Monday, November 26, 2018


The newspapers recently reported an epidemic of Ebola fever in the Republic of the Congo. Ebola is one of the viral hemorrhagic fevers that has a high mortality. This outbreak, with 267 cases and 170 deaths, is the worst ever experienced in that country. This number pales when compared with the pandemic of Ebola that occurred in 2014 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The number of victims far exceeded the available beds and shelters and infected persons had to be turned away. In response to a plea from President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, President Obama dispatched nearly 3000 troops including the 36th Engineering Brigade and elements of the 101st Airborne to Liberia. The Americans set out to do what they were good at – building. They constructed wooden Ebola Treatment Units in Monrovia and the surrounding countryside.

At the time of this outbreak there were no vaccines or treatment available other than supportive. The Ebola virus attacks the blood vessels causing hemorrhage, shock, and often death.  The virus is present in every body fluid, tears, saliva, mother’s milk, blood, urine, vaginal fluid, semen, and feces. If any of these reaches even the slightest break in the skin, infection is sure to follow. Health workers, mostly Doctors Without Borders and volunteers from other countries must wear personal protective equipment, PPE. Work in the PPE is limited to about one hour due to the heat.

By the time the West African pandemic ended, Liberia experienced 4,806 deaths, Guinea suffered 3,955 and Sierra Leone had 2,536 for a total of 11,297!

Ebola virus is believed to be present in some macaque monkeys and the first human infection probably occurred when an infected monkey was eaten in 1976 in Sudan.

Ebola infection occurred in the United States when imported macaque monkeys were being dissected by workers from a military unit studying biological weapons.

A complete discussion may be found in my book The Ebola Connection. The book describes the lives of two brothers tragically shattered by war and calamity. One is wounded in Iraq ending his career as a combat medic until the Ebola Pandemic ranging in Africa provides him with a second chance. The other survives prison for vehicular homicide only to lose his wife and unborn daughter in childbirth. Each recovers to lead separate lives when a phone call from Australia changes everything.

Friday, November 16, 2018


In 1981 I received a letter from a Colombian physician asking to spend time in my laboratory. Dr. Alberto (last names will not be used) indicated his plan to open a clinical laboratory in Medellin and his need to learn microbiology. When I wrote to tell him I had no funds to support him, he phoned to tell me that was not a problem. He, with his wife and two young children, arrived in the U.S., rented an apartment in New Jersey, and showed up in my laboratory where he spent a year before returning to Colombia. 

Not long afterwards, another letter came from Medellin, this time from Doctor Angela, the Director of Microbiology in a hospital there. She was an internationally known mycologist. She wanted me to give a series of lectures on the normal bacterial flora of humans, under a program of the American Society for Microbiology. Connie would accompany me. In July, after taking our kids to camp, we landed in Medellin.

I gave the lectures in English but was able to respond to the questions in Spanish. I had the opportunity to meet with some Public Health Officials who related their current problem with rabies due to the bite of vampire bats. 

After the course was over, Angela gave a party for Connie and me. We were surprised to see all the women going into the bathroom to don their jewelry. We learned that it was dangerous to wear jewelry while driving, since thieves can snatch rings and bracelets at a stop sign.

Colombia is famous for emeralds, and Doctor Angela knew a friend who sold them. Connie was invited to take one of the gems over night to make her decision. The emerald cost over two thousand dollars, but Connie decided not to buy it when she learned that emeralds could shatter when dropped. 

That weekend we visited the laboratory of Dr. Alberto. Together with Alberto and his wife, we traveled to the farm of his mother-in-law in the mountains. 

I had originally planned to spend a week dove hunting in the North, but was advised not to go there because of the guerilla activity. Instead, we opted for a trip up the Amazon. 

We flew to Bogota and then to Leticia. This city, at the southern tip of the country is known as the “ass hole” of Colombia. It is well named. We spent the night in a hotel where the swimming pool resembled pea soup and the bed linens were dank. At breakfast the waitress sat on the arm of my chair to take my order, and we saw a dead horse lying in the street. We took a small boat up the river to Monkey Island where we spent the night. In the morning we were awakened by the sound of monkeys running across the tin roof of our small shelter. The next day, we traveled further up river to visit a Ticuna Indian village where we traded beads, cigarette lighters, and ballpoint pens for a necklace of piranha teeth and blow guns for the boys. The Ticunas were friendly and traded their blow gun poison to other tribes. Both sexes were completely naked except for a small skirt. 

We spent a few days in Cartagena, a lovely city on the Caribbean. We were greeted by one of the natives who held a live sloth and offered me an opportunity to hold it for a photo. Connie was experiencing some nausea from the Chloroquin we had to take to prevent malaria. We waited almost an entire day for our flight home since it turned out that Avianca had only one aircraft for the trip to New York. 

I used our experience on the Amazon for an episode in my book And Evil Shall Come

Friday, November 2, 2018


James Joyce was one of the greatest Irish writers. His novels Ulysses, the Dubiners and Finnegan’s Wake won him wide acclaim.  Other outstanding Irish writers are Frank Delaney, who’s Ireland, Tipperary and Shannon and Frank McCourt’s  Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis are widely read. I have read and enjoyed most of the above.  W. B. Yeats is my favorite poet. When I read their lines I can hear the characters speaking. I like to listen to Irish being spoken, whether a brogue or just a slight blarney. As a matter of fact, I like the Irish culture.

What is remarkable is how such a rich culture developed under adverse conditions. Ireland was invaded and occupied centuries ago by the English. The Irish were basically an agricultural people speaking Gaelic. The occupation was often severe and brutal.

The Rebellion of 1798 failed, but a Rebellion in 1916 established the Irish Republic.

Irish Music is diverse with songs like Danny Boy and the wonderful pub music of Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers as well as The Chieftains. Some songs of failed uprisings are sad like Gavin Bury. There are many humorous ones like Meg Flaherty’s Drake, and others extolling whiskey like Whiskey You’re the Devil. (Irish whiskey is unique, but ale and Porter are also popular.)

I have always wanted to visit Ireland, but I don’t think that will happen. However, there is a small Irish enclave just down the street from where I live.  Mr. Michael Maher is one of its occupants. Michael is one of my faithful readers, and I treasure his comments. Perhaps sometime he will walk over for a visit. I happen to have an unopened bottle of Jameson’s, which I would be delighted to explore with him.