Saturday, November 1, 2014

Calling Captain Obvious!



STOP THE PRESSES! WaPo SAYS AIRPORT SCREENINGS ARE WORTHLESS!
The debate over whether the Obama administration should ban flights from Ebola-stricken nations has been raging for weeks, fueled by fears of an outbreak in the United States and a lot of election-inspired finger pointing.
The Department of Homeland Security last week imposed new travel restrictions for anyone arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, requiring those passengers to come through one of five major U.S. airports in Atlanta, Chicago, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
Those travelers now have to submit to temperature checks and questioning. But scientific studies published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that similar protocols were largely ineffective during an outbreak of Swine Flu in 2009.
 
The Department of Homeland Security requires temperature checks of air passengers arriving from Ebola-ravaged nations, but studies have determined that the method is largely ineffective at detecting individuals who are infected. Temperature checks didn’t work for Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from Ebola this month after arriving in Dallas. Duncan did not have a fever when he landed in Texas on Sept. 28, and he said he had not been in contact with Ebola patients in his native country, although that later proved to be a false statement.
The Australian study concluded that officials should consider “more effective interventions, such as contact tracing in the community.” The findings are in line with what federal officials have said: That the best way to prevent Ebola from spreading is to identify everyone whom infected individuals have contacted.
In other news, water is wet, it gets dark just after sunset, and politicians lie to us. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hell No, eh?



So much for playing PC nonsense games:
TORONTO - Canada is following in Australia's footsteps and has closed its doors, effectively immediately, to people from the West African countries battling Ebola.
In a move that puts Canada at odds with the World Health Organization, the federal government said Friday it is suspending the issuance of visas for residents and nationals of countries with "widespread and persistent-intense transmission" of Ebola virus disease. As well, work on permanent residence applications for people from the affected countries is also being suspended.
The stress on countries with widespread transmission provides an out for the United States, which currently still has at least one active Ebola case within its borders. At present only three countries meet the definition of widespread and persistent Ebola transmission: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia."The precautionary measures announced today build on actions we have taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians here at home," the news release quoted Immigration Minister Alexander as saying.

Ebola Growth Rate



New cases per day, October 2014 (WHO numbers via Wikipedia)
Oct. 5= 135
Oct. 7= 149
Oct. 12= 137
Oct. 17= 138
Oct.19= 136
Oct. 24= 196
Oct. 27=239

(With the usual caveat that those are based purely on the "official" numbers, which are probably only 1/3 of the actual numbers, which means we could be getting 700 new cases/day, right now.)

So, tell me...anybody...what Imaginary Ebola Medical Strike Force is ANYONE going to conjure, and with what magic wand waving and incantations, that can deal with 239 to 700 new cases PER DAY, and increasing daily at a similar rate. Nota bene that it was 239/day four days ago, so it's probably 250-750 cases/day today.

If the key to solving the US Ebola problem is by solving it in West Africa, we should all kill ourselves now, because that's never, ever going to happen until this thing has killed somewhere between millions and hundreds of millions of Africans.

Wrap your head around that, as our troops work on creating the equivalent of 24 additional treatment beds/day (1700 beds ./. by 10 weeks work to early December, call it 70 days).
And tell me again why it was ever anything but a futile PR gesture, and a reckless risk of American troops lives on a hopeless mission.

(And BTW, if you're any of those troops' commanders above the rank of colonel, you're a gutless careerist sonofabitch who cares more about his pension than about protecting America or taking care of your troops - every goddamn last one of you, all the way to the 4 service chiefs and the JCS, for not resigning your star(s) if necessary and speaking out on this publicly long before now. Walk tall, you spineless wonders.
The writing is on the wall: Mene mene tekel uparsin.)

Anything we do in West Africa is one of two things: PR pablum, or a holding action, trying desperately to keep an orderly failure and retreat from turning into a full-blown rout.

And that includes all the do-gooder volunteers for every organization there now.
On a humanitarian scale, their individual work is selfless and commendable.
But from a practical standpoint based on results, they're simply pissing on a forest fire, and there aren't enough resources in the world available to make a dent in the problem, and never can or will be. We missed that opportunity somewhere around last May.

