Tags: Ebola Outbreak | Exclusive Interviews | MidPoint | Stephen S. Morse | biosafety | expert | virus

Disease Expert: Ebola Pandemic 'Unlikely'

By    |   Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 06:57 PM

African countries at greatest risk of catastrophic exposure to Ebola lack the medical, informational and civil-emergency systems that protect countries such as the United States from lethal pandemics, a Columbia University disease and biosafety expert told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

"It's extremely unlikely that it could be a threat to North America or western Europe simply because we have the infrastructure to contain it," Dr. Stephen S. Morse, chairman of Columbia's Institutional Biosafety Committee, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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The latest Ebola outbreak, in western Africa, has killed nearly 2,300 people since it was detected in March, primarily in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, with a smaller number of deaths reported in Nigeria.

The only direct U.S. contact with the outbreak so far is through a handful of aid workers stricken in Africa who were flown to Emory University in Atlanta for life-saving treatment.

But Morse, global co-chairman of the U.S. Agency for International Development's disease-tracking program, PREDICT, said it is imperative that the U.S. lead the global effort on Africa's behalf.

"People all over the world do look to U.S. leadership," he said, adding that "we're in the best position to do it."

"It's also in our self-interest," Morse continued. "Ebola shows the main weaknesses in the systems throughout Africa and elsewhere, and strengthening all of these systems will prevent perhaps one disease that we don't yet know about that could spread even further than Ebola.

"That's hypothetical," he said of a future disease, "but it's going to happen sooner or later."

Morse said that it's not just money the U.S. must contribute to containing Ebola.

"We need personnel down there on the ground," he said. "There simply are not enough personnel to do all the work that needs to be done."

Morse said western Africa's struggle with the disease this year is unlike past Ebola episodes on the continent, even though the virus is not airborne and remains comparatively difficult for a person to catch — requiring close, direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids or tissues.

"We've never seen an Ebola outbreak that has been this large, that's moved into cities, and that really behaves much more like a more conventional type of flu outbreak or SARS or something like that," he said.

The result in poorer countries, he said, is the "real possibility of Ebola being introduced there and spreading within hospitals or within family settings, as we've seen."

Wider spread of the disease, in turn, "could have tremendous economic and of course personal effects, tragic effects, and destabilizing effects on countries if it continues."

Eliminating the virus from the face of the earth is "not possible," said Morse, because another mammal specials — possibly the African fruit bat in Guinea — is the virus' original host and will continue to carry it.

"It's not going to go away, and I think we should learn a lesson from this — that we really need to strengthen these systems to prevent something we may not yet know about which could be the next Ebola."

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African countries at greatest risk of catastrophic exposure to Ebola lack the medical, informational and civil-emergency systems that protect countries such as the United States from lethal pandemics, a Columbia University disease and biosafety expert told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.
Stephen S. Morse, biosafety, expert, virus
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2014-57-10
Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 06:57 PM
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