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  • Is Ebola airborne ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th September 2014 (All posts by )

    Ebola has become an uncontrolled epidemic in Africa. I have previously posted on Ebola.

    UPDATE: A new CDC report has now been provided on precautions. Somebody is worried. The document, itself, is here (pdf)

    Now, we are going to send 3,000 military personnel to Africa to help. I sure hope none of these US people are infected. They did not volunteer for this and the training to protect themselves will take time.

    Now the German epidemiology community has concluded that Liberia and Sierra Leone are lost.

    Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he is losing hope, that Sierra Leone and Liberia will receive the neccessary aid in time. Those are two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic.

    “The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed,” he said. That time was May and June. “Now it will be much more difficult.”
    Schmidt-Chanasit expects the virus will “become endemic” in this part of the world, if no massive assistence arrives.

    With other words: It could more or less infect everybody and many people could die.

    This, of course, is from a German site and our own CDC is unwilling to say it.

    For Sierra Leone and Liberia, though, he thinks “it is very difficult to bring enough help there to get a grip on the epidemic.”

    According to the virologist, the most important thing to do now is to prevent the virus from spreading to other countries, “and to help where it is still possible, in Nigeria and Senegal for example.”

    Of course, it is already in Nigeria.

    In the balance therefore, the probability is that the virus is not airborne — yet — but it is more dangerous than its predecessors. This would account for its ability to slip through the protocols designed for less deadly strains of the disease. It’s not World War E time, but it’s time to worry.

    And: This may be a new strain with more virulence.

    The results of full genetic sequencing suggest that the outbreak in Guinea isn’t related to others that have occurred elsewhere in Africa, according to an international team that published its findings online in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). That report was from April 2014.

    Now, we have more news. From 2012, we know transmission in animals may be airborne.

    While primates develop systemic infection associated with immune dysregulation resulting in severe hemorrhagic fever, the EBOV infection in swine affects mainly respiratory tract, implicating a potential for airborne transmission of ZEBOV2, 6. Contact exposure is considered to be the most important route of infection with EBOV in primates7, although there are reports suggesting or suspecting aerosol transmission of EBOV from NHP to NHP8, 9, 10, or in humans based on epidemiological observations11. The present study was design to evaluate EBOV transmission from experimentally infected piglets to NHPs without direct contact.

    The study of this potential explosive development showed:

    The present study provides evidence that infected pigs can efficiently transmit ZEBOV to NHPs in conditions resembling farm setting. Our findings support the hypothesis that airborne transmission may contribute to ZEBOV spread, specifically from pigs to primates, and may need to be considered in assessing transmission from animals to humans in general.

    Now we have more articles appearing about this.

    The second possibility is one that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private: that an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air. You can now get Ebola only through direct contact with bodily fluids. But viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. The current Ebola virus’s hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice.

    If the New York Times is publishing this, somebody is worried.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Ebola, Health Care, Immigration, Medicine, Science | 31 Comments »