Comparing Ebola with Smallpox and Bubonic Plague — the US needs ASAP to appoint a global CEO and team whose sole mission is to kill this bug dead

October 11th, 2014

Six or seven billion people on the planet is evidence enough that diseases and infections that are both highly lethal and highly contagious are extremely rare. But they do happen.

Smallpox kills a third of the people who get it, but fortunately is most contagious only after the onset of the rash, so it’s potentially somewhat avoidable. The incubation period is 12 days or so. The last naturally occurring case was almost 40 years ago. For safety’s sake, the US keeps enough vaccine around to inoculate the entire population at $3 a pop.

Plague killed about 2/3 of the people who got it, and wiped out about half the population of Europe in the 14th century. It is transmitted by infected fleas and kills most of its victims within 4 days. It is treatable by that old standby Streptomycin and many other prescription drugs that are plentiful and broadly available.

Ebola kills as many as 88% of people who get it, and has an incredibly long incubation period, up to 3 weeks. Its combination of lethality and time-to-severe-symptoms make it potentially deadlier than smallpox and bubonic plague. And yet the US government is fooling around with airport interviews and drug development programs that might generate 100 treatments a month, even though the CDC itself estimates 1.4 million cases in just 2 countries by next year.

The need for private sector leadership on this is obvious, with funding by the government. The potential threat is unprecedented. Put Ben Carson or Bill Gates or ourselves in charge and get out of the way. Yet there is little to no US leadership on this. The really odd thing is that the crew in Washington is obsessed with creating good PR by any means necessary, yet is MIA on this, and in an election season to boot! Announcing and implementing the Ebola Manhattan Project could be just what the doctor ordered for November 4. Yet all we hear is the chirping of crickets.

We need a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed

October 11th, 2014

Bloomberg discusses ZMapp, which, along with related treatments, needs to be produced in the millions of doses, not 100:

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which has nine employees, released its experimental ZMapp drug, until now only tested on infected animals, for the two health workers…The two scientists behind Mapp, President Larry Zeitlin and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Whaley, “are both brilliant,” said Charles Arntzen, a plant biotechnology expert at Arizona State University who collaborated with the two researchers years ago. “They are very, very bright guys and free spirits”…

Mapp’s drug is being developed with Toronto-based Defyrus Inc., which has six employees, according to Defyrus CEO Jeff Turner. ZMapp is a “cocktail” of monoclonal antibodies that help the immune system attack the virus…Kentucky BioProcessing LLC, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), manufactures the treatment for Mapp from tobacco plants…

The tobacco plant production system was developed because it was a method that could produce antibodies rapidly in the event of an emergency, he said. To produce therapeutic proteins inside a tobacco plant, genes for the desired antibodies are fused to genes for a natural tobacco virus, said Arntzen. The tobacco plants are then infected with this new artificial virus, he said. “The infection results in the production of antibodies inside the plant,” Arntzen said. The plant is eventually ground up and the antibody is extracted, he said. The whole process takes a matter of weeks.

We have no idea if ZMapp is the best treatment for ebola, but we know it worked in several cases. We also know that the San Diego and Toronto companies total 15 employees between them. This is real and real-time, not silly fantasies like Solyndra. We need a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed to avoid a potential disaster by relying on containment luck.

ZMapp and Ebola vaccine updates

October 10th, 2014

TIME on ZMapp:

The doses administered to the U.S. aid workers exhausted a nearly nonexistent supply, according to its manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals. But that’s not because it takes a long time to manufacture the antibodies that make up the ZMapp cocktail. ZMapp is taking longer to produce in large quantities because one of the three antibodies in the cocktail doesn’t grow well in the plants — which is how ZMapp is produced.

The process involves growing tobacco plants, not in the acres of fields earmarked by tobacco companies for their cigarettes, but in a controlled environment in a greenhouse, for six weeks. Then, the leaves of the plants are injected or infused with a plant bacterium that carries a valuable payload — the genes for the antibodies that can bind to and neutralize the Ebola virus. The plant cells treat the new genes as one of their own, and start making the antibody. It takes about 14g of these antibodies to treat a patient, says Yuri Gleba, CEO of Icon Genetics, the German company that pioneered the platform, and to produce that much requires around 78 tobacco plants and about seven to 10 days.

A team led by Gleba is helping Mapp Biopharmaceuticals to optimize that production and to make the entire process more efficient so it requires fewer plants. “If everything is properly optimized, those plants can be full of that antibody,” he says. (Mapp officials declined to comment for this article on the status of their ZMapp production.)

