Tags: Ebola Outbreak | ebola | spread | flu | airborne | transmission

Rise in US Ebola Cases Could Hike Flu-Like Transmission Risk

By    |   Friday, 17 Oct 2014 02:24 PM

If the U.S. experiences a significant rise in Ebola cases in coming weeks, that troubling possibility would increase the odds that the deadly virus could mutate and be transmissible through the air — like influenza — one of the nation’s top virologists tells Newsmax TV.

David Sanders, an associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University who has done extensive Ebola research, notes that the strain of the virus a at the center of the outbreak in West African can only be spread by exposure to bodily fluids. But in an interview on Newsmax TV’s Meet the Doctors program, Sanders says Ebola does have the potential to mutate and spread through the respiratory system by air — and the more cases that show up in the U.S., the more likely that is to happen.

“I can’t say that it’s going to be as spreadable as influenza,” he says. “What I can say is it has an inherent capacity, through its biology, to be transmitted to the lungs by an airborne route.”
 
Story continues below video.
 
 
To view a complete report on Ebola and other health news, tune in Saturday, Oct. 18, at 7 and 11 a.m. (EDT) to Newsmax TV’s Meet the Doctors program, at NewsmaxTV.com,  or DIRECTV Ch. 349 and DISH Ch. 223.

Influenza typically sends 200,000 people to the hospital every year and kills more than 30,000 Americans every year — which is why health experts urge getting a flu shot and say the virus shouldn’t be underestimated or taken for granted.
 
But only about 1-2 percent of people infected with the influenza actually die from flu complications. By comparison, health officials say 70 percent of the individuals infected with Ebola in the current outbreak have died.
 
The Zaire form of the Ebola virus now circulating in West Africa is different from previous strains. Some scientists are concerned that changes in the virus that occur as that pathogen continues to evolve could pose new dangers, particularly if it spreads widely outside of the African continent.
 
Researchers have identified more than 300 new viral mutations in the latest strain of Ebola, according to research published in the journal Science last month. They are now investigating if this strain of the disease produces higher virus levels, which could increase its infectiousness.

Sanders explains that a key factor in the successful mutation of a virus centers on how it enters and exits the body. Sanders led a research team that established that the current Ebola strain could enter the mucus-lined cells that line the human airway in much the same way the flu virus does.
 
He notes influenza is an example of how a virus can mutate — in fact it does so every year, which is why the flu shot formulation changes annually — so that it can infect different species and be transmitted in different ways.
 
To pose a major threat in the U.S., the Ebola virus would have to mutate so that it could be transmitted through the air and survive outside the body for a significant length of time like influenza can, Sanders says.
 
 



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A rise in U.S. Ebola cases would would increase the odds that the deadly virus could mutate and be transmissible through the air - like influenza - one of the nation's top virologists tells Newsmax TV.
ebola, spread, flu, airborne, transmission
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2014-24-17
Friday, 17 Oct 2014 02:24 PM
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