As I’m sure you know, the Ebola virus is rampaging through Equatorial West Africa. In a report scheduled for release next week, the CDC estimates that half a million people will have been infected by the end of January 2015. What’s scary about Ebola is that of those half million people, 83% will die—and it will be a terrible death—that’s 415,000 dead. To date the toll has been in the thousands.
There are many dimensions to this horror story.
Ebola is a zoonotic disease, which means that this particular strain of Ebola virus developed in other animals (principally primates and bats) in a specific ecology (West Africa) and subsequently jumped to humans. Ebola is by no means alone. Most influenza viruses are zoonotic. Some argue that the AIDS virus originated among primates.
Despite being identified in the 1970s, no conventional medical cure has been developed and no known preventive medical or public health strategy has been developed. Currently, there’s talk about pharmaceutical companies getting the green light to sell an experimental vaccine to Ebola-stricken countries. And that’s it.
Researchers at Arizona State and Harvard who are at the heart of estimating the impact of this Ebola epidemic say, “No licensed vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, leaving improved hygiene, quarantine, isolation, and social distancing as the only potential interventions. In an attempt to quell the outbreak, on August 1st the governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone announced plans to impose a military-enforced mass quarantine of entire regions and villages (referred to as cordons sanitaire), in an attempt to prevent spread of the disease to other areas. The spread of disease within the isolated areas has typically been allowed to run its course.”
However, by their own estimates, these researchers say that those quarantines might have made things worse by crowding people into already unsanitary conditions made more unsanitary by the crowding. Beyond the deaths from Ebola itself, deaths from otherwise treatable diseases such as malaria increase because medical attention and resources are focused on Ebola.
In other words, conventional medical and public health practice has no answer other than to reduce the risk of infection and wait for the disease to burn itself out. The medical task is to ensure that the dying do so while having as little impact on the living as possible. The public health task is to ensure that sanitation and environmental controls prevent exposure of the well to infected.
We are assured that the risk of Ebola coming to the the United States is small. The September 19 Washington Post headline says, “Ebola outbreak in the U.S.? Probably not happening.” That’s because, in order for it to get here, an infected person would have to enter the country undetected—something for which the CDC is as yet unprepared.
As Dave Lindorff points out in Counterpunch, the US has responded by sending 3,000 military personnel, while Cuba sent (almost immediately) hundreds of primary care physicians. Barack Obama’s promise is to build hospitals along with command and control facilities to manage quarantines, public safety, and so on. The background to this is that the US has been trying for decades to establish a military presence in Africa, made more urgent by the increased presence of the Chinese—human suffering turned to military advantage.
Lost in this fog of militarism, medical ignorance, and sensationalist journalism is the actual biology of what we’re witnessing.
Of 100 people who get infected, 83 die: 83% mortality. But 17 of those 100 live—and without the intervention of Western Medicine. Why is that?
Because the human body, like other animal bodies, has exquisite mechanisms for fighting infections. In fact, all Western Medicine does is help that fight. For example, antibiotics, those miracle drugs that are causing so much trouble, only work to back off the population of infectious agents so that the body’s immune system can wipe them out. The problem, as we know, is that antibiotics affect our own microbiome, which is an integral element to our immunity. The then there’s vaccination, about which the CDC is so enthusiastic. Vaccination is only one of many forms of immunization, which just means that the immune system produces antibodies.
What precedes immunization from simple exposure (such as exposure to the Ebola virus) is what’s called innate immunity. Much of what we associate with the symptoms of colds and flus are the body’s innate immunity responding to an invasion. For example, fevers are an immune response that creates an inhospitable environment for pathogens. Another element is specialized cells called neutrophils that mark viruses for destruction.
So the strategy to take is obvious: create healthy immune systems, especially innate immunity—which can be done without doctors or any other health professional—and certainly without military personnel. In other words, the medical and public health strategy as well as your own personal strategy should be to stay healthy: well-nourished, physically fit, and protected from environmental assaults (both physical and social).
No one in the media or major scientific literature is talking about it, but I’d wager that those elements are in play for the 17 out of 100 people who survive an Ebola infection—or any other infection.
Besides staying healthy, immune systems can use some support. There are several natural remedies among them vitamin C. I did not just say that boatloads of vitamin C will cure an Ebola infection. What research shows, however, is that, when properly administered, vitamin C is used as a nutrient in healthy tissues while in diseased tissues transforms into hydrogen peroxide, a powerful oxidizing agent that is the bodies own method of lowering a viral load.
But don’t expect a request from Barack Obama for vitamin C shipments to West Africa anytime soon.