Why plants? The time it takes to grow a plant is less time than it takes to genetically engineer a mouse or other rodent to produce human antibodies, which is how such products have been made in the past. It’s also less expensive. Plant-based manufacturing represents a promising new way of producing drugs that could cut the time it takes to bring critical medications, such as a flu vaccine during a pandemic, to a large number of people. Researchers have used the technology to develop a vaccine against norovirus, the infection that plagues cruise ships, for example, that is being tested now.

Dozens (hundreds???) of parallel teams in several countries would seem to make urgent sense. More tobacco, more greenhouses, more of everything. US, UK, China, Switzerland, France, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, etc. And this, from GSK: “a vaccine regimen produced ‘durable immunity’ against Ebola, protecting four out of four monkeys for 10 months.” That’s nice but where’s the follow up?

The US has a leadership team that speaks nonstop about the “global community” — mostly in situations where the phrase is nonsensical. Here, it is not, but curiously the usual rhetoric seems to be missing. Question: who serves as CEO of the “global community” on Ebola, where is he, and what is he doing now to coordinate and run this nexus of life-or-death responders? (As would be typical of our DC clown carnival, we suspect that the CEO position is vacant, though the position of bloviator has been filled.)

If you like your death spiral, you can keep your death spiral

October 9th, 2014

DOD:

“By the end of the year, there’s supposed to be 1.4 million people infected with Ebola and 62 percent of them dying, according to the CDC,” Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly said. “That’s horrific. And there is no way we can keep Ebola in West Africa.” If it comes to the Western Hemisphere, many countries have little ability to deal with an outbreak of the disease, the general said. “So, much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time,” Kelly said.

This is a particularly possible scenario if the disease gets to Haiti or Central America, he said. If the disease gets to countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, it will cause a panic and people will flee the region, the general said. “If it breaks out, it’s literally, ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment”…

Kelly spoke of visiting the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua with U.S. embassy personnel. At that time, a group of men “were waiting in line to pass into Nicaragua and then on their way north,” he recalled. “The embassy person walked over and asked who they were and they told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week,” Kelly continued. “They met up with the network in Trinidad and now they were on their way to the United States — illegally, of course.” Those men, he said, “could have made it to New York City and still be within the incubation period for Ebola.”

This is a matter of the utmost seriousness, and it is being handled in an idiotic manner. We’ve made it clear what needs to be done, and it’s not being done. This is not one of those occasions where you hang around, with a tell-all book to follow. If Kelly thinks what is necessary is not being done, he should resign loudly and publicly and bring along some other adults with him.

Horrible miscellany

October 8th, 2014

Roger Simon, Thomas Sowell, VDH of course, today’s Ebola news; and finally, did you know ISIS publishes a magazine?

A “pandemic” is not 10, 20, 40 or 100 cases per month

October 7th, 2014

NYT:

ZMapp, which is actually a cocktail of three different antibodies, is being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a tiny San Diego company, with funding from the United States and Canadian governments. The doses used to treat the American aid workers were produced in tobacco leaves at a facility in Owensboro, Ky., that is owned by Reynolds American, the tobacco company. That facility has now resumed production, but the federal official said it was expected to produce only about 10 to 20 treatment courses by the end of the year, and the same amount every month going forward.

So the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, is considering additional production from Caliber, which is based in Bryan, Tex., and co-operates on projects with Texas A&M University. Caliber also produces proteins, including antibodies, in hydroponically grown tobacco plants but has a larger production capacity than the Kentucky facility.

No official contract has been signed, so plans could still change. But federal officials have visited Caliber regularly. “They are actively engaged, pretty much on a daily basis, working with Caliber and A&M,” Dr. Brett P. Giroir, the chief executive of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, said Wednesday. Executives at Caliber and Mapp declined to comment for this article.

Both Caliber and the Kentucky facility sprang from a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was looking for a way to quickly produce vaccines or therapeutic proteins in the event of an emergency like a flu pandemic.

Now these facilities are likely to get their first big test. “It’s not been tested, live-fire,” the federal official said. “And now we’re doing it.” The system involves infecting tobacco with a genetically engineered virus that contains the instructions to make the antibody. “Every time the virus tries to replicate, it spins out a copy of a monoclonal antibody,” said Charles J. Arntzen, a professor at Arizona State University who has long worked on such systems. The leaves are ground up to extract the antibody.

The federal official said that Caliber and other facilities that will be brought on line could produce 40 to 100 treatment courses per month.

So “Caliber and the Kentucky facility sprang from a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was looking for a way to quickly produce vaccines or therapeutic proteins in the event of an emergency like a flu pandemic.” So even DARPA is part of the clown carnival now?