So spare me any more delusional rants about how quarantines of returning workers will adversely affect what happens there to any notable degree.
The obvious question is, How could you even tell?

No Public Contact - Updated! - Twice!!



Kaci Hickox, the nurse who insists she is Ebola-free after a stint in West Africa helping people suffering from the deadly disease, can probably continue to ride her bike and go outside, but movies, shopping and riding the bus are out under a court order issued Friday by a judge in Maine.
Hickox had said she will defy the state's effort to impose a 21-day quarantine on her, prompting state officials to go to district court, where Judge Charles LaVerdiere ruled Friday that the nurse must face some restrictions. But the judge's order bars her from using "long distance commercial conveyances or local public conveyances," forbids her from showing up at shopping centers or movie theaters and mandates she maintains a three-foot distance from others when outside.
"This decision has critical implications for {Hickox's} freedom, as guaranteed by the U.S. and Maine Constitutions, as well as the public's right to be protected from the potential severe harm posed by transmission of this devastating disease," LaVerdiere wrote in the two-page decision.

Violate that one, MiMi Crybaby, and your next stop is the Graybar Motel.
Hopefully this gets the whiny self-entitled little jackass off the front page, and back in the oblivion she so richly deserves. Then maybe the media will start asking what her bosses knew, and when they knew it about her little crusade against common sense.

UPDATE:
And in an epic move, the judge reversed HIMSELF.
I'm sure bending the entire stet over for the unelected minions of the CDC will sit real well at the State House and higher courts in Maine. Not.
So now Round Seven, at Tuesday's hearing.

Details, details:
Update II: Oh, BTW, MiMi Crybaby's roommate in Africa developed Ebola, from unknown contamination source. So maybe that explains the big pissy hurry for her to scurry back home to the USA and go hide out at the farmhouse.

Oopsie! Pres. Obola's Sticky Fingerprints Found


h/t WRSA and Daily Caller
I'm shocked! Shocked, I say, to find out a FEDERAL EMPLOYEE of the CDC is being used to browbeat state perogatives to protect public health, and advance the White house's case in full stealth mode:
Ebola health care worker Kaci Hickox, who was released from quarantine with the support of the White House, is a Centers For Disease Control and Prevention employee, records reveal. The lawyer who helped earn her release is a recent White House state dinner guest.Hickox was released from Ebola quarantine in Newark, N.J., Monday afternoon after the White House pressured New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to release the nurse that was working in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders. Hickox’s case for release was also bolstered by New York civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who took on Hickox’s case.

Here’s an overlooked factor that could have contributed to her White House-backed release: Hickox is an official CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer who performed work for the CDC in recent months.
Hickox was a Class of 2012 member of CDC’s two-year EIS officer training program, according to the official program for CDC’s 2014 EIS Conference (p. 98), which was held from April 28 to May 1, 2014. Hickox was featured in a photograph in the program.
Hickox was listed as an “EIS officer” for the CDC in program materials for a CDC course she taught in July 2014. She was specifically listed as an active “EIS officer” as recently as July 18, 2014, according to CDC documents.
In Crybaby's case, that means her normal gig isn't caring for anyone; she performs a clerical function for the .gov during outbreak data collection. She is thus about as vital to the actual treatment of disease in that role as teats on a bull. Which also explains her tenuous attachment to the common sense realities of outbreak nursing. She's what military people refer to as a clipboard commando.
Whether she did that, or actual patient care nursing in Africa is an open question.
So she's not some poor, down-trodden oppressed worker whose "civil rights" have been violated. She's a federal government employee, who knows precisely the impact of the state directives and oversight she's challenging, with the help and support of long-time government operatives, and doubtless the direction and assistance of the White House. Which explains why Pres. Obola, unlike his photo op hug of recovered nurse Nina Pham, has no plans to come within a country mile of Nurse Crybaby: someone might ask about the direct connection, since he's ultimately her boss.
Pres. Barack Obama was in Maine on Thursday to campaign for Democrats, including the one trying to unseat LePage next week. A spokesman knew of no plans for Obama and LePage to meet. The president had no plans to meet Hickox.

