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Mike Hsu Talks To Author And Infectious Disease Expert David Quaman About The Latest Strain Of Ebola
Aug 8, 2014|
David Quammen, the award-winning author of The Song of the Dodo, Monster of God, and The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, is also a Contributing Writer for National Geographic. It was during an epic jungle trek for Geographic that he encountered the men who spoke of Ebola and gorillas. In the years since, Quammen has circled the world chasing this subject—the linkage between wildlife infections and human diseases—and interviewed many of the experts, often in the field, where working attire runs to respirator masks, goggles, and double layers of gloves. He has helped trap bats on a rooftop in Bangladesh, toured high-biosecurity facilities on three continents, and sampled the cuisine at a Chinese rat farm. SPILLOVER chronicles these journeys, adventures, conversations, and researches in the form of a quest—a quest to understand disease spillovers of the past, of the present, and what scientists foresee as the Next Big One. It’s a startling, scary book that delivers news from the frontlines of public health, deep insight into the workings of science, and all the pleasures of a crackling good read. It makes clear that animal diseases are inseparable from us because we are inseparable from the natural world. Yet it ends with a note of hope.
Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.
Yes as of hasn't yesterday evening in the World Health Organization has declared this public health emergency of international concern. It's now the largest Ebola outbreak in the history of our knowledge of people more than 900 people have been killed more than 17100 cases. It's very dramatic. But those numbers are. Relatively small when you compare that something like influenza or some of the other diseases that. That circle the world to on a routine basis. The thing I think that's most important for people to understand about this to Ebola outbreak is that it begins with one animal. It begins with the contact between a single. Animal and some West African forest possibly -- bad but we don't know for sure. And one human being. It's it's of fires that that lives in animals and spills over into humans animal that lives in. Over the long term without causing symptoms in conspicuously as what they called the risk of war host. And one of the big mysteries about -- is that we still have not identified the reservoir host. The scientists suspect that it may be the species are several species of -- that hasn't been confirmed. But that the the likely scenario is that say say it's a bad. Some human killed that that and butchered it for meat. Early this spring in this south. Part of the the nation of Guinea and that person got infected that person became the index patient sort of patient zero for this outbreak -- It has spread from person to person since then and the and the authorities in the three countries haven't been able to get to to get control of it. Now how how does he bowl spread from person to person a lot of people are asking -- airborne thing or his bodily fluid thing. It's a bodily fluids. Form of transmission. People when they're moving into the advanced stages of people. They comment they have diarrhea. And those fluids carried the terrorists it's possible we've heard even that the virus can be carried in sweat. It gets into the next person through some sort of a crack in the skin and and then replicate some -- contests on. It's not transmissible. As far as we know through the -- It's not transmissible on sneeze or cough it's not transmissible. Like casual contact it takes is direct contact with bodily -- And that's a hugely important factory would be a much more dangerous disease if it weren't for that particular limitation. Now there's a lot of concern about the Americans who contracted this disease in Africa while trying to help people with the disease and then they contracted it and then there the government brought these people back. And there was some concern there that will you -- the disease into the countrywide I believe they brought them back here because these are the ideals we have the ideal conditions here in this country to treat them and possibly find a vaccine neck and can prevent this disease. The two people who have been brought back they're now in being treated at Emory university in Atlanta in a special containment. Sort of hospital -- That are designed for exactly this sort of thing tight security -- isolation. A high degree of expert care. And this is good for those two people who who are Americans and and are entitled I think to come home but it's also I think good for everybody because one of the things that's made. Dealing with people so difficult and in some of the some of the leading experts told me that's when I was researching my book is that we haven't been able to study its course. Through human patient under controlled. Circumstances we haven't been able to learn exactly how it does. Effective person how it kills people. It because most of the outbreaks have been in these sort of emergency. Care clinic situations in remote African villages to bringing those people back to the UN inspectors containment facility at Emory University. Represents I think -- really important opportunity. The artistic two to help those two people survived the can learn something about a disease that could be vital in terms of dealing with the African patients. Is there any danger or what is the percentage of danger of virus. Escaping from those controlled situations that's of people I think are most concerned about that you're bringing it here and -- -- -- here. I think that. I think that but the danger of a virus escaping from one of those and containment suites is is slim to none I toured one of them. At Fort Detrick Maryland that's in place called the US army. Medical research institute for infectious diseases when I was researching my book. I was taken through it by a woman who would spend three weeks and that containment facility because she it. Given herself a needle stick injury while she was doing research on an Ebola vaccine. So she was confined in -- -- for three weeks. Under these very strict circumstances. While they waited to see whether she gets sick fortunately for Hershey didn't get sick. But I saw them the level of Social Security -- go through these double airlock doors you showering you -- are out with chemicals you Wear Hazmat suit. Nothing comes out of that Swedish except through them. And automatically shoot meaning that it's been it's essentially been incinerated. In terms of the medical supplies and things like that's a I wouldn't I wouldn't worry about. This virus accidentally escaping from one of those suites. How crucial is it for the countries in West Africa that are affected. By this outbreak how crucial is it on their and to say screen people leaving those countries especially at airports. And how how do you how do you evaluate that are they doing a good job because I know you have a lot of experience with diseases. How do you think they're doing your job from keeping it in the country or or we should we be worried that -- fairly lax about that. Well I think I think there have been too lax and I think they need help on that that's one of the advisories of the proclamation from the head of the World Health Organization. That there should be the screening of people traveling through airports that can be done it's been done in the past with with the SARS outbreak. -- screen people for essentially for fever for temperatures. And somebody is running a temperature then that person has taken aside and and ask questions and even further examination of potentially tested for the virus. It's becoming really crucial that that be done we know that a person flew from an American flew from Liberia to Lagos Nigeria. And was sick and died there and has infected some other people. So it's crucial to control the spread of that through airports that can be done but these three countries that we're talking about -- very poor they spent. -- over the last 25 years with civil wars they don't have resources. Would have to happen now it's for international resources. Expertise material equipment. Money to float toward those countries to give them help to contain that including including the containment that you're talking about Mike in terms of screening people before they cannot. One final question. How prepared are we in this country to deal -- is an outbreak like there the one going on in West Africa. Well I think we are well prepared the CDC in private. Plants university lives have been working on. Very brilliant new ways to detect viruses -- genocide vs quickly. Treat to these viruses and containment circumstances. We years well prepared for any country in the world. But the problem is that there are lots of other countries where these viruses can emerge that are under prepared. We need to export our expertise. Export our. Are helped. And in some of the other countries that are very strong in this round. Need to do that too so that we have global networks. Identification. Diagnostics control and containment. Because. Because we live in the age of globalized disease as well as globalized everything else. All right David common thank you so much for taking the time the book is called spill over animal infections in the next human pandemic. Covers more than a bullet covers a lot of others. Diseases that you've been covering for various publications like you need is National Geographic in the Atlantic and Esquire Outside Magazine. And Rolling Stone and we appreciate you coming on and and giving your expert opinion on this thank you so much. Thank you Mike and thanks for your concern about this.