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Response to morningfog (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 16, 2014, 07:45 AM

9. All biologists know that viruses DO mutate. Ebola is no exception. There are no exceptions.

I took two classes at Univ. of Pittsburgh on infectious diseases. I can't replicate for you on DU the lectures, slides, etc., demonstrating exactly how viruses mutate, but NO ONE challenges the knowledge that viruses DO mutate. As to Ebola, here is some very recent opinion (last month) info from 2 leading scientists - the director of a university center for infectious disease research, and a former acting director of the CDC that the current Ebola's virus hyper-evolution is unprecedented.

(The following article is from mid-September)

Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, wrote in a New York Times commentary today that the scale of the epidemic is offering the virus unprecedented opportunities to evolve toward greater transmissibility, which could give it the capability to spread worldwide. He is director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News.

Richard E. Besser, MD, chief health editor at ABC News and a former acting director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wrote in the Washington Post last night that a more-contagious Ebola virus could threaten the United States and said the crisis warrants the deployment of thousands of American troops to the affected countries.
What virologists don't like to talk about

The possibility of an airborne-transmissible Ebola virus is one "that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private," wrote Osterholm. In its current form, the virus spreads only through contact with bodily fluids, he noted, but with more human transmission in the past few months than probably occurred in the past 500 years, the virus is getting plenty of chances to evolve.

"Each new infection represents trillions of throws of the genetic dice," he said.



http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2014/09/experts-raise-specter-more-contagious-ebola-virus

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 certain mutations occurred, it would mean that just breathing would put one at risk of contracting Ebola. Infections could spread quickly to every part of the globe, as the H1N1 influenza virus did in 2009, after its birth in Mexico.

Why are public officials afraid to discuss this? They don’t want to be accused of screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater — as I’m sure some will accuse me of doing. But the risk is real, and until we consider it, the world will not be prepared to do what is necessary to end the epidemic.

In 2012, a team of Canadian researchers proved that Ebola Zaire, the same virus that is causing the West Africa outbreak, could be transmitted by the respiratory route from pigs to monkeys, both of whose lungs are very similar to those of humans. Richard Preston’s 1994 best seller “The Hot Zone” chronicled a 1989 outbreak of a different strain, Ebola Reston virus, among monkeys at a quarantine station near Washington. The virus was transmitted through breathing, and the outbreak ended only when all the monkeys were euthanized. We must consider that such transmissions could happen between humans, if the virus mutates.

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