“It’s the single greatest concern I’ve ever had in my 40-year public health career. I can’t imagine anything in my career — and this includes HIV — that would be more devastating to the world than a respiratory transmissible Ebola virus.” – Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota
“The longer it moves around in human hosts in the virulent melting pot that is West Africa, the more chances increase that it could mutate. It is a nightmare scenario [that it could become airborne], and unlikely, but it can’t be ruled out.” – Anthony Banbury, UN’s Ebola response chief
The current Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013 and has spread to four other West African countries.
Now, the US has reported it’s first confirmed case, and unfortunately, others are sure to follow.
All along, officials have been assuring us that the deadly virus is not that easy to contract – and that it is not airborne and cannot become airborne.
Some experts, however, are skeptical of that claim and have been voicing their thoughts on the possibility of the virus mutating and becoming airborne.
One of those experts is David Sanders, associate professor of biological sciences at Perdue University. Here’s what he said a couple of weeks ago:
“I want the facts to be clear. It’s important that we not get the idea that this can’t happen. When people say that it is impossible for this virus to mutate, this is simply not true.
To be airborne it must be present on tiny droplets from a cough or sneeze and must be able to live outside of the body for a certain length of time. This is not how the virus is currently known to spread, but it is evidence that it has some of the necessary components for respiratory transmission,” he said.
Now top infectious disease experts like Dr. Osterholm are expressing concern that this deadly virus could mutate and be transmitted by a cough or a sneeze.
Every time a new Ebola case appears, the virus gets to play what Dr. Osterholm calls “genetic roulette” – another chance to mutate and develop new capabilities.
Ebola is an RNA virus, which means every time it copies itself, it makes one or two mutations. Many of those mutations mean nothing, but some of them might be able to change the way the virus behaves inside the human body.
“Imagine every time you copy an essay, you change a word or two. Eventually, it’s going to change the meaning of the essay,” said Dr. C.J. Peters, one of the heroes featured in “The Hot Zone.”
Dr. James Le Duc, the director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas, said the problem is that no one is keeping track of the mutations happening across West Africa, so no one really knows what the virus has become.
To put this in perspective, consider that in this current outbreak alone, in a short period of time in ONE area in Sierra Leone, EARLY in the outbreak, BEFORE the virus was spreading as fast as it is now, researchers found more than 300 genetic changes in the virus.
“It’s frightening to look at how much this virus mutated within just three weeks,” said Dr. Pardis Sabeti, an associate professor at Harvard and senior associate member of the Broad Institute, where the research was done.
Banbury told The Telegraph that the longer Ebola spreads around, the more likely it is to mutate. He has served in the UN since 1988, and said the current epidemic is the worst disaster he has ever seen:
“We have never seen anything like it. In a career working in these kinds of situations, wars, natural disasters – I have never seen anything as serious or dangerous or high risk as this one. I’ve heard other people saying this as well, senior figures who are not being alarmist. Behind closed doors, they are saying they have never seen anything as bad,” he said.
Meanwhile, a possible Ebola case is being investigated in Hawaii, and at least 100 people in Texas are being checked for exposure.
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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”