The Ebola Outbreak

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The Ebola Outbreak
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By rights it should be very difficult for the Ebola virus to spread. The virus can be easily destroyed  by the simple use of soap and water and, if it takes hold, it quickly kills the host in the majority of cases which is not conducive to spreading the disease. But it is spreading and it's an indication of the sign of the times that it is. At present in West Africa infections are doubling around every 18 days. It will only take these two figures to fall a bit for this disease to turn into a singular threat. There are predictions today (Newsnight last night) of 1.4 million cases by the end of the year. The virus, which has been contracted from the animal kingdom, has found its vector in the poverty of decomposing capitalism. It's taken a hold in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Unlike his other escapades, the war by Britain in Sierra Leone in the 90's was considered a "good" war by the Blair regime. It was supposed to bring peace and security to the people of Sierra Leone, it was a "humanitarian" war. It put British boots on the ground alright and made this an area from which British imperialism could defend its interests but it did nothing for the people except increase their misery and poverty. The White House has just sent three thousand troop to Liberia to attempt to counter this threat - they have been sent immediately and are there now. While this will suit the already existing build up of US forces in this region countering the Chinese, the immediate aim is to stop the spread of this disease. The case in Texas has woken up the US to the dangers and one wonders, given the need for isolation and specialised treatment, just how the major health services of the west would cope faced with a growing threat.

The spread of the disease is a "good" example of the decomposition of capitalism in that it demonstrates its short-termism and the fact that its activity or inactivity undermines its own economic health. The economies of the three countries mentioned above have virtually shut down and other diseases such as malaria are taking a firmer grip.

not sure i completely follow

not sure i completely follow / agree with the emblem of ebola... i think it demonstrates how fucking sociopathic and nationalist our leaders are


sorry if i sound like a hippy 

Two points

1) The number of workers strikes taking place have been a feature of the crisis these last few weeks in West Africa. There have been strikes by nurses, doctors, auxillary workers and gravediggers in Sierra Leone and strikes by doctors, nurses and auxillary workers in Liberia. Even in these countries the reliance on the working class is clear. There have also been protests by hospital workers in Spain against the lack of training and lack of protective equipment.

2) After months of ignoring the ever more desperate warnings from MSF over the spread of Ebola, the British government made a song and dance last week of the "immediate" help it was sending to Sierra Leone where there have been contingents of British troops for years. British army female nurses were wheeled out in front of the cameras to say how they "just wanted to help" and this would be the purpose of the British mission. The truth is that the British military hospital ship, Argos, hasn't even left Plymouth yet and the earliest it will arrive off the West African coast is around October 28. The seven hundred bed ship will not be taking any native Ebola sufferers on board when it eventually gets there but is there "purely to defend our troops", as the captain said today. The medical facilities on board are solely for UK forces. The mission, the captain said, is to set up a "secure logistics base" and it is taking 150 marines in order to "protect the ship".


.. the one-hundred bed Argus.

In regard to:The case in

In regard to:

The case in Texas has woken up the US to the dangers and one wonders, given the need for isolation and specialised treatment, just how the major health services of the west would cope faced with a growing threat.


I would thnk pretty well. A large part of the problem in the countries mentioned is surely lack of infastructure, basic development or destruction thereof and generalised poverty etc We are lucky in the sense we have hospitals in nearly every town, which are not miles and miles away from us. A plentiful supply of doctors and nurses and for the most part sanitary conditions. It's no coincidence Ebola broke out where it did. Of course, you're right to mention how cynical the ruling class is, the imperial machinations and their rotten history.

Perhaps the health services of the West will struggle, but don't they always to a lesser or stronger degree. I think as usual the media and sections of the ruling class or those that represent them are cashing in on the latest piece of news commodity...remember the flu we were all going to get when the British govt bought all those millions (if not billions?) worth of vaccinations?


Remember this? (Independent)


The swine flu pandemic cost Britain more than £1.2 billion despite being much less severe than feared, a Government-commissioned review found today.


Warnings that 65,000 people in the UK could die in a worst case scenario proved far too pessimistic, and the actual death toll during the outbreak was  457.

An inquiry into the handling of the emergency concluded that the Government's response was "proportionate and effective".

But it criticised the restrictive contracts with drug companies which have left a stockpile of over 20 million unused doses of swine flu vaccines for England alone.

The review revealed that Britain spent £654 million preparing for a possible flu pandemic, and £587 million responding to last year's H1N1 outbreak - a total of £1.24 billion.

This included £1.01 billion on drugs, among them anti-virals, vaccines and antibiotics, as well as £115.4 million on items like face masks and respirators.

Critics questioned why the bill for tackling the pandemic was so large, with one describing Britain's response as a "hugely expensive farce".