Well done, @$$clowns, you're disregard for the "science" and total lack of concern for the rights and safety of the citizens of Maine, New Jersey, and any other state, are now a matter of public record.

And the same jackass who told you "Ebola is highly unlikely to come here" and "Any hospital can handle Ebola patients" and "We have long-standing protocols in place" and about 200 other lies, half-truths, and gross distortions, is her boss.

 
Thanks, Tom Frieden, and welcome back to the limelight. it's been almost a week since you've been caught stepping on your dick in public, so we were wondering where you'd gotten and what you were up to. Now we know.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

So Damned Mean



From comments on Because Science post today:
the danger of Ebola eventually showing up in the US in large numbers has MUCH MORE to do with stopping it in Africa than it does with fear driven (rather than data driven) reactions here in the US over quarantines.
No, it has nothing to do with that at all. It has to do with not letting them fly in here every damn day, and checking for symptoms now that might not show up for 21 days. How's about we put them in a room for 21 days, and THEN see if they have symptoms?
99.9999% success rate. How's that for data? Next problem.
If we save 10 or 20 near future contact cases here in the US but the cost of that is an outbreak that spreads through-out the 3rd world when we might have had a better chance of stopping it in West Africa by not making it harder for medical staff to volunteer, do you think that would be a good trade?
No. I wouldn't trade you one US doctor or one US nurse for their whole country. If someone chooses to go on their own, that's their decision. But their choice doesn't obligate me or any other American to be exposed to the risk of the disease just because it inconveniences them to have to sit in a tent for 21 days waiting to see if they screwed up while out do-gooding.
There's a way that we could handle our near term concerns in the US while at the same time enhancing our response to the greater threat in West Africa by simply paying people.
Let's say we need 2,000 doctors and 8,000 nurses to serve in West Africa for the next six months to get this under control.
Offer to pay those doctors $100,000 per month and those nurses $25,000 per month with a contractual obligation to self-isolate for 21 days upon return.
The cost? 2.4 billion plus infrastructure, transportation, and consumables costs. So let's say 5 billion, all in.
That's about $20 per US taxpayer, or about half of what the government spends in a day. You could probably even crowd source it.
This would be a smarter way to speed up wiping out this ebola outbreak than reacting from fear and failing to adequately adress the bigger problem.
No, it wouldn't. If the federal budget has a spare $5B, it's that much too big already. You want to start a charity and do that yourself, knock yourself out. I'll send you the $20. But keep Uncle Sam's (and your) hands out of my pockets, and off my back. I'm already carrying the 47% Free Shit Army, 11-20M illegal aliens, and now you want me to piggyback 21M African tribesmen? No thanks, my back hurts now.

And next year, some guy would decide he wants BBQ bat, his wife would prepare it, she'd give Ebola to the baby, and we'll be off to the races again.
And again.
And again.

You want to help them? Teach them to stop eating bats, kissing dead people, and maybe get them to wash their hands after they crap, and before they eat.

At some point, they're going to need to start figuring this stuff out for themselves, and in the meantime, there's no requirement to import them here daily. We're already carrying the lion's share of the load on relief there. They've had famines and epidemics there for millennia. The "civilized" countries have figured this out.

