So, funny story.

When you've been one of The Old Gods on Reddit for long enough, you run across interesting people. A comment I made about the CIA once made my acquaintance with a fairly interesting fellow who suspected his grandfather was involved in MKULTRA. I told him I didn't have any particular insights but I got to chatting with the guy. Let's call him Dr. Strangelove.

Dr. Strangelove is an epidemiologist. Did his Ph.D work on Ebola. Ended up doing a fair amount of work at Ft. Detrick. Has been a contractor lo these many years, but had some stories to tell about walking around Aralsk 7 and sampling anthrax out of the topsoil. Shared with me some hair-raising things that I'm not comfortable sharing further and that's about all I have to say about that. Suffice it to say producers I know were developing a post-apocalyptic web series about life after biowar and not only did he give me a lot to think about, he gave me a lot not to think about.

I made the mistake of IMing Dr. Strangelove yesterday.

He'd shot me an email a couple months back saying "remind me to tell you about Booz Allen Hamilton" or words to that effect and I hadn't heard back. So I texted him "tell me something enigmatic." He responded with

"Ebola cases in West Africa have increased 3% per day since July 30. At this rate there should be more than 2 million cases at the end of the year."

He then proceeded to share me a truly horrifying Excel spreadsheet that indicated the 365-day infected count was 148 million people. Did he think it'd infect 150 million people? No, he figured it'd probably crest around 4m next year, hundreds of millions the year after. What was different this time than last? Well, we haven't had population centers this big so that's one thing. He also suspects that the current strain has more survivability outside the body than previous filoviruses. So that was nice.

We then moved on to the potential for limited conventional war in the Crimea and the like and dickered over geopolitics. He's a lot better read than I am in epidemiology and biowarfare, but I've got a leg up in some aspects of geopolitics (although I've never once written a security briefing, thus the emphasis on "some"). All in all, it was an extremely disquieting 40 minute convo.

To make myself feel better I looked up mortality statistics and Africa. "Hundreds of millions dead" is still only the Congo. And while 20,000 people have died in North America from AIDS, between 1 and 2 million have died every year in Africa since 2004. It's killed about 36 million people so far.

And we aren't even talking about it anymore.

So that's how my head got turned around on the latest Ebola outbreak. People who know more than me are convinced it's going to be much worse than everyone is projecting. It's the wide end of the probability cone out there, but the angle back here is much less acute than I'd like. Bleach and gasmasks for everyone!

posted by b_b: 1596 days ago