But Dame Deirdre Hine, a former chief medical officer for Wales who led the review, defended the cost.

"I think we have got to set these figures, which seem enormous, against the potential for saving lives," she told reporters at a briefing in London.

"It is fairly clear, although we can't actually identify the number that there probably were lives saved of very young people, young children and so on.

"These are extremely valuable lives."

After the H1N1 outbreak in April last year, the Government made plans to buy up to 132 million doses of swine flu vaccine, enough to give everyone in the UK two doses.

But the contracts it signed with drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Baxter were too inflexible, the review found.

Baxter agreed to a "break clause" allowing the Government to cancel its order for some of the doses but GSK refused.

The Department of Health said it ordered 90 million vaccine doses from GSK, of which it eventually agreed to take 34.8 million.

It also placed an order for 36 million doses with Baxter, 9.2 million of which were purchased before the contract was cancelled.

About 4.88 million doses of the vaccine were given to people in England in priority groups such as pregnant women and sufferers of asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

The Department of Health said it still held just over 20 million doses of swine flu vaccine for England, with shelf lives that run out by October 2011.

Dame Deirdre's review team said commercial confidentiality prevented them from revealing how much money would have been saved if the Government's vaccine contracts had included break clauses.

But their report said: "Break clauses would allow the UK to retain the option to cancel further deliveries of vaccine at a particular point if it emerged that more vaccine was no longer needed.

"The lack of such a clause in the advance purchase agreements for both contracts consequently exposed the Exchequer to some risk."

Dame Deirdre noted that the H1N1 pandemic demonstrated that one dose of vaccine could be enough to provide immunity, potentially reducing the need for such large quantities to be ordered in the future.

She stressed the need for flexibility in responding to future outbreaks, saying: "The only predictable thing about the flu virus is its unpredictability."

She added: "It is imperative that the experience of 2009 doesn't lead to complacency.

"It is a bit like childbirth - when it's all over, you forget quite how serious and how difficult it all was.

"The threat of a flu pandemic remains very high. Both the successes and the lessons from this pandemic should inform policy and planning for the next one because there will be a next one, and the next one might be more severe."

Mark Wallace, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The swine flu response has proved to be a hugely expensive farce.

"Serious questions must be asked about why so much was spent on combating a threat that turned out not to be very serious.

"It's unacceptable to hide the details of this massive bill behind the excuse of commercial confidentiality.

"We need full details and full answers about this scandalous waste of money."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "We welcome Dame Deirdre Hine's review into the UK response to the swine flu pandemic and thank her for her hard work."

"The UK response was the result of careful preparation, but it is vital that we learn lessons.

"The Government will take these recommendations into consideration in planning for the future to ensure that we remain one of the best prepared countries in the world for any future pandemics."

Threat assesment

radicalchains wrote:

In regard to:

The case in Texas has woken up the US to the dangers and one wonders, given the need for isolation and specialised treatment, just how the major health services of the west would cope faced with a growing threat.


I would thnk pretty well. A large part of the problem in the countries mentioned is surely lack of infastructure, basic development or destruction thereof and generalised poverty etc We are lucky in the sense we have hospitals in nearly every town, which are not miles and miles away from us. A plentiful supply of doctors and nurses and for the most part sanitary conditions. It's no coincidence Ebola broke out where it did.


And yet, the medical/public health care system in the US--which touts itself as exceptional and the "best in the world"-- still managed to screw up the first case of Ebola in the country, botching the diagnosis, failing to carry out basic infection control procedures and showing a stunning lack of foresight in containment. Now, two nurses who treated the Liberaian man are sick with the disease touching off a media event reagrding the deplorable conditions under which the nurses in the Texas hospital treating Mr. Duncan were forced to work. Protocols appear to have been made up on the fly. One of the nurses who treated the first victim was allowed to board a commerical flight with a fever, despite reporting it to the CDC first. Another person who handled Mr. Duncan's lab specimens is reported to be off on a Caribbean cruise.  Officials tell us to expect more infections among the Mr. Duncan's caregivers.

For now, the two infected nurses have been flown off to the nation's best speciality hospitals, which so far haven't lost a patient to this disease, but this only begs the question as to why Mr. Duncan did not get the same treatment. Jesse Jackson has already called the handling of his case "incompetent, if not racist." Two nights ago, CNN ran a headline that Dallas area nurses were planning a strike, but this quickly disappeared from the screen, not to be seen again in the days since.

Of course, all of this has left the public in a state of confusion and given echo to the xenophobic calls of the right-wing to seal the borders and ban anyone from West African entering the country. Local officials in Dallas have complained about the carelesses of the CDC in managing this "crisis" and were planning their own local ordinances banning anyone who treated Mr. Duncan from boarding public transport. There was even talk from the local prosecutor's office of charging Mr. Duncan with a crime, something his death makes moot.