Stop throwing life preservers to the ones who put 400 people on a 50 passenger ferry and then look shocked when it flips over.
So you think you can escape it if it spreads in the third world?
That's ridiculous.
Once it's in Latin America, it's here.
There is no way to stop it here without stopping it there, and even if it takes 500 billion dollars, that's still a preferable outcome to the existential alternative.
No, but we can sure as hell slow it down overseas, and block it off from getting here as long as possible. MAYBE even long enough to figure out effective treatments or a vaccine.
 Aesop, it sounds like you WANT this to spread.
No, I want it to go away. I also want a Ferrari, the winning Powerball ticket, and the phone number of the Playmate of the Year. But the reality is, I'm not going to get any of those things in my Christmas stocking, and nothing we've done, will do, or could do, will make any difference in stopping Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone, or Liberia, anytime soon. And they don't have much more time left beyond "soon".
I think it is possible to stop it because other countries in Africa have done just that.
But even if I took your view that a vaccine is the only hope, and we're just playing for time here, then that's even MORE reason to work on slowing it down over there.
They stopped it at one case, or one vector. So stop wasting time, money, and effort on the three countries that are going to burn to the ground no matter what, and instead start dumping everything into beefing up medical response and capabilities in Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau, so they can KEEP catching this at 1 or 2 patients. And start by buying their border guards as much ammo as you can get. Because when one/all of the currently infested countries collapses, people are going to flow outwards in all directions, and if Ebola ever gets out and in case numbers of 20 or 50, it'll bury them, and we'll be off to the races again, except this time with countries with 54M people, instead of 20M. And it'll devastate them, just like it will us, in any city here that gets a cluster of 20+ cases overnight.
None of your logic makes any sense.
If you think we can stop it, then stopping it over there makes sense.
If you think we can't, then slowing it down over there (where it's currently growing at the fastest rate) makes sense.
I'm certain we can't stop it in any of the current three most afflicted countries, based on over 10 months of unmitigated failure, and a growth rate that would be a Wall St. mutual fund manager's wet dream.
I don't even think we can slow it down there.
But we might could slow it down by containing it where it is, and doing everything possible to slow it down if/when it hits the next tier of victims. The farther from here, the better, and the longer before it gets to us, better still.

As to stopping it, or developing a vaccine, I am hopeful. But only because that's all there is.
I'm certainly not confident. I expect we'll fail at stopping it, gradually lose at slowing it down, and eventually have to face it here, and not in isolated single-case events. All we're waiting on for that is Thomas Duncan v2.0, taking his infected self to some immigrant flophouse, infecting 10-20 guys who didn't travel to Africa, and they come down with it, maybe during the holidays, when ERs are at their annual hopelessly overcrowded census, and flu season is in full swing, and somebody goes back home without being seen, or gets misdiagnosed, or whatever.
Then a week or so later, 5, 10, 20 cases all present within a couple of days, and any city is immediately overwhelmed, because they don't know where it started, why they've got it, and they have no chance in hell of contact-tracing the 50,000 people they'll have been with, or around, in the prior 21 days.
And on that day, American City X is now Monrovia.

Sorry if Reality hurts your feelings, or leaves a mark. Get used to it.

(And no, I don't mind such comments. It gives me something to sharpen my claws on.)

Irrelevant Clown Is Irrelevant


(Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that Americans may continue to see individual cases of Ebola in the United States until the outbreak in West Africa is contained.[1]Obama said it was essential the United States and other countries work to stop the Ebola outbreak at its source in Africa.[2]
Until the outbreak is stopped, he said, "we may still continue to see individual cases in America in the weeks and months ahead."[3]
"We can't hermetically seal ourselves off," he said at the White House.[4]
He said the U.S. healthcare system is proving to be well capable of handling those Americans who have contracted Ebola.[5]
Footnotes:
[1] Because of the continued policy to use a known and proven ineffective procedure to screen patients, coupled with the blind pig-headed insistence on continuing to import more potential cases every day, forever.
[2] Because this is impossible and unreachable, as all efforts by everyone in the world, combined, to date have proven utterly futile and totally ineffective to even make so much as the smallest dent in the outbreak.
[3] Ibid. See Note 1.
[4] Because we refuse to try. See note 1.
[5] As demonstrated by spending $500,000 to not save Thomas Duncan, infect two additional nurses at unknown additional costs, have one nurse who was febrile (just not quite to the arbitrary temperature level set by the CDC) take two airline flights cross-country and expose hundreds of people nationwide to the disease, a doctor symptomatic for Ebola ride all over NY city and then lie about the fact to police and health authorities, another doctor under "voluntary" quarantine decide that going to the fast food drive-thru trumped science, a lab worker taking a cruise to Cancun, and now a nurse and her friend-boy nursing student flouting voluntary quarantine requests because the public's safety are less important to them than their own comfort and convenience, and all this while the two most prominent doctors in the country, at CDC and NIAID, have repeatedly misinformed and outright lied to the American public about what we know, what we can do, and how we should react -- O yeah, American health care has shown the world what we're "well capable" of doing when it counts. Represent, mofos.

