Patterico's Pontifications


Scientists: Airborne Transmission of Ebola “Very Likely”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:46 am

What do you know?

A team of prominent researchers suggested Thursday that limited airborne transmission of the Ebola virus is “very likely,” a hypothesis that could reignite the debate that started last fall after one of the scientists offered the same opinion.

No, he didn’t — but look at me, interrupting the exposition because I feel some compulsion to refute a falsehood in their first sentence.

It is very likely that at least some degree of Ebola virus transmission currently occurs via infectious aerosols generated from the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, or medical procedures, although this has been difficult to definitively demonstrate or rule out, since those exposed to infectious aerosols also are most likely to be in close proximity to, and in direct contact with, an infected case,” the scientists wrote. Their peer-reviewed analysis was published in mBio, a journal of the American Society of Microbiology.

The paper’s lead author, Michael T. Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, touched off a small furor and was condemned by some experts last Sept. 11 when he raised the same possibility in an op-ed piece in the New York Times as concern over the spread of the deadly disease was increasing rapidly.

(“Raised the same possibility” is slightly more accurate than the false statement in the lede that he “offered the same opinion” in the op-ed. What he actually said in the op-ed was that Ebola was spread “only through direct contact with bodily fluids” but that “an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air.” Apparently understanding such nuances is beyond the capability of the WaPo reporter.)

So, wait: I thought that part of the POLITIFACT LIE OF THE YEAR occurred when George Will said that “there are doctors” who said “some of the airborne particles can be infectious”!! Lie of the YEAR, I say! And yet, we now learn that doctors in a peer-reviewed paper are saying airborne transmission of the Ebola virus is “very likely”??!!??!!

Making the LIE OF THE YEAR . . . the literal truth.

Well, how about that?

Nobody does outrage like Ace, so I’ll hand him the mike for one paragraph:

See, the media is not particularly bright but they are Bossy and they like pretending they Love Science. So when they see an opportunity to Pretend to Be Scientists and Yell At Their Dumb Readers, they seize upon it, even if they don’t have any idea about what the fuck they are talking. (Note preposition smartly undangled, all expert-like.)

Ace says the conclusion of this new paper is “new(ish)” — but really, the basic conclusion at a high level of generality (namely: that we didn’t really know what they claimed we knew) is little surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The CDC clearly admitted that Ebola can spread through sneezes, then quietly pulled the poster from their site, then contradicted itself in numerous material ways on how Ebola spreads.

And then, a bunch of holier-than-thou journalists took the assurances of The Experts and ran to lecture their readers. Most of whom, I will add, were not being alarmists — but rather were simply being skeptical about the numerous inconsistent claims that were coming out of the federal government.

My goal is to take this study and stick it directly in the faces of those journalists and to demand a reaction.

I am starting with PolitiFact’s Aaron Sharockman:


Sir, it appears your piece titled “lie of the year” was itself the lie of the year:

Please note: I don’t expect you to do the honorable thing and retract your piece. You and I both know that covering your ass is more important to you than the truth — which is rather ironic, given your stated mission. How do I know this? Because when people proved that what George Will said, which you called “false,” was actually true, you defended your ridiculous post through several acts of pure sophistry, including:

  • Claiming droplets in sneezes borne through the air are not actually “airborne”;
  • Claiming Will implied that sneezing was more likely from an Ebola patient, when he said or implied no such thing; and
  • Claiming Will was taking research applicable to hospital rooms and misapplying it to the public, when he did no such thing.

Your post was nothing but an exercise in trying to maintain that you had really gotten it right, when you had really gotten it wrong. Which, again, is ironic, given your supposed mission.

If this email seems to drip with contempt for you, well, I have read your work and already formed my opinion.

I just wanted to put this new finding directly in your face, to watch you either a) ignore it or b) use your typical sophistry to discount it.

It’s fun to watch “fact-checkers” spin like a top.

Have a nice day.

Patrick Frey

47 Responses to “Scientists: Airborne Transmission of Ebola “Very Likely””

  1. The excitement has cooled down so it is allowable to tell the truth now. The unwashed could not be trusted with the truth lest they go off Muslim bashing or some other thoughtless act well known to be characteristic of “right wingers” and “wing nuts.”

