Hamblin: They could tranquilize them.
Hatfill: I heard rumors of infected meat. I don't know how that would work. But 80, 90 percent of the population crashed. Mother Nature tends to do that. We're not there yet. But when's our next doubling time for population?
Hamblin: It's not long. I know the over-65 population in the U.S. is doubling in the next 25 years.
Hatfill: With poor immune systems because they're older, susceptible to all sorts of stuff. And now China's moving everybody into high-density urban areas. They built these huge cities, million person cities, and there's nobody in there. And they're going to relocate their rural population. Why? Because it stimulates consumer spending and provides jobs. This is their grand plan. Well this is where all the flu viruses mix and come from. God knows what that will generate. This is a serious problem. It's not something that can be ignored any longer.
Hamblin: You said not many hospitals can handle a case. I saw the number six thrown around. Do you think it's that low?
Hatfill: Depends on how much they practice. And if it's not mandated, hospital administrators aren't going to do it. They're stressed as it is.
Hamblin: It's a tough investment to justify until a threat is imminent.
Hatfill: Exactly. You want me to do what? Practice what? You know, that's going to cost the hospital. So I mean, this is for-profit medicine in this country, unfortunately.
Hamblin: Speaking of the for-profit: Pharmaceutical companies, they're not going to factor into development of vaccines and treatments of emerging infections diseases.
Hatfill: Well no, because the majority of [Ebola] patients don't have any money. These are businesses. Fair on them, it's a business, right? ... Do we have enough Tyvek suits? This was a thing that was brought up yesterday evening during a meeting. Dupont can make these things, we can crank them out and we can double our capacity, but if the epidemic ends we've just outlaid millions to ramp up capacity. Who's going to pay us? Because we're not going to do it on our own, we're a business.
… So there are positive signs here, and it's not the sky is falling, but dammit, animal data is pretty convincing that this is a possibility. Don't tell people it's not. Be honest with them. "Yes, we've had some animal studies, it's shown this, but I have to reaffirm we have not seen this to date."
* * *
Though Hatfill preferred that I not mention geographic specifics, he is consulting to African countries on Ebola containment and prevention. Shortly after our conversation, he left the U.S. to answer the calls for policy help from long-standing contacts established over his 15-plus years of work in Africa.
His advice to the CDC, though no one has asked him for it, centers on the fact that as new antiviral treatments are developed, the need for rapid medical response units will become paramount. These treatments have to be administered quickly, but they could stem outbreaks before they become significant. Medical response units would need to be able to enter remote areas for on-site diagnosis and administration of antiviral medication. They would need isolation transportation and BSL-4 treatment facilities in the United States. Because outbreaks like this one will happen again, and they are best addressed by focusing containment and treatment efforts at the source of the outbreak.
With the right military crew properly equipped, he said, smiling at the thought, "They'd love doing it. I guarantee it. Hell, I'd like to be on one. It depends if we're going to take this as a wake-up call or not."
A response to this post, with further clarification of some studies mentioned, is here.