An Inconvenient Truth



Another at-bat for Common Sense:
TRENTON — After days of blistering criticism from the ACLU, the CDC and even the United Nations secretary general over Gov. Chris Christie’s new, 21-day mandatory quarantine policy for all healthcare workers exposed to Ebola, the New Jersey governor has gotten a much-needed vote of support from a heavyweight name in the medical community: Nobel Prize-winning doctor and medical researcher, Dr. Bruce Beutler.

Dr. Beutler, an American medical doctor and researcher, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 2011 for his work researching the cellular subsystem of the body’s overall immune system — the part of it that defends the body from infection by other organisms, like Ebola.

He is currently the Director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas — the first U.S. city to treat an Ebola patient and also the first to watch one die from the virus. In an exclusive interview with NJ Advance Media, Beutler reviewed Christie’s new policy of mandatory quarantine for all health care workers exposed to Ebola, and declared: “I favor it.”

Unfortunately, while the doctor’s support might provide much-needed credibility for Christie as he threatens to quarantine ever more healthcare workers returning from the Ebola fight in West Africa, it also comes with some chilling words.
“I favor it, because it’s not entirely clear that they can’t transmit the disease,” Beutler said, referring to asymptomatic healthcare workers like Kaci Hickox, a Doctors Without Borders nurse returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone who was quarantined in New Jersey for 65 hours before being transported to her home state of Maine on Monday afternoon.

“It may not be absolutely true that those without symptoms can’t transmit the disease, because we don’t have the numbers to back that up,” said Beutler, “It could be people develop significant viremia [where viruses enter the bloodstream and gain access to the rest of the body], and become able to transmit the disease before they have a fever, even. People may have said that without symptoms you can’t transmit Ebola. I’m not sure about that being 100 percent true. There’s a lot of variation with viruses.”
In fact, in a study published online in late September by the New England Journal of Medicine and backed by the World Health Organization, 3,343 confirmed and 667 probable cases of Ebola were analyzed, and nearly 13 percent of the time, those infected with Ebola exhibited no fever at all.
Why, then, does he think the CDC would so emphasize Ebola is not communicable in patients without symptoms?
“There’s some imperative to prevent panic among the public,” says Dr. Beutler, “But to be honest, people have not examined that with transmissibility in mind. I don’t completely trust people who’d say that as dogma.”

As such, allowing home confinement for medical workers exposed to Ebola but currently without symptoms was, as Beutler put it, “a move away from goodness,’ as an engineer might say.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed direction and called for voluntary home quarantine for workers with the highest risk for Ebola infection. However, it also specified that most medical personnel returning from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea would not need to be kept in isolation, as Hickox had been ever since she arrived at Newark International Airport on Friday up until her release and transfer to home quarantine in Maine early Monday afternoon.

“Even if someone is asymptomatic you cannot rely on people to report themselves if they get a fever,” said Dr. Beutler, adding, “You can’t just depend on the goodwill of people to confine the disease like that – even healthcare workers. They behave very irresponsibly.”

Christie has repeatedly pointed to the fact that NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, after returning from Ebola besieged West Africa, was spotted violating her voluntary quarantine to get takeout from a Princeton eatery last week.

Despite her forced detainment by the New Jersey health department, Hickox insisted hat she was “feeling physically healthy” and except for a single, non-contact thermometer reading that registered her as having a 101 Fahrenheit fever, has had normal 98.6 F temperatures ever since her quarantine began.

“These are no arguments at all,” said Beutler. “Anyone could say that about any disease. It doesn’t matter that she was afebrile – she should be quarantined for 21 days.”

Hickox has complained that “her basic human rights were violated” and has since retained a civil rights attorney, but Beutner says he is puzzled by the argument.

“These people act like they are returning as conquering heroes — and they should be treated as conquering heroes, but part of being a conquering hero means making sure no one gets infected by you. Just look at the the foolish quarantine where astronauts came back from the moon [where there were no germs] and in this case, we know there is an infection.”

From a global perspective, it’s unlikely that the virus will take hold as an epidemic in the U.S., but in Africa, Beutler says it already “has gone ballistic – way, way beyond the past epidemics. One could project that maybe millions could be infected. It may be that it won’t spread like wildfire in the United States but even if one or two more people die, it will be too many.”