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  2. Err, you do understand that that email pretty much kills any chance you had for Diplomat of the Year, right?

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Don’t be silly, nk. Given the examples we’ve seen to date from those who would know how such stuff works, this email is the new gold standard for SMART DIPLOMACY (trademark, patent pending)!

    PCachu (e072b7)

  4. To paraphrase Napoleon, “some facts are more important than other facts.”

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  5. Ha! The media is so left-wing that gotcha moments like this are all we have, so I’m definitely going to savor this one.

    DRJ (e80d46)

  6. propaganda sluts make for lousy journalists

    that’s my unsolicited observation here

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  7. ebola remember is one of those stories where president food stamp’s people had to tell the lapdog failmerican media to literally STOP COVERING THE STORY

    and of course they obediently did

    it’s like what happened with Bowe Bergdork recently, and with the injunction against food stamp’s amnesty

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  8. Mr. Frey, when you take on the liberal media, you absolutely rock. Nice one.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  9. I wonder if Mr. Will plans to do a neener neener piece about this.

    elissa (15f58b)

  10. lapdog failmerican media

    So, is LFM okay in terms of acronyms? JD has MFM, and MSM seems passé at this point.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  11. This is the quote from George Will:

    “The problem is the original assumption, said with great certitude if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids from someone, because it’s not airborne. There are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious.”

    It’s quite clear he’s making the very distinction you call “sophistry”, one between transmissiblity through contact with droplets that can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time, which is the definition of airborne transmissibility, and transmissibility that is limited to contact with drops that are too large to stay suspended in the air.

    Whey Standard (c6a5e0)

  12. so in other words George Will was right and PolitiFact was wrong

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  13. “It’s quite clear he’s making the very distinction you call “sophistry”, one between transmissiblity through contact with droplets that can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time, which is the definition of airborne transmissibility, and transmissibility that is limited to contact with drops that are too large to stay suspended in the air.”

    Whey Standard – It is quite clear you are quibbling over words and confusing definitions, namely airborne and aerosol.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  14. Aquanet was aerosol, especially the purple kind.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  15. So what you’re saying Whey Standard, is that Will is correct and one doesn’t need to lick the snot out of a carriers nose to catch ebola. Thank you for clarifying. My definition of airborne trnsmissibility is if one can catch it through the air and not just by direct contact. And I don’t care if it hovers there for 3 seconds or 3 days, if it’s through the air it’s through the damn air. Perhaps next you can explain what the definition of “is” is.

    Hoagie (58a3ec)

  16. And I don’t want those darn kids coughing it out over my lawn. Darn kids!

    nk (dbc370)

  17. ==Aquanet was aerosol, especially the purple kind.==

    Had I not recently seen your hair featured in the vintage band video you posted, Carlitos, I would have asked how in hell you know about purple Aquanet. 🙂

    elissa (15f58b)

  18. Assuming that Ebola had infected several people in a community, the question is if you have 50 kids jammed together on a school bus and one of them sneezes, is there any cause for concern? Or 80 adults jammed together on a subway car? One fact that was fairly certain is that it didn’t take too many of the Ebola viruses to establish a beach head in a susceptible person.

    bobathome (f208b6)

  19. elissa, Aquanet used to be the propellant of choice for potato guns. It might still be if the granolas haven’t messed it up.

    nk (dbc370)

  20. A patriotic man who was elected to the presidency of a country he loved would have closed the border to the possiblity of infecting the public with an airborne trasmitted plague.

    Just saying.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  21. Closing the border being an action that is within the remittance of the enumerated powers of a President.
    Instead of shutting up the media which is technically not.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  22. guilty as charged, elissa. 🙂

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  23. When Liberal Media says something’s a lie, it’s usually a truth.

    When Liberal Media says something’s a truth, it’s usually a lie.

    The degree of emphasis and volume are directly proportional to the
    degree of difference.

    It’s really very simple to parse the daily Press output once
    You accept the above statements as very likely to be the facts.

