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Ebola needs leadership

Oct 15 2014 10:09
*Edward Ingram

Harare - The CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that if nothing is done there could be between 5 000 and 10 000 new infections per week by the end of the year.

What are they thinking?

As soon as this news leaks out, those in the infected areas will flee. Where to? Everywhere? Does anyone have any plan that can address the problem? Apparently not.

We hear ideas of $600m as the answer, and now that is too little too late. To do what?

If that money could miraculously produce 1 000 or 10 000 new hospitals fully manned and with staff fully trained to handle new cases it would not solve the problem.

Leaders are people that have a plan – and successful leaders are people that have a plan that will work. We do not have such a leader.

What will work?

For sure, if everyone in the world was prevented from leaving their house or other home or place of work for a period of four weeks then there would no longer be any Ebola except that spread by Fruit Bats and other animals, maybe.

Since the whole world is not immediately at risk (yet) this plan can be simplified and applied to just those areas that have a high infection rate.

And it can be further simplified (reduced in complexity and cost) if it is applied only to those areas that we have a capacity to operate this plan in.

Do one area or a few communities / villages / towns at a time. Build infrastructure as fast as possible. Get organised. Tell people that this will cleanse their area so that they will not need to flee. It will become THE safe place to be at the end of the four week period.

The problem then will be keeping people out of the cleansed area. We need to think about that and how to continue to bring essentials like food and so forth in (uninfected) from elsewhere. This is a huge problem to organise but is there a cheaper and faster way? Tell me one.

To make it work in such selected areas, we need logistics to provide the residents in the selected areas with food, necessary medication for ongoing medical problems like HIV, and water. This needs to be taken to each home or people need to create their own stocks at home or at work in advance. It takes time to plan this. We cannot afford to wait. Planning must start now.

Then the streets have to be patrolled for four weeks and the patrols have to wear protective clothing. They have to know what to do. They need training.

They should spray disinfectant everywhere that they reasonably can without hurting the entire animal and insect life – so limited to say, the approach ways to properties / places of residence, doors, gates, and pathways and roads.

It is not my job to organise all this and I am not the one to plan all the details. But a workable plan must be put in place before the CDC says that we need $10 trillion and one million fully trained health workers to contain this disease on site, by February next year!

We are in a compound maths game.

The emperor and his rice

There's a famous legend about the origin of chess that goes like this. When the inventor of the game showed it to the emperor of India, the emperor was so impressed by the new game, that he said to the man: "Name your reward!"

The man responded: "Oh emperor, my wishes are simple. I only wish for this. Give me one grain of rice for the first square of the chessboard, two grains for the next square, four for the next, eight for the next and so on for all 64 squares, with each square having double the number of grains as the square before."

A chessboard has 64 squares. The total number of grains of rice added up to more than existed in the whole world or could be produced even in centuries of harvesting.

This is compound maths. Ebola is compound maths. It grows - it doubles the number of infected people every few weeks. A few weeks per square on the chessboard of planet earth. 64 periods of a few weeks comes to how many infected people?

I have heard three weeks quoted as the doubling period. At that rate in just under two years (34 periods of doubling) three times the world population, 21 trillion people, would in theory be infected. Everyone would be infected three times over. Yes, it is just maths. There will be exceptions, but who and where? And for how long? Another three weeks? What about the next decade?

We have to make a plan. We need a leader with a plan that can work with the resources that we have right now. Not 1 000 hospitals next year. Not even more health workers.

- Fin24

* Edward Ingram, a Fin24 columnist, is the leader of a growing group of mainstream professors and other followers from around the world who are studying the instabilities that originate in the foundations of the world's economies.

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edward ingram  |  ebola



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