever happen here, you should be scared out of your mind. That’s all I’m going to say. I remain pessimistic, and continue to hope I’m wrong.

  12. Wed 22nd Oct 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Breaking News: Two passengers fly into Chicago O’Hare from Liberia. One vomits on the aircraft, the other complains of nausea & diarrhea and it is deemed unnecessary to test them for ebola?!


    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 23rd Oct 2014 at 12:04 am

      Sure. Why would you test travelers from Liberia who are vomiting and coughing and having diarrhea for the plague that’s spreading unchecked across that country? Move along. Nothing to see here.

      If you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you’re going to go to sleep each night and wake up to another, “mistakes were made, but we’re trying, hmmkay?” headline, that’s not a bad bet.

  13. Fri 24th Oct 2014 at 2:13 pm

    My mum used to say be careful when using the loo. Unless flying craft passengers have long range tanks like my dog Sam then 100, 150, 250, 400 passengers will each use a loo at least once on a flight. Say four loos on a big plane so a minimum of 100 people enter country and they meet with a minimum of two people who meet with another two people during the next six weeks. I recall exponential and factorial mathematics from school … Hell who says this is low risk. I wholeheartedly agree with you Russell. Going to live far away up a creak may not help as most accidents occur in the home … those legal people say there are no accidents any more as someone must be to blame … what blame will attach to those who state there is a low risk from catching Ebola? None … then who gets access to the limited health facilities available? Yes you have guessed right … those who say it is low risk.
    I hope we are wrong … but somehow …

  14. Fri 31st Oct 2014 at 9:57 am

    Hi, Russell,

    I’m really enjoying your Jet series – it’s like eating potato chips or picking blueberries – I can’t stop reading them!

    This Ebola outbreak has scared the living daylights out of me, too. I have a neighbor whose daughter dates men from Sierra Leone. And those guys fly back and forth there a lot! So, I’m just shaking in my boots, because I interact with her family and their friends through mutual friends, etc. Ugh! I think this will spread, unfortunately, as many privileged people think they are immortal and feel they can fly back and forth and stay “above” the situation. Reminds me of the “War of the Worlds” where the invader got cut down by an amoeba sized microbe….stay alive and keep writing those books!
    I’m a technical writer, but would love to break into this genre! Take care and get that mountain site set up – just in case, and for your own sanity! — Ann


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