Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ebola Virus - The Next Black Swan

There are many articles espousing the creepy parallels between 1914 and 2014 the start of WW I focusing on political strains and military (mis)adventures in Europe. Just under the radar is another nasty event similar to one that occurred just after WW I called the Spanish flu that killed more people than the combined total of WW I deaths. It’s not the poorly secured small pox samples. Rather it’s the Ebola virus, an equal opportunity killer, a WMD percolating in West Africa that’s the most lethal weapon in the world today. It’s more effective and terrifying than bombs or bullets and virtually unstoppable because of the unique delivery system – humans with easy access to unrestricted global travel. It’s the worst case scenario – multiplied by 10.
Already international organizations are evacuating their health care workers from the highly infected regions. The spreading ravaging virus is not front page news for two reasons: (1) it’s still mainly taking place in rural areas and (2) it’s in West Africa.
Ebola infected humans are an excellent delivery system. There’s no technical skill required because it’s already weaponized and all you need is literally a hands on proposition to spread it.
Ebola exists in a world of global travel and hyper-dense cities. Should this virus spread to cities, even democratic governments would seriously consider imposing draconian measures on its citizenry to contain its spread including mass quarantines, travel restrictions, curfews, and even martial law.
Expect the implementation of anti-terrorist laws for purposes of containment, not the virus but people, for panic crowd control. Liberia has already closed its borders a decision that’s right out of numerous sci-fi Armageddon themed movies. With respect to business, if you’re a heartless Gordon Gekko you’ll buy stocks in healthcare firms that produce hydration kits and manufacture protective clothing.
There is no medicine that will cure it – only extensive hydration. Even then it still has brutal kill rate of at least 50%.  The virus can spread within 2-21 days after symptoms appear and it’s highly contagious even through sweat. Psychologically it’s devastating because of it’s stealth, ease of transmission and high kill rate.
The horrifying thought is that some terrorist group can acquire this ‘weapon’ with minimal effort. Suicide bombers packed with explosives already know that they’re doomed but their potential kill rate is far lower than with a virus. Exposing themselves deliberately to a virus has numerous ‘benefits’.  After exposure, a trip to airports in Dubai, Heathrow, JFK or any other high-volume international transportation hub or international conference will expose the virus to globetrotters. In the meantime, the suicide carrier may actually live through this ordeal and no one would ever suspect that he/she was had the intention of infecting anyone. It’s 21st century viral terrorism similar to the plot of the film The Twelve Monkeys (1995) a case life imitating art.

As a guest speaker on the 2014 Emmy-award winning Fresh Outlook cable TV program on 2 August 2014:

Segment 1: Ebola death toll rises in West Africa

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