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Tracking Ebola

There is a lot of misinformation and, possibly, disinformation out there on Ebola. There is also a bit of panic. As a former firearms instructor, I can tell you that panic is exactly the wrong response to a problem, whether it is ten feet away or ten thousand miles away.

What I am not is an epidemiologist. That means I must judge my news sources carefully on how well they report on subjects I do know something about. I find that one of the more reliable news sources out there is The Economist, a British newspaper (Americans would call it a magazine).

I find their recent article on Ebola, “The Ebola crisis: Much worse to come”, to be very disconcerting. For one thing, there have been twenty outbreaks of Ebola since it was first identified in 1976. The current one has already claimed far more lives than all the others combined.

Another point: all of the previous outbreaks were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Almost all cases has been identified outside the DRC this time around. The few in the DRC this time around are, apparently, not related to the west Africa outbreak.

So why the difference here? I conjecture that previous outbreaks have all been in isolated areas, unlike this one. Which points to another disconcerting possibility. What happens if there is an outbreak in a major poor urban area, such as Lagos. Or Mumbai?

As of October 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 10,141 cases and 4,922 deaths, excluding those in the DRC. But those are known. How many cases are not reported?

The Economist presents us with WHO and other governmental estimates, including estimates of what it will take to build hospitals for this emergency, and what it will cost to care for a single Ebola patient. But are these the only figures out there? If you suspect that free enterprise can do it better and for less money than governments and the WHO, you might even be right.

Jo Nova has a degree in molecular biology. She is also a prize winning Australian blogger and speaker, and a well known climate skeptic. So I take notice when she reports:

Compare the response of The Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia to the Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
The rubber plantation has 8,000 workers with 71,000 dependents. It is an hour north-east of Monrovia, surrounded by Ebola outbreaks. The virus arrived on the plantation in March. Knowing that the UN and the Liberian government were not going to save them, the managers sat around a rubber tree and googled “Ebola” and learned on the run instead. They turned shipping containers into isolation units, trucks into ambulances, and chemical cleaning suits into “haz-mat” gear. They trained cleaners, and teachers, they blocked visitors, and over the next five months dealt with 71 infections, but by early October were clear of the virus. There were only 17 survivors (the same 70% mortality rate as elsewhere). But without good management, there could have been so many more deaths.

Good management, search engines, imagination and improvisation. None of those things come easily to an ossified bureaucracy. I'd call that a success story – without a single health bureaucrat involved.

Maybe the WHO and Centers for Disease Control should be sending some of their alleged “experts” to the Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia to take notes. Starting with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died after infecting two nurses who treated him. If the market doesn't punish them into bankruptcy first.

Addendum, 30 October 2014:

The Ebola hysteria raises questions about how a free society would handle contagious diseases. Critics of freedom argue: libertarian principles, like the right against involuntary confinement, means that half the people on the planet could literally die from a lack of centralized state control. Left to their own devices, average people cannot solve their own problems.

The opposite is true.

http://www.dailybell.com/editorials/35775/Wendy-McElroy-The-Free-Market-Kicks-It-Some-Ebola-Ass/

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Monday, 23 October 2017
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