Tomorrow I’ll be co-hosting an important panel discussion on the science and myths of Ebola. By now you would’ve likely read hundreds of scary headlines about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with lots of hand-wringing about why “Africa” isn’t being quarantined already. Perhaps you saw Donald Trump say that American medical staff should not have been let back into the USA to get treatment? Did you hear about the “top secret” cure that greedy scientists/ policy-makers aren’t sharing? Maybe you saw reputable media like The New York Times dutifully creating panic with headlines about Americans visiting hospitals thinking they had Ebola (but actually just had the flu)? Or the right-wing arguments that Latin American migrants are crossing over to the USA and bringing the disease? And what about the pigs - can they make us sick? They did in the Hollywood movie Contagion! Is “the Government” holding back science about aerosol transmission of Ebola? So much to fear, but what can we believe?
The fact is… most of what the media is reporting is incorrect.
Ebola is not airborne. It is transmitted by close contact with blood and bodily fluids and secretions (not by coughing or merely by touch). This is why Ebola is spreading in developing nations with inadequate healthcare.
My co-host, molecular biologist Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, and I will be talking with virology expert Professor Vincent Racaniello and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr Tara C. Smith. They’ll talk about what Ebola is, how it’s transmitted, how the current epidemic might be contained, and we’ll also talk about some of of the media-driven misconceptions about the virus. We’ll discuss why an outbreak in developed nations is unlikely and we’ll cover the socio-economic factors sustaining the epidemic in poorer nations.
Head to our Science on Google+ event page to read more. I answered a question about whether Ebola might spread through the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca (highly unlikely) and why the United Nations says travel bans are not necessary. You can also despair over the various conspiracy theories being espoused, which our Science Moderators like biochemist Professor Rajini Rao are patiently dispelling.
We’ll broadcast on Monday 7.30AM Australian EST time (that’s Sunday 2.30pm USA Pacific or 10.30PM UK). You can watch our video later at your leisure on our Science on Google+ YouTube Channel, Science Hangouts.
Can’t wait until tomorrow and want to read a little ahead? We republished an excellent introduction about Ebola by biologist Maren Hunsberger. Tara has also written a couple of easy to understand explanations on why Ebola is not airborne and an historical perspective on Ebola responses. Watch Vincent lead a discussion about why the epidemic has spread and how it might be curtailed.
See you tomorrow for a sensible chat about the science and social policy responses to Ebola!