In response to the entirely imaginary deluge of questions from concerned and almost equally fictional readers, I’m pleased to hand over the reins of today’s canter into the wandering paths of Ramblingshire to Dr Augustus Felch MD, PhD; head of Unexplained Gunshot Injuries, No Questions Asked at Abdul’s 24-hour Veterinary Surgery and All-Nite Takeaway, Wolverhampton. Dr Felch has been an expert on tropical diseases since last month’s ‘House, M.D’ boxset marathon and, in the light of an unexplained delay to this month’s ketamine delivery, is willing to answer your more frequently asked questions.
Q: Where did Ebola come from?
A: Way down deep in the middle of the Congo, a hippo took an apricot… no, wait, that’s Um Bongo.
The virus is named after the Ebola river, in what is now the DRC, near where the first outbreak was recorded, much in the way that Hepatitis is named after the Hepatitis Sea where you shouldn’t swim with an open wound. Evidence suggests that bats are the reservoir hosts, leading to widespread accusations against Batman and Dracula, one of whom already has a bad name, as the bridging agents to humans. It is more likely that the consumption of fruit bat, considered a delicacy in parts of Western Africa and a valuable source of supplementary protein by many of the private contractors providing school meals in the UK (fortunately, the word ‘fruit’ is enough to put off most schoolkids) is to blame for transmission to humans. So far Kentucky Fried Chicken have yet to categorically deny using fruit bat in their restaurants.
Q: How is Ebola caught?
A: Ebola is transmitted through the body fluids of infected sufferers, particularly blood, faeces and vomit. Kentucky Fried Chicken have yet to categorically deny that these are three of their eleven secret herbs and spices.
Q: How likely am I to catch Ebola?
A: It depends how well you’ve cooked that fruit bat you’re eating.
Q: Can I get Ebola on the NHS?
A: Not at present. Ask your private healthcare provider. They’ll do pretty much anything for profit.
Q: I read in the Daily Mail that ISIS might use Ebola as a biological weapon. Should I start avoiding dark-skinned people on principle?
A: As a Daily Mail reader, you probably already are.
Q: Are the governments of the Western World prepared for an outbreak of Ebola?
A: You’d think so, given what they paid me to… what? Oh, yes, good point. According to the Guardian:” Four major NHS hospitals are on standby to deal with a possible Ebola outbreak. …London’s Royal Free hospital …has the most sophisticated specialist high-level isolation unit in the UK, with two containment beds. Under NHS plans, further specialist equipment would be transferred from the Royal Free to units in Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool in the event of a larger outbreak”* so we’re prepared for up to two people to get it, after which precautions extend to spreading it to further hospitals across the country. Nothing to worry about there, then.
Q: I’m the CEO of a large, unethical pharmaceutical company, might I make a few quid out of this?
A: Almost certainly. If you’ve no objection to funding from the military or tobacco industry, crack on. Ignore the conspiracy theorists. They’ll always make trouble whatever you do. After all, it’s not like anyone suggested that drug companies were profiteering during the swine flu scare, or anything.
Q: Should I be worried? Is the world going to come to an end?
A: Yes and almost certainly yes. But probably not from Ebola, or not from Ebola alone. There are more infectious diseases and faster mutating ones – simple influenza is a far bigger killer than ebola. Ebola isn’t going to wipe us all out. Probably.
There are plenty of sources of existential risk and if you look at the biggest, the thing they have in common is us. It’s our greed, cupidity and stupidity that will end us.
Q: I’m terrified now, what can I do?
A: There are several easy steps to minimise the risk to your family. You can strive towards a more equal, enlightened society. Insist on proper education, get your news and opinions from somewhere other than the gutter press, educate yourself properly about healthcare, lobby your elected representatives to spend more on healthcare and less on warfare, lower your ecological footprint to help preserve resources and biodiversity… but that all sound like hard work, doesn’t it. So if you like you can go back to watching reality TV and let the world slide slowly into the hell that you’re contributing to…
Oops! It looks like it’s time for the good doctor’s own medication. So sorry to have to cut that off. In next week’s blog we’ll be asking leading economists of the UK and US why their grandchildren’s trust funds are invested in firms providing services to Morlocks and Eloi. Until then, stay healthy.