So, does Gov. Chris Christie have it right?

“I’d be a little bit more strict than he is being,” said Beutner, “I realize this would be inconvenient, but I don’t think it would prevent treating the disease.”

Christie has not been willing to publicly explain how home quarantine would work in cases like, for example, where a healthcare worker also had children at home.

“You’re in your home,” Christie deadpanned to the question when asked it was asked of him in Groton, Connecticut Monday night, “and you’re quarantined.”

“I know at times that you all would like to make things a heck of a lot more complicated than they are,” said Christie, “In home quarantine means: In-home. Quarantine. If they are asymptomatic, they can be quarantined in their home.”

Beutler disagrees with this, saying “the ideal scenario is where a patient is isolated from all family members,” preferably in an specialized hospital ward, not in a home.

The thought of an afebrile parent passing Ebola on to a child – as ostensibly can happen 13 percent of the time, “would disturb me. The point of quarantine of is to make sure they [Ebola viruses] are not carried elsewhere. It’s a little bit frustrating. Some of the things that are being done are not completely motivated by safety. For some reason, there’s an imperative to maintain open borders no matter what – to err on the side of total individual freedom rather than on the side of public health,” he said, adding, “If you really want to isolate a disease, then you have to isolate the people who carry it.”

SCIENCE, bitchez.

Because Science


FORT KENT – Kaci Hickox and her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, left their house Thursday morning, got on bicycles and headed down the road, with two state troopers following them.
Hickox and Wilbur pulled onto a snowmobile or bike trail. The troopers drove behind them but did not attempt to stop them.Hickox, who treated Ebola patients in West Africa, vowed Wednesday to wage a legal battle against Maine’s intention to enforce a 21-day quarantine with a court order.
Hickox and Wilbur addressed the media outside his house here Wednesday night, as local and state police watched from across the street.
“We have been in negotiations all day with the state of Maine and tried to resolve this amicably, but they are not allowing me to leave my house and interact with the public even though I am completely healthy and symptom-free,” Hickox said Wednesday. “I am frustrated by this fact, and I have been told that it is the attorney general’s intention to file legal action against me. And if this does occur, I will challenge the legal actions.”
Stephen Hyman, Hickox’s attorney, said Thursday morning that he had heard Hickox and Wilbur had left the house, and reiterated that she has every right to leave and the state has no legal authority to force her to stay in her house.

MiMi Crybaby's argument: Yes, I was exposed to rampant Ebola patients.
Yes, the disease can be contracted, and not manifest itself for 21 days.
No, it hasn't been 21 days since my last exposure yet.
Therefore, because science works differently for me, I should be at liberty to expose the entire area, because Constitution, bitchez!

State of Maine's argument: get your ass back in the house, until we're reasonably certain you aren't going to spread your cooties to the whole county. That would be a whole 'nuther 11 days, Dipshit. Qwitcherbitchin', put on your Big Girl pants, and stop acting like a farking moron.

If whatever state she allegedly holds a nursing license from doesn't take action to suspend or revoke hers, for demonstrated reckless disregard for the public's safety, and demonstrated inability to perform critical thinking skills materially related to the practice of nursing, they should show cause right now why they themselves shouldn't be removed from their positions immediately.

This is beyond mollycoddling this jackhole, it's gotten to criminal dereliction of duty.
It doesn't matter if she ends up not infected. The state is asking for and has the right to pro-actively quarantine someone based on reasonable potential for spreading a disease, in this case a deadly incurable pathogen. Crybaby meets that criteria, as Dr. Spencer's case from NYC demonstrates amply and beyond argument.

Friend-boy, not even a nurse yet, ought to be dropped from his nursing program for the same reasons, for the good of the entire profession. Neither one of them, nor even both combined, has the brains God gave a jackass.

And even odds somebody in Maine is going to start taking pot shots at them, quarantine or no.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Logarithmic Growth 101


 
Riffing off a scenario at WRSA, the concept of logarithmic growth came up.
If you're RainMan with math, go watch Wapner, and skip the following.
If not, let me, as a non-mathematician, take a whack at it, as it relates to Ebola, and why you should know or care.

