April 13th, 2005

Oh crap

The Coming Plague

If virus stuff interests you, definitely read the book The Coming Plague. I went through a period where I read books like The Hot Zone, And the Band Played On, The Gravest Show on Earth, as well as the tome noted in the title of this entry.

ANYWAY, because such stuff does interest me, I've been following the Marburg outbreak in Angola. It's the same story all over again in regards to viral hemorrhagic fevers--at least in Africa. You've got a third-world country backwater in the jungle, and somebody gets really, really sick. Person dies, and the prevalent custom of washing the dead for burial spreads the disease.

And if you don't know, hemorrhagic fevers are ever so terrible. Your innards basically liquify and you bleed from every opening your body has--including pores, eyes, etc. It seems like a particularly unpleasant way to die. Though if you manage to survive, that might not be a walk in the park either. Lassa, which is less deadly than its cousin Ebola, almost invariably leads to nerve damage of some sort. Deafness or ringing in the ears for the rest of your life is not uncommon.

If one of these lovely hemorrhagic fevers ever becomes airborn (like in The Hot Zone) AND contagious to humans, we're probably toast as species. Either that, or we'll end up something like the future world in 12 Monkeys.

The BBC has gotten a doctor from Medecins Sans Frontieres to basically blog the experience. It reminds me vividly of one of the Ebola outbreaks from The Coming Plague.

Diary from Angola's virus frontline
Health teams covered from head to toe to avoid contamination
Zoe Young of the medical NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), is keeping a web diary for the BBC News Website from Angola as she helps with the emergency response to an outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus.
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