What on earth is wrong with these people in government bureaucracies? The goal is a maximum of 100 treatments a month for a virus that has killed as many as 88% of those who get it and has an incubation period as long as 3 weeks? This effort needs a real CEO and a lot of money and manpower — fast. As we said: Manhattan Project at Warp Speed, nothing less will do.

Reporting in these times

October 6th, 2014

Washington Post:

Some West Africans believe that the day you die is one of the most important days of your life.

Amazingly, the average age of the reporters seems to be well above 25. Also, check out this NYT piece which could have come straight out of the scene with the mayor in Ghostbusters.

All is well

October 5th, 2014

CNN:

Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said when she and two colleagues recently returned from reporting in Liberia, they got a mixed bag of responses from Customs and Border Protection officers. “We all said we were journalists who had just been in Liberia covering Ebola,” Cohen said. “One of my colleagues was told, ‘Oh, OK, welcome back home, sir’ — and (was) just let in — that was it.” Cohen herself got a different response. “I was told, ‘Wait a minute, I think I got an email about this,’ and the border patrol officer went and consulted with his colleagues,” Cohen said. That officer later told her she should check her system for 21 days. “I said, ‘What should I be checking?’ And he wasn’t sure,” Cohen said. The third colleague merely had his boots checked to see if there was mud on them.

HT: AT

Duncan just “walked out” on September 4 and walked into a US without ZMapp

October 4th, 2014

This Liberian Observer piece once again suggests that Mr. Duncan suspected he was exposed to Ebola a couple of weeks before flying to Dallas through several airports on several airlines:

About Duncan being aware of his medical condition before he left Liberia, his former boss, Mr. Henry Brunson, 60, manager of SafeWay Cargo, a licensed agent of FedEx, agreed that Duncan knew that he was infected with the virus, having directly participated in efforts to help save the life of his landlord’s daughter, who was pregnant. Mr. Brunson said Duncan was his “personal chauffeur” before he (Duncan) just “walked out” on September 4, and never saw nor heard from him again until it was reported that he had been diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the US. He stated that while he is sorry that Duncan might have passed the virus to others over the last few days, he, however, said he is glad that Duncan is in the US where he would get the best treatment to survive. “If he were in Liberia, he was going to surely die,” Mr. Brunson added sadly.

Duncan’s landlord’s daughter, Ms. Nathaline (earlier reported as Marthaline) Williams, 19, was seven months pregnant when she died of Ebola on September 16, having been rejected at three major hospitals in and around Monrovia, including JFK Memorial Hospital, ELWA Hospital and Benson Hospital. She was also rejected at Fredai Clinic at Police Academy Junction.

According to Duncan’s 72nd residence neighbors and Mr. Jiminez Grugbaye, taxi driver, who drove Duncan, Nathaline and her parents to all these health facilities, Duncan helped carried Nathaline when they got back home at midnight after she had been rejected at all those health facilities. “He was holding her hands; her brother held her from her back while her father held her feet as they carried her from the taxi to their apartment where she died,” 31-year-old Irene Seyou, who lives next door to Mr. Duncan’s apartment in the same building, told the Daily Observer.

Our Health Correspondent was told that Nathaline’s brother and an aunt of hers died few days ago, too, of Ebola. Her father and mother are now being isolated in the Ebola treatment unit.

Meanwhile, Grugbaye, the taxi driver, who looks healthy at the moment, said after they had been rejected at all of those health facilities, knew that something wasn’t right about his sick passenger’s illness. “When I got home, I chlorinated my entire vehicle. I repeated it the next day before I got back in the traffic,” he stated. He told the Daily Observer that he felt feverish on Wednesday and visited a “German Clinic”, where he was treated and discharged few hours later the same day. He, however, said he is willing to be placed under quarantine by health officials.

Typical entry in the comments section: “If I was in the position of Mr. Duncan, I would done the same because our leaders have fail us in this country.”

This situation is far more serious than our current deeply dishonest and corrupt government lets on. (We pointed to an outstanding Jonah Goldberg piece the other day that describes the alternate reality they live in.) The truth, as evidenced by the case of Mr. Duncan, is that the US, the states, the CDC, etc., have no effective means of stemming the tide of Ebola, and that those infected with the disease have every incentive to get to the USA, which is what Duncan did.

Alas, those fleeing to the United States are fleeing to a country that, as of this moment, is only a dream. In the good ol’ USA of yore, we’d be doing a ZMapp Manhattan Project at Warp Speed. In the US of today, what you get is theater, and really really stupid theater at that. God save us!!!