    Also a corollary; the more excited, the more ecstatic they seem to be about
    some story or video or claim? That’s also usually a lie or a distortion or
    has been faked and they’ve been punked.

    3 simple rules to tell your children to use when they watch TV.

    jakee308 (49ccc6)

  24. Patterico:

    we now learn that doctors in a peer-reviewed paper are saying airborne transmission of the Ebola virus is “very likely”??!!??!!

    Not very likely in absolute terms, but very likely that it is something that occurred rarely.

    One word qualifies the other. Very likely to occur rarely.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  25. Re: PolitiFact’s Aaron Sharockman:

    It all depends on the meaning of the word “airborne.”

    We always knew that. Or at least it became clear pretty soon.

    More important may be the question:

    Is it transmissible, or at any rate is it likely to be transmitted, when a person is not showing, or, if dead, never did show, any symptoms?

    And when someone is showing symptoms, is it worth bothering about the possibility of transmission in a situation where there isn’t also close proximity?

    In Liberia they’ve stopped it with the clorox.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  26. 4. Kevin M (25bbee) — 2/20/2015 @ 7:59 am

    To paraphrase Napoleon, “some facts are more important than other facts.”

    Yes, they are speaking half truths. And there’s alot of that going on.

    The same thing goes on about vaccines. (I’m not talking about the possible autism link – Thomas sowell says, in effect, they are lying, but what they are lying about is the existence or prevalence of autism. He says the definitioon has changed, so it is vastly overdiagnosed, and that probably the children who are now called autistic used to be cakleld mentally retarded. There is no higher rate of autism to explain.)


    I don’t know if he is right that this is simply a replacement for mental retardation. Nor that maybe something sometimes happens.

    Anyway, I am talking about something else. Some vaccines, like those for measles and polio, are live viruses.

    The greatest risk of some vaccines is that it could give a child the disease that it is a vaccine for. They are very quiet about that. But that’s why they don’t give it to children with weak immune systems, or even children that are currently suffering from some infection, and that’s why there must be medical exemptions, and that’s why Congress in 1986 limited liability, because they were told that if liability was not limited by law, nobody would make some vaccines.

    This has about the same degree of dishonesty as the omission of the possibility of someone getting ebola from an exposoure they are not aware of.

    The 1986 Act had an exceptiomn for faulty manufacture or something not critical to the vaccine, nd taht’s why lawyers focused on thimerosal, because they could sue for it if that was the cause of soemthing and they bribed some doctor in England to publish a study in 1998.
    In other words, it’s not a danger to most people, and there should be very few cases, but it could happen to some people.

    Sammy Finkelman (d22d64)

  27. so what are the chances the Politifact will print a retraction or apology
    (for at least being misleading). And isn’t a certain Senator also due an apology?

    seeRpea (181740)

  28. Boom goes the Patrick. I can’t wait to read that turd’s response, if he has even the minimal guts to make one.

    Mitch (341ca0)

  29. @19– and it served as a credible substitute for Chemical Mace, as its (Aquanet) current replacement does for OC. And… no permits or training required.

    Its a sorry product that only has one use..

    Gramps, the original (9e1415)

  30. Wait a minute! We were told it was settled science that ebola could not be spread through the air! Heck 95% of all experts told the media so.

    Next thing you know someone will be casting doubt on the Mother of all Settled Science – Global Warming…err Climate Change.

    in_awe (7c859a)

  31. I’m going to bring this up, because it keeps coming up. Airborne transmission and droplet aerosols are different and require different precautions. However, droplet aerosols still involve crossing a distance through the air. It’s a case of misleading technical terms, which are deliberately being used to mislead people by our “friends” in government. Droplet aerosols involve microbes being transmissible via the air, despite not being “airborne”. This kind of deception makes me ashamed to work in the public health field.

    Airborne Agents:
    Microbes are active and persistent in the air
    Small infectious particles
    Require negative pressure isolation rooms and NIOSH particulate-rated respirator
    Walking into the same room as a contagious person is an immediate risk

    Droplet Aerosol Agents:
    Microbes are active in fluid droplets that could be suspended in midair like a mist
    Larger droplets with limited mobility
    Requires rigorous barrier nursing, face shields, and surgical masks
    Being close to an infected person is a risk unless they are wearing a mask.

