Tags: Ebola Outbreak | Ebola | airborne transmission | cold | flu

Experts: Ebola Could Spread Like Cold or Flu

Experts: Ebola Could Spread Like Cold or Flu

By    |   Friday, 03 October 2014 01:36 PM

The world needs to be prepared for Ebola becoming a virus that can be transmitted by air, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, which would make the spread of the disease as easy as a cold or flu.

In an interview on CNN Friday, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy pointed to research that showed that the deadly virus has been transmitted via the respiratory route between some in primates or monkeys.

"What we have to ask ourselves, the question, what would we do if this should happen like that?" he said.

Ebola is an RNA virus, which means it mutates once or twice every time it copies itself. This could change the way the virus operates when inside the human body, according to CNN.

Osterholm previously told CNN that the Ebola outbreak is "the single greatest concern I've ever had in my 40-year public health career."

Another one of the nation's top experts on Ebola agreed with Osterholm's suggestion.
"I don’t want to be an alarmist, but the possibility of Ebola becoming an airborne virus clearly has to be taken into account," David Sanders, associate professor of biological sciences at Purdue University, told Newsmax Health.

"Ebola does share some of the characteristics of airborne viruses like influenza and we should not disregard the possibility of it evolving into something that could be transmitted in this way,” added Sanders, whose work on Ebola led to his participation in the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Biological Weapons Proliferation Prevention Program.

"I want the facts to be clear. It's important that we not get the idea that this can't happen," he added. "When people say that it is impossible for this virus to mutate, this is simply not true."

To pose a major threat in the U.S., the Ebola virus would have to mutate so that it could survive outside the body for a significant length of time like influenza can, Sanders said.
"This is not how the Ebola virus is currently known to spread, but there is evidence that it has some of the necessary components for respiratory transmission," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Vastola, an internist and gastroenterologist, told Newsmax Health, he too believes there is a realistic possibility that Ebola could mutate to become more easily transmissible by air, in the way a cold or flu spreads.

"Viruses mutate and change very frequently depending on many factors, including their environment and changing it from Africa to the USA may change its characteristics like the method of spread," he said.

"If you look at all the [Centers for Disease Control] press releases they say, 'not reported yet,' which leaves that first time not reported yet. Not that it will never happen."

The United Nations' chief of Ebola mission, Anthony Banbury, also said Ebola could become airborne. "It's a nightmare scenario, and unlikely, but it can't be ruled out," he told the UK's Daily Telegraph.

Banbury, however, was heavily criticized for the comments by other leading scientists who insisted his remarks were irresponsible and unrealistic.

"To suggest that Ebola could become airborne is completely irresponsible," Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, told the Telegraph.

"The way the virus is spreading is consistent with what we've seen in all previous 25 outbreaks, only transmitting through blood and bodily secretions. There is no precedent for a virus changing its mode of transmission so drastically.

"Other viruses such as HIV which transmit in the same way, have passed through millions of humans, and are known to mutate more than Ebola have not become airborne.

"Making such claims is an unwelcome distraction from the urgent need to scale up the international response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in West Africa."

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, also downplayed the risks of Ebola becoming airborne.

"The chances of Ebola becoming airborne are extremely small. I am not aware of any viral infection changing its mode of transmission. It's important we retain a sense of proportion and not exaggerate the risks for it changing and becoming airborne," he told the Telegraph. "There is already enough fear and panic surrounding this epidemic."

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The world needs to be prepared for Ebola becoming a virus that can be transmitted by air, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, which would make the spread of the disease as easy as a cold or flu.
Ebola, airborne transmission, cold, flu
Friday, 03 October 2014 01:36 PM
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