Ad Hoc Commentary – the Ebola Black Death

One of the things that yours truly done in his life was to study molecular engineering. For many years, yours truly wondered what to do with all those microbiology knowledge – yours truly even worked as a proteomics research officer after graduation for one year before moving to the banking industry.

Recently, the knowledge of DNA and so on helped me to effortlessly read the book ‘The Biology of Plagues by Susan Scott’ from cover to cover. It is not a book without controversy as is evident from the following excerpt from the History News Network:

“FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS, A SMALL BUT VOCAL GROUP OF scholars has been challenging the traditional view of the Black Death as a [bubonic] plague pandemic. The “origins” controversy, as it might be called, was ignited in 1984 when Graham Twigg, a respected British zoologist, published The Black Death: A Biological Reappraisal. Since then, works such as The Biology of Plagues, by Susan Scott, a British sociologist, and her colleague, biologist Christopher J. Duncan; and The Black Death Transformed, by Samuel K. Cohn, a professor of medieval history at the University of Glasgow, have kept the controversy roiling. For lack of a better term, these authors—and their supporters—might be called the [Bubonic] Plague Deniers, since they believe that the Black Death was caused by a disease other than [Bubonic] plague. – See more at:

If you have the time, you should read at least the concluding chapter of Susan Scott’s book. Basically, she concludes on Page 404:
“We do not suggest that haemorrhagic plague in Europe during 1348-1670 [including the Black Death] was because of Ebola or any of the present day viral haemorrhagic fever that have been identified, but the close similarities with their symptoms and pathology described above suggest that a filovirus may have been the causative agent.”

We remember that Ebola and HIV are filoviruses. In my humble opinion, we should pay attention to WHO that recently declared Ebola as an international health emergency. It is probably pride or ignorance that fools the majority into believing that the Black Death of the 14th century was caused by bubonic plague, with their complex biology, being dependent on rats, fleas and resistant rodents. It is likely not a rat problem. And in all likelihood, we will see an Ebola Black Death in the years ahead.

The only thing that policy makers can do is to establish sensible control measures. This is none other than the simple 40 day quarantine on Page 409:
“Nevertheless, the health authorities in Italy, even with what we would regard today as a very limited medical knowledge, quickly identified the important features of the disease and established sensible control measures in the 14th century, including the all important 40-day quarantine period.”

Closer to home, can someone in Singapore please get St. John island up and running again as a quarantine center? When the Great Pestilence makes a comeback, you really want to have a true quarantine rather than some chalets in the east. The plague, just like the Black Death, probably follows Reed Frost dynamics. In that case, we should have a reprieve soon, say in Oct 2014, and it will probably come back in a stronger wave in spring 2015. The key is that it will come in waves. For all of you out there, please do not underestimate this pestilence. Stay safe.

Good luck in the markets.