Wisdom in these times

October 3rd, 2014

CNN: “I want to tell you and you mother you don’t need to be scared because the person in your school doesn’t have Ebola, they were just near someone who had it. So you don’t have to worry.” NBC: “A day after the first case of Ebola was confirmed to have been diagnosed in the United States, government agencies said they were beginning to hand out a flyer warning about Ebola to all travelers heading to the U.S. from West African countries with Ebola.” Question: which country might you try to get into if you had the Ebola virus but no symptoms yet?

Bonus fun: Jonah Goldberg has a very insightful piece which explains, among other things, that the faculties of most US universities are living in a different country than we are.

What do these Thomas Eric Duncan timelines mean?

October 2nd, 2014

NYT:

A man who flew to Dallas and was later found to have the Ebola virus was identified by senior Liberian government officials on Wednesday as Thomas Eric Duncan, a resident of Monrovia in his mid-40s.

Mr. Duncan, the first person to develop symptoms outside Africa during the current epidemic, had direct contact with a woman stricken by Ebola on Sept. 15, just four days before he left Liberia for the United States, the woman’s parents and Mr. Duncan’s neighbors said.

In a pattern often seen here in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, the family of the woman, Marthalene Williams, 19, took her by taxi to a hospital with Mr. Duncan’s help on Sept. 15 after failing to get an ambulance, said her parents, Emmanuel and Amie Williams. She was convulsing and seven months pregnant, they said.

Turned away from a hospital for lack of space in its Ebola treatment ward, the family said it took Ms. Williams back home in the evening, and that she died hours later, around 3 a.m.

Mr. Duncan, who was a family friend and also a tenant in a house owned by the Williams family, rode in the taxi in the front passenger seat while Ms. Williams, her father and her brother, Sonny Boy, shared the back seat, her parents said. Mr. Duncan then helped carry Ms. Williams, who was no longer able to walk, back to the family home that evening, neighbors said.

“He was holding her by the legs, the pa was holding her arms and Sonny Boy was holding her back,” said Arren Seyou, 31, who witnessed the scene and occupies the room next to Mr. Duncan’s. Sonny Boy, 21, also started getting sick about a week ago, his family said, around the same time that Mr. Duncan first started showing symptoms…

Mr. Duncan had lived in the neighborhood, called 72nd SKD Boulevard, for the past two years, living by himself in a small room that he rented from the Williams couple. He had told that them and his neighbors that his son lived in the United States, played baseball, and was trying to get him to come to America.

For the past year, Mr. Duncan had worked as a driver at Safeway Cargo, the Liberian customs clearance agent for FedEx, said Henry Brunson, the company’s manager…Mr. Brunson said that Mr. Duncan quit abruptly on Sept. 4

He quit his job on September 4, carried the Ebola lady on September 15, and flew out on September 19, arriving on the 20th. He first went to the hospital on the 24th.

This all seems very strange. Why did he quit his job on September 4? When was he actually infected? They say the incubation period is 2-21 days but typically 8-10. He certainly knew he carried the disease when he flew to the US, and there’s a chance he knew it when he quit his job.

Something is very strange here and looks either stupid or sinister or both. Why didn’t he tell the hospital at his first visit what was happening? None of the timelines make any sense, unless this guy set out to do harm. Any alternative theories? HT: PJ

Stuck on stupid

October 1st, 2014

Daily Mail:

The patient is reportedly not being treated with the experimental serum ZMapp – because there is none left.

Epic incompetence on issue after issue. It was obvious what should have been done a while ago.

Okay then

September 30th, 2014

Whitehouse.gov 14 days ago:

it is highly unlikely that we would experience an Ebola outbreak here in the United States, given our robust health care infrastructure and rapid response capabilities

Chris Matthews, yes that Chris Matthews, reacts. Oh, what the heck. We heard it was a JV virus.

First ISIS, now this

September 29th, 2014

HuffPo:

The intruder who climbed a fence made it farther inside the White House than the Secret Service has publicly acknowledged, a Republican congressman said Monday. The disclosures came on the eve of a congressional oversight hearing with the director of the embattled agency assigned to protect the president’s life.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Monday night that whistleblowers told his committee that the intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. They also told the committee that the intruder made it past a female guard stationed inside the White House, Chaffetz said.

In the hours after the Sept. 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Associated Press that the suspect had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The Secret Service also said that night that the suspect had been unarmed — an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day when officials acknowledged that Omar J. Gonzalez had a knife with him when he was apprehended.

