Mike Adams and NY Post promote more hysteria over Ebola

I've been asked several times about this NY Post article on the CDC's "admission" that a sneeze could spread Ebola. The Post (which, I should note, is the least credible newspaper in New York City, for those not familiar with the paper) suggests that the CDC has changed their tune regarding the spread of Ebola.

Except, they haven't, and this is a ridiculous, trumped-up non-story, passed along not only by the Post but by others of the typical suspects like conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Mike Adams, aka "The Health Ranger" of Natural News.

Here's what the NY Post claims:

“Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose or mouth of another person,” the poster states.

Nass slammed the contradiction.

“The CDC said it doesn’t spread at all by air, then Friday they came out with this poster,” she said. “They admit that these particles or droplets may land on objects such as doorknobs and that Ebola can be transmitted that way.”

Of course, no poster is linked in their article, so I feel like I'm playing a game of telephone, trying to figure out just what has been added.

The NY Post article is basically messing up the definition of "airborne," as I and others have discussed ad nauseum. The kind of contact the NY Post describes above isn't "airborne," as measles or chickenpox are, where one can come into a space that had been occupied by an infected person, breathe in the suspended virus, and get ill. With Ebola, you have to have *direct contact* with a person's secretions. So their entire story (not surprisingly, due to their tabloid-y nature) is based on either a purposeful or accidental incorrect definition of just what it means to be "airborne."

Adams takes it one step further, suggesting that CDC not only misinformed, but revised history; that a poster was  "scrubbed" from CDC's site because it supported "airborne" transmission.

From what I can tell, Adams claims this poster (which he saved) was removed from the CDC site, and replaced by this file. Adams claims that the latter is "entirely empty," so he may have tried the link before it went live? I have no idea. In any case, the two documents are almost identical in content. Both note that droplet spread can happen, when "germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person" in the first poster, and "droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person splash the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person" in the second poster.

Wow, that's a sinister difference there.

You can see that both documents still show a picture of doorknobs as possible fomites for transmission (possible in theory, but they'd have to be heavily contaminated by a person late in the disease). It appears that CDC just did a minor redesign of the poster, with the first having an emphasis just on Ebola and the second version trying to be more of an explainer on "air vs. droplet spread," with Ebola as the example. The content is almost exactly the same: the first portion defines "airborne" spread; the second "droplet" spread; the third focuses on how one protects oneself from getting sick; and the final one clarifies that Ebola is not spread by air, but it could be by droplets. There are minor wording changes as I noted above, but that's it.

This is nothing new. There's never been a conspiracy to suggest that droplet transmission can't happen--but the CDC and others have tried to emphasize that droplet transmission is still direct contact. That's what people like Adams don't want to accept. They assume because those droplets travel via air, it's "airborne," taking a layman term instead of one accepted and used by the scientific community. Now, given, I understand this can be a source of confusion as scientific terms frequently are. Virologist Ian Mackay has even solicited ideas for other terms to describe such transmission, and make it more clear to the general public what the difference is. But either way, the usage has been clear from the beginning and I guarantee Adams understands the difference. He just doesn't care.

And now I just spent a half hour of my life to uncover that vast governmental conspiracy-that-wasn't. Not that it will stop Adams or the NY Post from misinforming and driving fear of the virus and distrust of the government, because *that's what they do.* Adams is making a pretty penny, I'm sure, off of his absurd Pandemic Prevention kits (only $99 or $199! Bargain!). Perhaps I should get into a different and more lucrative business, because if you believe shtick from Adams or the Post over the CDC or, hey, a trained epidemiologist like myself, I just may have a shiny bridge to sell you.

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What to do about Mike Adams:

Dare him to go into the Ebola hot zone and care for patients, using only what's in his little "kit" for his own "protection."

Do it publicly enough that he has to respond or he'll be seen as ducking the question.

After all, if it ducks like a quack, it's a quack.

BTW, keep up the good work, Tara, I read your posts often and it's good to find some sane voices in this era of mass insanity.

I've been trying to think deranged response from people through. One thought is I think most people think of Ebola as some sort of 'super flu' when it's not. Because the only slightly serious illness they have any familiarity are colds and flu.

So they conflate all the issues and symptoms of the flu with Ebola. Which is wrong of course. But try and break peoples conditioning.

There are quite a lot of ways that aerosols can be generated. And I believe it's accepted that breathing in an aerosol of Ebola is dangerous. So what's really being argued over, here? It's not like anyone absolutely knows what the mode of transmission of every single Ebola case was, and thus can say with absolute certainty that nobody ever got it from an aerosol.

By Norman Yarvin (not verified) on 01 Nov 2014 #permalink

A link to the New York Post story has also been disseminated in a GOP Insider Brief. Perhaps they will post a link to this column in the future, but I doubt it.

By Fred Collins (not verified) on 02 Nov 2014 #permalink

Excellent post Tara. I thought the same thing as Adams and others in media continue to confuse the public on Ebola transmission. Great clarification.

By Robert Herriman (not verified) on 02 Nov 2014 #permalink

Unfortunately dailymail has the original poster also. At a glance it looks like just speaking to somebody could transmit it. If you read it (most monkey's wouldn't) it clarifies with a distance of 3ft. What it didn't do was emphasize size of the droplets.

I pass my condolences to yourself and the entire community. For the rest of your lives you will have to deal with the fallout of Ebola '14 truthers....9/11 truthers were getting too old for that stuff anyway. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2815487/CDC-pulls-poster-websit…

I noticed that the kit doesn't have any woo products in it... I'm a bit disappointed! No magic amulets?

By Dimitrios (not verified) on 03 Nov 2014 #permalink

I feel like fomite transmission is stretching the boundary of "direct contact." Suppose that it's possible to pick it up by opening a door that a sick person with imperfectly washed hands opened half an hour ago, then eating something or rubbing your eyes like we all do every other minute. When they started looking for that person's "contacts" to warn them of possible exposure, you would say "I didn't even see him on that day, much less get close to him, so I'm not a contact." The saving grace here is that by the time you're shedding enough virus to make that remotely plausible, you're too sick to go to work.

You can see that both documents still show a picture of doorknobs as possible fomites for transmission (possible in theory, but they’d have to be heavily contaminated by a person late in the disease).

The only data point that I'm aware of is a few days for Marburg in dried blood (Table 5).

The Bausch paper is often cited regarding fomites (http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/196/Supplement_2/S142.full) but even in that they were able to find much more virus via PCR than culture (so it was there, but likely dead). And Jane, we're not talking "imperfectly washed hands" here--as the Bausch paper noted, *no* environmental samples were culture-positive, and even the PCR-positive ones were "visibly colored by blood." The CDC is being generous here regarding fomite transmission, IMO.


And since I sell the kind of stuff emergency services and healthcare workers use to protect themselves against Ebola, I can add one more stone around Mr Adam's neck: his kit, apart from being vastly overpriced, would give illusory protection. The Tyvek suits are not appropriate to protect against Ebola in a patient actively producing infected bodily fluid. Carefully left out of the description of the coverall is the last sentence, that says that it is appropriate for "light spills of nonhazardous fluids".

He cannot have not seen it, because the rest of his description is the standard description for the product as written by the manufacturer.

By Healthcare pro… (not verified) on 07 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tara, a wonderful voice of reason in forest of hype, thank you. You do us great service and your patience (in these threads) appears limitless.