Tags: Ebola Outbreak | Ebola Outbreak

Is Your Ebola Survival Colony Ready?

By Friday, 05 September 2014 10:11 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Readers of my previous blog entry have correctly surmised my negative views regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The World Health Organization — WHO — forecasts that at least 20,000 people will perish from Ebola over the long run. Yours truly’s view on the matter is that we should tack on another three or four zeroes to that figure.

Why, you ask? After all, the official mantra recited by doctors and the media is that Ebola is primarily spread solely by direct contact with bodily fluids — blood, saliva, sputum.

Any cases of secondary transmission are linked to improper needle hygiene and contact with an object, or fomite, contaminated with infected body fluids. Ebola is not supposed to be one of those airborne — and thus, rapidly-spreading — diseases such as influenza.

There are studies, however, going back nearly 20 years suggesting otherwise.

For example, “Transmission of Ebola Virus (Zaire Strain) to Uninfected Control Monkeys in a Biocontainment Laboratory,” published in The Lancet, Dec. 23-30, 1995, (8991-8992): 1669-71. The researchers concluded, “The most likely route of infection of the control monkeys was aerosol, oral or conjunctival exposure to virus-laden droplets secreted or excreted from the experimentally inoculated monkeys.”

Moreover, last week the journal Science published a paper indicating that this West African variant of the Ebola virus examined during the course of this outbreak has been mutating.

“We observed a rapid accumulation of interhost and intrahost genetic variation,” they wrote, which can in theory affect the modes of transmission, as well as the effectiveness of diagnostics, upcoming vaccines, and other therapies.

The untested, experimental drug cocktail called "ZMapp", heralded by the media as a fortuitous discovery that is by turns a breakthrough and medical milestone, was given to a grand total of seven patients.

Two died. Another batch of ZMapp won’t be ready for months.

Several more medicines and vaccines are in development. Fast-tracked by government health organizations though they may be, applying relatively — or completely — untested drugs to the situation simply adds a new uncertainly factor into any equation describing the dynamics of the epidemic, thus relegating any epidemic model to sheer unpredictability.

It is the opinion of yours truly that by the end of this month we’ll not only be seeing attempts to completely isolate Africa, but cases will appear in Europe and the Americas, resulting in worldwide panic.

The Obama administration and medical experts say that the risk of a non-airborne Ebola virus outbreak taking hold in America is small, that we have advanced medical procedures and facilities to immediately contain a would-be pandemic, and that the system in place is foolproof.

Even so, I can recall Dr. Edward Teller, one of the fathers of the H-bomb, musing about foolproof systems, saying, “The problem is that the Fool is always bigger than the Proof.”

Besides, healthcare workers such as Dr. Ken Brantly — fully cognizant of Ebola’s dangers and modes of transmission, and who follow CDC guidelines by wearing a mask, goggles, gloves, gown, etc. — manage to become infected anyway.

Despite being on the lookout for sweating passengers at airports — not exactly a brilliant screening plan for a disease having a 21-day incubation period — most U.S. Ebola infiltration will likely be by illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico. If you think America’s current influx of illegals is disturbing in number, wait until Ebola makes its appearance south of the border.

Intriguingly, the fanatics over at the Islamic State could send a sort of biological suicide bomber across the border, infected with Ebola, and having three weeks to roam about the U.S. to spread about at will, could create havoc.

Can you say “human tsunami?”

Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential Computer Telephony Encyclopedia (2000), he was the chief technical editor of Harry Newton's Computer Telephony magazine (later retitled Communications Convergence after its acquisition by Miller Freeman/CMP Media) from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now.

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The World Health Organization — WHO — forecasts that at least 20,000 people will perish from Ebola over the long run.
Ebola Outbreak
Friday, 05 September 2014 10:11 AM
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