Also, CAGW has jumped the shark. What’s next?

Wars and rumors of wars

September 28th, 2014

Today’s reads are Clarice Feldman and Andy McCarthy. It ought to be pretty hard to keep believing the fantasies, but the fantasists persist. Spengler explains some reasons that make fantasy attractive.

In the nick of time

September 27th, 2014

LA Times:

The Justice Department is expected to issue a broad new policy in the coming two to three weeks banning religious and other forms of profiling by federal law enforcement officers, department sources said Friday. The long-awaited policy will not include an exemption for national security investigations

Just in the nick of time. Of course that nick might be an Alton Nolen starting to saw your head off.

Back to the future?

September 26th, 2014

The West should lament the “secularist” plus “male = female” (in all aspects) society it has created in the last 50 years or so. Testosterone plus religion often equals violence — see the definition of Jihad if you care. Holy War can be a beautiful thing to young men seeking both meaning for their lives and soldiering. This has been obvious since the dawn of time and the book of Genesis. But now Jihad is merely workplace violence to some. That guy in London was not doing Jihad. It’s not terrorism. So too that guy in Oklahoma. They’re just mentally disturbed. Of course that is true, but there’s a reason 16-30 year olds are drawn to the Islamic State. The West’s conjoining of secularism and no male-female differences is a toxic brew. Headless Body in Topless Bar has taken on a new meaning. We ignore this at our peril, but soon it may well be impossible to ignore, try the cognoscenti though they will…

Roger Simon has more thoughts on this, as does Steyn on random workplace beheadings. Move along, nothing to see here.

Incoherence

September 25th, 2014

Michael J. Totten:

The Islamic State drove a convoy of stolen Humvees into an Iraqi army base named Camp Saqlawiya just north of Fallujah and exploded themselves. Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers are dead or missing. I paid a visit to Saqlawiya six years ago. “That’s where you’ll want to go,” an American Marine told me, “if you want to say you get shot at once a week.” Nobody shot at me. Saqlawiya was relatively “quiet” back then because the American military was occupying the area.

The American military is no longer occupying the area. And since the Iraqi army is effectively useless, despite years of American training, the Islamic State can wage its scorched earth campaign of murder and mayhem almost with impunity.

I say “almost” because air strikes by the US-led coalition are putting a crimp in their plans, but IS rules a huge area straddling two large countries and somebody will need to go in there, clear ground, and hold it if anything substantial is going to change.

Likewise in Syria. The US and several Arab governments are now bombing the Islamic State on the Syrian side of the border, including its “capital” in Raqqa and several oil refineries in order to keep cash out of the terror group’s pockets. Again, though, somebody will have to go in there and clear and hold ground if anything substantial is going to change.

No one we like will be able do that anytime soon. If the Iraqi army can’t handle it at this late date it might never be able to handle it. As for Syria, according to David Ignatius in the Washington Post, “the U.S. military will…lead the training of Syrian forces, but this will take longer because the opposition there starts from a low base of readiness. The hope is that by sometime next year, a well-vetted force of at least 5,000 Syrians, trained in Saudi Arabia and other countries, will be ready.”

Nobody really knows how many fighters the Islamic State has, but estimates are in the tens of thousands. And those 5,000 American proxies in Syria don’t even exist yet. So in the meantime, any ground cleared of IS fighters will be open to the Syrian and Iranian regimes and their terrorist proxies such as Lebanese and Iraqi Hezbollah. Washington may be coordinating with Bashar al-Assad indirectly through the Iraqis and admits that it’s coordinating with Iranian-backed militias through the Iraqis.

We suspect that few know the history that in part informs the current crisis, and worse yet, the establishment still says that it’s unacceptable to address the basic issue honestly. Hence, you’re reduced to saying flapdoodle. An incoherent war can’t be won.

BTW, the last time we caught up with the peripatetic Mr. Totten, he was in Cuba.

Caution, genius at work

September 24th, 2014

Guardian:

this is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown BEYOND the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action. I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

And as if that weren’t enough, there’s this. This is terminally embarrassing but at least we now know what it’s like to live in the pre-Enlightenment West (or even in the 7th century).

They don’t know that they don’t know

September 23rd, 2014

NYT:

The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago…Ms. Wayne said the family’s commitment is intergenerational, and continuing. She said that her 8-year-old daughter lectures her on the destruction of orangutan habitat to create palm oil plantations. “If I’m wearing lipstick, she won’t kiss me,” she said, “because there’s palm oil in it.”

And there’s more. At a minimum, these people are not arguments for low estate taxes.