Still, it seems like this situation is a perfect test case for how much we on the communist left go in for "catastrophism." This disease is clearly devastating parts of Africa, but the chances of contracting it in the developed world are still infinitesimally small. This week members of the New York Giants football team were given a briefing on Ebola preparedness in advance of their trip to play the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday. Do they realize there is a greater chance of their plane crashing on the way there then any of them getting Ebola? Right now, the threat from Ebola for people in the general public is dwarfed by the possibility of getting into a fatal car accident.

It seems that right now, the hype over this disease is fueling the worst reactionary fears in people. Some say it could swing critical mid-term election outcomes as Republicans exploit Obama and the CDC's slow and sloppy response. Some claim that ISIS members are going to deliberately infect themselves with Ebola and come to the United States to spread it (via the porous border with Mexico, of course). And still to date only two people have contracted Ebola in the United States, both of them involved in the immediate care of someone who got it in Africa.

Thanks for your informative

Thanks for your informative reply on the US situation jk. I know only too well about botched diagnosis. A relatively young member of my family has recently died from cancer. When he first went to see the doctor with back ache and tiredness among other things he was told it was probably just stress. After six months passed he was told it could be serious but it was weeks before all the testing was concluded which involved lots of waiting. In short, in his case and many others like him there is a possibilty even if slight that if he had been treated sooner he might still be alive.

In a future society we will be able to have full health checks regularly, be more knowledgeable and have accesss to knowledge, not have to worry about missing days off work to go to the doctor...not have to worry about being off work sick etc I hope. Otherwise our struggle is pointless.

Some might say I like dark humour because this really made me laugh!

Some claim that ISIS members are going to deliberately infect themselves with Ebola and come to the United States to spread it (via the porous border with Mexico, of course). 

Sorry to hear about your

Sorry to hear about your family member, Radical.


"This is the perfect test case for how much we on the communist left go on about catastrophism". I don't understand that jk, can you explain it please?

Thanks jk.

Thanks jk.


Baboon, you might want to check out the recent book with exactly that title: "Catastrophism," which makes a case against the approach of much of the historical left to proclaim everything bad that happens will lead to an unmitigated catastrophe. There are two main reasons why they oppose this: 1.) It often isn't true. 2.) Preaching that a catastrophe is always around the corner is often not helpful for the development of class consciousness; in fact it often tends to feed rightwing sentiments.

I don't know what to think of this critique, but the news media in the United States has been feeding the catastrophe theme on Ebola, despite the fact that it appears to be a very isolated threat here. The salacious news coverage does appear to have given fuel to the reactionaries.

What's our take? Are we going to go along with the specatcle and claim that Ebola is the next grave threat to humanity from captialist decomposition or are we going to criticize this media spectacle as a distraction from the more mundane aspects of captialism that are much more of an imminent threat to most people. Maybe Ebola is a real threat to lead to a global catastophe. I don't know, but I do know that one of the ways that captialism reproduces itself ideologically is by production of a constant spectacle around imagined threats (child rape, gruesome murders, terrorism) out of proportion to the real statistical probability that these things will ever happen to any given person. Meanwhile, the more mundane aspects of capitalism: stress, precariousness, declining living standards, etc. that do pose a real, albeit less immediately detectable, threat are accepted as the human condition.

If Ebola gets out of Africa

If Ebola gets out of Africa and into India, or Indonesia, then catastrophe may become an understatement for what could happen to the poorly educated populations  in these impoverished and ill organised countries  which could be decimated. If it gets into China then the military dictatorship will go for strict control of movement, though this could be too late.  

I don't feel I am feeding right wing sentiments by pointing this out, nor do I think it somehow acts against the development of class consciousness.  For is it not apparent how incapable the world bourgeoisie is in dealing with something like this?  They are even more incapable to deal with Ebola than they are with ISIS.  To begin with they don't care, or didn't care, that such a disease is around.  It isn't, or wasn't around in the civilized world and that's all that mattered. Who cares about the other world out there?  Does it really exist? Does it produce much surplus value?  

Ebola may well be the next great threat to humanity and that it is being treated in the West as the latest  installment  of The Spectacle is only  to trivialize it and play into its hands. And of course it can't be bombed: a favorite bourgeois solution for the insoluble.  

Should Ebola become more of a serious threat to the West in the coming months than it currently is,  then travel may have to be restricted causing a decrease in profits to airlines and the tourist industry among others.  There could be bankruptcies. This will make the bourgeoisie sit up. Stringent and expensive precautions will be called for at points of entry and exit but the bird could well have flown and the horse bolted, leaving only the virus behind. 