    OmegaPaladin (8399d1)

  32. @31– Yeah! Maybe one of those settling scientists will explain what we are seeing this past month on the east coast. We will probably have to wait until they are finished shoveling their walks, however. While we wait:

    Gramps, the original (9e1415)

  33. Ebola attacks the blood vessels and causes massive hemorrhaging. Lots of blood vessels in the lungs with thin cell walls; something you need to breath and all that. So cough up some of that infected blood; that’s why you saw the medical peeps in full bio hazard gear. They knew breathing in that cough could kill them…

    Dee (aee58a)

  34. Ace, Winston Churchill, and I agree, I think, that dangling prepositions are something up with which we ought not put.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  35. I didn’t realize until I read an (obscure and non-MSM) article about his return to “private life” (i.e., mega-lobbyist teat) that Ron Klain — Obama’s famously unqualified Ebola Czar — was Al Gore’s chief of staff during the Florida recount wars, and was played (probably very flatteringly) by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie, recount, about same.

    How absolutely perfect.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  36. Political will never admit to their perfidy.

    JD (86a5eb)

  37. Biggest lie of 2015, Politifact’s biggest lie of 2014

    Capitalist Infidel (20d716)

  38. I am becoming convinced that we here on Earth are indeed decendants of the “B Arc” from Golgafrincham. ( )

    htom (4ca1fa)

  39. Ace, Winston Churchill, and I agree, I think, that dangling prepositions are something up with which we ought not put.

    There, their, they’re, Beldar.

    nk (dbc370)

  40. You should have seen the resistance I got at work explaining something that most college biology students learn in their first semester, i.e., that virons can be transmitted by sneezing, and that some virons actually irritate the sinus passages to promote sneezing. One fellow told me that the nurse unions were involved in this and another asked me why would Obama lie?

    Dirty Old Man (34bc3e)

  41. The Ebola issue was a RACIAL and POLITICAL issue for Obumblefuk. No problem, my professors and PoliSci HARFS have spoken. Just like ISIS, the issue is POLITICAL and PERSONAL to Obama. No problem, no relationship to IZZLAM. Black good, Black victim, Izztards good, Izztards victims, on and on and on and on. Meanwhile Rome burns.

    Gus (7cc192)

  42. airborne ebola + public transportation = oodles and oodles of bleeding orifices

    but PolitiFact does not want you to know this

    happyfeet (831175)

  43. It’s curious that we are now five months past the Dallas outbreak that involved well documented exposures of many people to the virus, but we haven’t heard any results of post exposure studies. For example, how many of those who were exposed now test positive for the Ebola antibody? We know two nurses caught the disease and thankfully they were cured, but there must be more to the story. Also, we’ve now cycled 3000-, or maybe 4000, troops through Liberia (an administration flunky wasn’t quite sure of the number when interviewed,) and how many of those now exhibit the Ebola antibody? Or, give the transparency of the administration, how many caught Ebola?

    I would be comforted to learn that the USPH Service was thinking along these lines. But given what I’ve seen, the political hacks who now oversee the operation of our Federal bureaucracies would be more than willing to quash any such studies if they offered the slightest chance of bring to question the wisdom of increasing their control of our society.

    bobathome (f208b6)

  44. 33. Gramps, the original (9e1415) — 2/20/2015 @ 7:20 pm

    Yeah! Maybe one of those settling scientists will explain what we are seeing this past month on the east coast. We will probably have to wait until they are finished shoveling their walks, however.

    Not just the east coast. Tennessee has recieved extraordinarily cold weather.

    It’s also snowing a lot on the Middle East. Turkey and Israel.

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

  45. Tangential note on scientific consensus:

    It snapped cold here up north again last night.

    You are most welcome.

    DNF (890b13)

  46. bleeding orifices

    happyfeet (831175) — 2/21/2015 @ 8:55 am

    is a good name for a punk band.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

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