The SVG pie chart was too good a visual presentation tool to pass up, so I used the exact same code for the current Ebola outbreak going on in West Africa.

Ebola is an impressive piece of work, able to wreak havoc amongst the immune system. First discovered in the 1970s, the current strain of Ebola, Ebola Zaire, has historically had a fatality rate of approximately 90%. Popularized (and dramatized) in The Hot Zone, the virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids, provided a-plenty through hemorrhagic fever, however, death is usually caused by multiple organ failure. Not a pretty sight.

There's currently no treatment Ebola. No vaccines, no antibiotics (which, as I would like to point out again, don't usually work on viruses). Current treatment options include hydration and compensating for blood loss, and, as Ebola is a Biosafety Level 4 pathogen, research is dangerous and slow.

There's currently also little information on where Ebola resides when it's not killing humans. All viruses require a natural reservoir where the virus can replicate without killing its host. After all, killing the host organism is not a sound evolutionary strategy, especially if one is a parasite dependent on the host to survive. Mice for hantavirus, bats for rabies, mosquitoes for West Nile. Currently, the prevailing theory is that bats are also the culprit for Ebola as well (due to their unsavory reputation of being the natural reservoir for a multitude of diseases), and a very small percentage of bats have been found to be carrying the virus.

Is this the end of the world? Not very likely, as the Western World has better medical infrastructure than the currently affected countries. In Western Africa, physicians are coming into opposition with cultural practices and misinformation, frustrating their attempts to control the disease. Violating quarantine and refusing treatment occur among those who see the doctors as harbingers of death. But here, with better medical infrastructure (and hopefully a greater acceptance of information), the disease will (most hopefully) be stopped in its tracks.

Even if it becomes airborne. Which is unlikely, but we must not discount the possibility. The virus can already spread through aerosolized particles, which is worrying enough, but full-on airborne Ebola would tax the system. Still not apocalyptic, but would still cause greater damage.

Either way, for the developing countries in Africa, it is not a pretty situation. As always, there's little hope.

Also, from a code standpoint, it seems rounding errors in the PHP trigonometric functions cause not-perfect circles to be drawn. Oh well. Can't do too much about that.

Edit (2014-10-16): Been down for a while, but I haven't edited the page. Though I should do that. Any stable sources for data about recent events?

Tagged with biology, programming
Posted on2014-08-01 00:32
Last modified on2014-11-02 22:58

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