I tend to agree that Ebola should not pose much of a hazard to Americans. It does serve as a warning, though, to get prepared for worse. Never underestimate the stupidity of politicians.
Decades ago when I first started looking at such diseases they were not considered much of a threat because they are so lethal. People died before they could spread the disease (much different from HIV AIDS).
However germs mutate. This strain of Ebola may have become able to spread more easily. Further, in the USA people are doped up with all kinds of drugs and antibiotics. They eat junk food GMO CAFO and other foods, and are chemicalized with pesticides, herbicides,… So USA weak immune systems and disturbed internals. Essentially Americans have become vats for breeding worse and worse germs (why I moved to Lake Tahoe in 1995.)
Obama needs to keep Africans and Ebola out of the USA. USA does not want this disease to spread here and mutate into something much worse. Some of the rich 1% may have figured out that Ebola could clobber the economy. Hopefully they will act to stop the disease. Like get serious on quarantine and banning all traffic to and from Africa. Other countries need to do the same. Sick can fly all over the world and maybe infect other passengers on the way to the USA. Without decisive preventative action this epidemic could fly out of control and kill millions. Even though it should be easily contained. Watch news from Africa to see what can happen here if Obama does not act.
Better speed up self defense measures as a precaution: Remote acres with livestock where you can live without outside food, water, fuel, electricity, etc. A good idea anyway even if no SHTF. Avoid airplanes like the plague. Learn to build armed UAV drones to defend your acres.
A top scientist worries that Ebola has mutated to become more contagious
Peter Jahrling, one of the country’s top scientists, has dedicated his life to studying some of the most dangerous viruses on the planet.
Twenty-five years ago, he cut his teeth on Lassa hemorrhagic fever,
hunting for Ebola’s viral cousin in Liberia. In 1989, he helped discover Reston, a new Ebola strain, in his Virginia lab.
Jahrling now serves as a chief scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where he runs the emerging viral pathogens section.
He has been watching this Ebola epidemic with a mixture of horror, concern and scientific curiosity.And there’s one thing he’s found particularly worrisome: the mutations of the virus that are circulating now look to be more contagious than the ones that have turned up in the past.
When his team has run testson patients in Liberia, they seem to carry a much higher “viral load.” In other words, Ebola victims today have more of the virus in their blood — and that could make them more contagious.
We spoke last week about his work studying the disease, how this Ebola virus may be more dangerous than others, and what that means for the epidemic. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length.
If you want to learn more about Ebola and this epidemic, read our cardstack. Julia Belluz: What concerns you most about the virus circulating now?
PeterJahrling: I want to know if this virus is intrinsically different from the one we have seen before, if it is a more virulent strain. We are using tests now that weren’t using in the past, but there seems to be a belief that the virus load is higher in these patients [today] than what we have seen before. If true, that’s a very different bug.
One of the studies we’re going to do here is to test the virulence of this new strain in experimentally infected primates and compare it with the reference strain, and look at whether it is hotter, extrapolating from monkeys to people. It may be that the virus burns hotter and quicker [meaning it’s more contagious and easily spread].
JB: Yet everyone is worried about Ebola going airborne…
You’re seeing all these patients getting infected, so people think there must be aerosol spread. Certainly, it’s very clear that people who are in close contact with patients are getting a very high incidence of disease and not all of that can be explained by preparation of bodies for burial and all the standard stuff. But if you are to assume that the differences in virus load detected in the blood are reflected by differences in virus load spread by body secretions, then maybe it’s a simple quantitative difference. There’s just more virus.
“viral loads are coming up very quickly and really high, higher than they are used to seeing.”
JB: A higher viral load means this Ebola virus can spread faster and further?
Yes. I have a field team in Monrovia. They are running [tests]. They are telling me that viral loads are coming up very quickly and really high, higher than they are used to seeing. It turns out that in limited studies with the evacuated patients, they continued to express virus in blood and semen. What does that mean? Right now, we just don’t know.
JB: Can you entertain the air-borne hypothesis. Do you think it’s plausible?
You can argue that any time the virus replicates it’s going to mutate. So there is a potential for the thing to acquire an aerogenic property but that would have to be a dramatic change. When scientists have done studies, playing with influenza strains to make them more virulent, when they increase the aerosol potential of a flu strain, they also reduce its virulence. So when you start messing with viruses, you usually make them less virulent.
JB: There have been worries that Ebola can become a pandemic like HIV and spread around the world. Even Tom Frieden, director of the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was recently saying as much. Your thoughts?
PJ: The mode of transmission is different between the two viruses. Ebola causes an acute infection which you either die from or you’re
immune, you don’t carry the virus for long periods of time. Whereas with AIDS, a lot of people transmitting AIDS didn’t know they have it.
Before we had a triple cocktail therapy, AIDS was lethal with the exception of a few people who were not susceptible. Long term AIDS was hotter than Ebola. My gut feeling is that Ebola is going to burn out in human populations.
JB: Why are you optimistic about this epidemic burning out?
In this epidemic, it would appear that there have been multiple introductions [of the virus from animals to humans]. It’s not all person to person transmission. It’s coming from animals again and again. [This means people need to be near potential animal hosts — believed to be fruit bats endemic to Africa — to get the virus.] Now there are all these different strains. That could also mean the virus is more mutable.
We can’t yet say. I think it’s unlikely that this thing is going to perpetuate in humans.
What is the Ebola virus?
Most people’s views of
Ebola are probably informed by Hollywood — they think of it as a deadly and contagious virus that swirls around the world, striking everyone in its path and causing them to hemorrhage from their eyeballs, ears and mouth until there is no more blood to spill.
Remember this 1995 film?
In reality, Ebola is something quite different. About half of the people who contract Ebola die. The others return to a normal life after a months-long recovery that can include periods of hair loss, sensory changes, weakness, fatigue, headaches, eye and liver inflammation.
As for the blood: While Ebola can cause people to hemorrhage, about half of Ebola sufferers ever experience that Biblical bleeding that’s become synonymous with the virus.
More often than not, Ebola strikes like the worst and most
humiliating flu you could imagine. People get the sweats, along with
body aches and pains. Then they start vomiting and having uncontrollable diarrhea. These symptoms can appear anywhere between two and 21 days after exposure to the virus. Sometimes, they go into shock. Sometimes, they bleed. Again, about half of those infected with the virus die, andthis usually happens fairly quickly — within a few days or a couple of weeks of getting sick.
There are five strains of Ebola, four of
which have caused the disease in humans: Zaire, Sudan, Taï Forest, and Bundibugyo.
The fifth, Reston, has infected nonhuman primates only.
Though scientists haven’t been able to confirm this, the animal host of Ebola is widely believed to be the fruit bat, and the virus only seldomly makes the leap into humans.
The Ebola virus is extremely rare. Among the leading causes of death in Africa, it only accounts for a tiny fraction. People are much more likely to die from AIDS, respiratory infections, or diarrhea, as you can see.
The current outbreak involves the Zaire strain, which was
discovered in 1976 — the year Ebola was first identified in what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). That same year, the virus was also discovered in South Sudan.
Since 1976, there have only been about 20 known Ebola outbreaks. Until last year, the total impact of these outbreaks included 2,357 cases and 1,548 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They all occurred in isolated or remote areas of Africa, and Ebola never had a chance to go very far.
And that’s what makes the 2014 outbreak
so remarkable: the virus has spread to five countries in Africa plus America, and has already infected more than 8,000 people. It has killed more than 4,000 people. That is more than triple the sum total of all previous outbreaks combined.