(And for those who'll bitch at me in Comments with degrees from MIT and CalTech, I feel your pain. After suffering through four, yes four math-incompetent nursing professors trying to teach Medication dosage calculations(!!), I noted aloud that having nurses teach math was like asking garbagemen to teach physics. Especially when the same university had perfectly adequate math professors already on staff. But I digress. Suffice it to say, you're stuck with a nurse teaching math here. If it makes you feel better, I never bounce a check.)

Quick and dirty: the earthquake Richter scale is base-10 logarithmic.
I.e., A 5.0 is 10 times bigger than a 4.0, a 6.0 is 100 times bigger than a 4.0, etc.
If you tried to straight line plot a logarithmic event, either the right side would require a piece of paper 20 feet tall, or the left side increases will be nearly flat unless examined under a microscope.
Like Mercator for maps, it's a good (not perfect) way to make things fit on a flat square/rectangular piece of paper small enough to hold in your hand.

The actual Wikipedia page for this Ebola outbreak has log scales for reference: instead of the rocket launch reverse parabola on the straight-line scales, the trend line seen is almost exactly 45 degrees up and right, indicating an almost perfect logarithmic R-naught of 2.
(Any departures owe more to shoddy math and stat collection than to any flaws in the disease's ability to spread. Nota bene the graph at top is an old one for this very outbreak, as we now have nearly triple that number of cases, and triple that again of likely official ones, i.e. pushing 40,000 cases.
To see a more current graph, with projections to the bitter end, Frozen Patriot has done one here:
 http://bit.ly/1wdMzgG
I'd post it pictorially , but Blogger won't read the image. Go look for yourself.
h/t to Frozen Patriot for the work!)

100 new cases a week of something isn't that big a deal; we have 100 homicides in this country every few days, with no danger of running out of people. But if the homicide rate went logarithmic every month, in a year's time we'd be looking at 400,000 homicides a month. By mid-October of Year Two the homicide rate is larger than the population of the US, i.e. everyone's dead.

Ebola, playing with the entire planet, gets 33 doublings to get from 1 case to the 7.7B people on earth, less 10-25% or so survivors. Which would take the world's population back to where it was around 1700, more or less. It would take US population back to the 31M we had in 1860, except now those 31M would be distributed  thinly in all 50 states. Move your state's population decimal one place to the left, and that's where it'll be if Ebola keeps on marching at logarithmic growth worldwide. If we keep it out, we stop that from ever getting a toehold to start. That's why travel bans and quarantines matter!

People wonder why they should believe the graph. Fair enough. As far as suspicion, the graphists above has done the same thing the editors at Wikipedia did: plotted the numbers, and literally connected the dots. The graph is only as good as the data.

If the doublings speed up, the line goes farther to the right, faster. If we slow the speed of spread, it doesn't. Currently, Ebola is doubling every 2-4 weeks, depending on the country we're talking about. The average overall is every three weeks. If we even slowed that rate down to every four weeks, we'd add a year to the planetary "Game Over" date. It was at every four weeks in July/August, for reference.

It doesn't flatten until we get the R-naught to less than 2.
It doesn't turn downward at all until we have a treatment(s) or vaccine that starts cutting the R-number to less than 1.
For smallpox and polio, that took 5900 years or so of human history.
We don't have to replicate that, but it gives you an idea of what has to be accomplished.
We've been trying to do it with HIV/AIDS for decades, with zero success, because it mutates rapidly and becomes resistant to our efforts.
Hopefully Ebola doesn't mutate as fast as we come up with something to kill it, and a vaccine will work on it for more than five minutes. If not, we're boned.

What that means for our chances at getting ahead of this disease:
If aggressive fluid therapy in the initial day or two pulls the fangs out this disease, that would be HUGE. We're still learning. In the US, we only have an insignificant number of cases, with a lot of other variables in play, so we still don't know.
And we wouldn't know that before now, because they've never done that in Africa (no capabilities or resources) and still don't, and most people died before anyone could do much of anything, including the medical staffs.

Math teachers may leave red pencil marks in Comments now.