It is typical of their mindset and their economic restrictions that the bourgeoisie, while starting now to make a song and dance about the disease, doesn't really know what to do because a global response is needed not a merely national  one, and this of course is really beyond them.  They are imprisoned  in their nationalist economic and imperialist mind sets.  David Cameron has been quick to cash in on the fact that Britain, according to him, has already donated more money than anyone else and even a ship to making sure  Ebola remains securely locked  up in Africa. But it's already too late. It isn't locked up at all, and Cameron's cockiness could quickly take a nose dive should the virus choose to take a cross channel trip.     


Feeding the frenzy

I think that we've been here before with the "catastrophism" of the ICC, ie, "the prophets of doom".

I don't think that because some elements of the ruling class, mainly its media, act hysterically on any subject that it precludes the working class from talking about it, taking a position on it, lest it feed whatever frenzy is currently going on. I've seen two reactions in general to the outbreak of Ebola: one can be summed up by "what's the problem, it's only a few isolated blacks" (the last part is not usually articulated) and the second is the fear factor that the media likes to spread about anything - which in this case also has an element of racism about it.

The working class should have a concern, a position on the further suffering on the masses in Africa, the majority of whom are just scratching to make a living and stay alive. On top of all their previous woes here comes another terrifying one that, for the most part, their states are unable to eliminate as they sink further into corruption and decay. And its no accident that the West African breeding ground of Ebola consists of significant placements of troops and other military elements from Britain, France and the United States and they and their states have shown complete indifference and contempt to the populations that their "humanitarian" interventions were supposed to bring. The World Health Organisation, and the governments that control it, have been shown to be completely inadequate filled as it is with political appointees and others and that it has a similar content and practice to the United Nations - an empty diversion.

I have no idea how this disease will develop. It could be confined and elimated quite quickly, as they seem to have done in Kenya for example. It could mutate and take on a more dangerous form - viruses do. But none of this should stop the working class talking about it should it?

Chicken Little

Wasn't "catastrophism" famously started by Chicken Little who went round shrieking that the sky was falling down, after finding a piece of wood painted blue with a star on it?  That the US Republicans have taken on Chicken Little's role shouldn't surprise anyone.  What is surpring is that Obama isn't getting the blame.  After all he is of African descent (aren't we all?) but blacker than some of us and could be Muslim too (if only a lapsed member, though I think that's not allowed) and might even be the very  secret agent selected by ISIS to infect the US with Ebola by first catching it himself and then spreading it through Congress.  (Perhaps I could apply for a job as a crazy ideas supplier to Fox News, though I doubt there's a vacancy.) 

But Ebola is a definite catastrophe for the countries that've got it, and not just because soap costs money but more because it is doubtful whether many folk there believe soap will help.  Ebola has been clever in selecting countries where a thin veneer of wealth and bourgeois civilization hides a mass of poverty, ignorance and superstition.  ( Does this sound like a country near you?)  Most people there are not sufficiently educated  to be able to respond in a wholly rational way to the terrifying situation into which they've been suddenly plunged.  Medical treatment is expensive as is medicine and care. Advice is bewildering.  Quack and witch doctors in modern dress rule the roost through fear and jiggery-pokery. Life is hard; scarcity the order of the day; regular employment unlikely and the future to be avoided with its promise of things only getting worse, which they undoubtedly will as capitalism continues its remorseless collapse. 

So, in a way, Chicken Little was right though on the basis of false  evidence. Well anyone can make a mistake.  The sky is falling down and Ebola is a catastrophe for those countries  who've got it.  Let's hope it doesn't spread, and that all the citizens sitting cosily watching TV in the Land of the Free and the Sceptered Isle only suffer Ebola-as-Spectacle rather than the real thing. 

Change of beliefs

Having belatedly got round to tackling the problem. and along with the courage and selflessness of health workers at all levels, the "international community" seem to be getting on top of the outbreak. Figures of deaths are certainly falling in the three main affected regions of West Africa.


I caught part of a talk from a professor on a TV news bulletin who was involved in looking at the lessons of the outbreak and, though I didn't get his name or position, it was clear that he was talking a great deal of sense. One of the main reasons for the spread of the disease (which is hard to contract) was that the belief systems of the tribal people of West Africa (in common with other societies or religions) is that you have to wash and clean the bodies of the deceased in order to cleanse them spiritually and then they have to be buried in order for them to return to nature and the cosmos. Burial is the only way to do this and cremation is an absolute taboo among these peoples. Or it was. The professor points out that the major factor incombatting the spread of the disease has been the acceptance, as a matter of priority and self-interest, of cremation overturning centuries of traditional beliefs. I think that these actions, this example, has a resonance beyond the Ebola outbreak.


The professor also stressed the point that the woeful and inadequate health system in Africa generally will again contribute to the spread of diseases which will not stop at borders.