Monday, August 04, 2014

I'm Certainly Not Buying A Ticket For This Movie…. "Ebola - In Your Face, Jack!"

August 1, Margret Chen, Director-General of WHO, issued a warning that the current response in Africa to the latest Ebola outbreak has been "woefully inadequate." and that the  "outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it."

Most people outside of the affected areas of Guiana, Sierra Leone and Liberia feel that this is an isolated occurrence over a small portion of Africa. Not so, this is largest recorded Ebola outbreak in history. As of this writing the disease has infected more than 1440 people and claimed at least 826 lives. 

There was an airline passenger, an infected American, who died in Lagos, Nigeria having boarded a flight from Liberia. He was on his way to the United States after a conference meeting. 

Not widely publicized in the United States media was a second death, that of an airline traveler who died of ebola in Morocco sometime before July 30th. The death  was disclosed by the Moroccan Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Morris Dukuly, who also said that the deceased Liberian had arrived in Morocco two days before his death.

Yes it true that in today's world the disease can travel to distant lands without buying a ticket, just by hitching a ride with its host. And most medical authorities claim that due to ebola's fragile nature it does not have the infection strength of a flu virus. Right now this is so. 

Previously the largest outbreak of ebola occurred in Uganda in 2000 - 01. There were 425 people infected and 224 deaths. This time the ebola footprint is much larger. With the increased numbers of victims comes the likelihood that the disease will mutate to a hardier virus, perhaps an airborne variety. 

Is this idle speculation? Not according to Margret Chen. She stated that the longer the virus circulates, the more it becomes a public risk: "Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of viruses and other microbes. We must not give this virus opportunities to deliver more surprises.

In 1989, one such surprise occurred at a research quarantine center located in Reston, Virginia. A group of monkeys imported from the Philippines that year were found to have transmitted a variant of Ebola while in captivity at the lab. Richard Preston discussed the theory that virus may have become airborne in his 1994 non fiction book "The Hot Zone" It was lucky for all who involved in that incident that the strain of ebola didn't infect humans. 

The greatest risk comes from the rising number of new cases which increases the opportunity for  the virus to mutate into a more dangerous form.

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