The latest outbreak of Ebola is raising a troubling question that is fueling Internet-spread fears: Could the deadly virus be easily weaponized?
The reassuring answer, according to several bioterrorism experts, is: No.
Website reports the idea that Ebola could be used as a biological weapon should be viewed with heavy skepticism. Although deadly, Ebola is notoriously unstable when removed from a human or animal host, making weaponization of the virus unlikely.
Peter Walsh, a biological anthropologist at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, helped spark fears telling the British tabloid The Sun that terrorists could "harness the virus as a powder," load it into a bomb, and then explode it in a highly populated area.
But the idea of Ebola being harvested for use in a "dirty bomb" sounds more like science fiction than a real possibility to bioterrorism experts, LiveScience reports.
Robert Leggiadro, M.D., a New York physician with a background in infectious disease and bioterrorism, told LiveScience that although Ebola is listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a possible bioterrorism agent, that doesn’t necessarily mean the virus could be used in a bomb.
"The thing about Ebola is that it's not easy to work with," Leggiadro said. "It would be difficult to weaponize."
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, COO of SecureBio, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security firm in the United Kingdom, said that claims like Walsh's are an example of fear-mongering.
"The chance of the Zaire strain of Ebola being made into a biological weapon is less than nil," de Bretton-Gordon said, referring to the strain of Ebola that is causing the current outbreak in West Africa. "It's just not going to happen."
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