Is Ebola airborne? Canadian study shows deadly evidence
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The Ebola outbreak continues to grow worse every week, and now the relief organization Samaritan's Purse has implied there are actually more than 3,400 infected in West Africa.
Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are in a state of emergency, involving the military for Sierra Leone and the retraction of civil rights for 90 days in Liberia. In the U.S., a nurse and a doctor who both contracted Ebola were brought to Atlanta for treatment, and received doses of an experimental serum of monoclonal antibodies.
Meanwhile, the CDC and medical journals continue to push the ideas that Ebola is difficult to catch and can only be transmitted through touching bodily fluids. It turns out that may be false.
On Nov. 15, 2012, an article was published by the BBC entitled "Growing concerns over 'in the air' transmission of Ebola." The opening line of the article is as follows: "Canadian scientists have shown that the deadliest form of the Ebola virus could be transmitted by air between species."
In the experiment, researchers used monkeys and pigs to demonstrate this, and they believe the only reason why the virus hasn't been spread further in Africa is that the conditions are unfavorable for aerosol transmission. This study was published on more than one health site.
In another study that will be discussed later in the article, it is suggested that the reason for this is because Ebola (Zaire) doesn't do well in high humidity or grossly humid areas. It is not a bacteria, therefore densely populated areas are much more beneficial to Ebola, compared to a warm, wet climate. The study did suggest, however, that aerosol transmission would be much more efficient in a dry climate.
In the Canadian study, scientists hypothesized that pigs may actually be a natural host for this virus, and it was spread from the pigs to macaques, one of the best-known species of Old World monkey, without any direct contact.
The pigs and monkeys were housed near each other, but they had no physical contact. Within eight days, some of the monkeys were showing signs of Ebola and had to be euthanized.
Dr. Gary Kobinger from the National Microbiology Laboratory at the Public Health Agency of Canada suspects that the virus is transmitted through the air in large droplets, but that they cannot remain in the air for long, so the virus cannot spread far physically. In other words, it is not like the common cold, where virus particles can be spread far, easily.
However, the fact remains that the Ebola (Zaire) strain was spread through the air and not bodily fluids. Doctors were concerned that this could elevate Ebola as a public health threat, which is a reasonable thought, as this was prior to the current outbreak.
Currently, many countries are briefing their doctors and healthcare workers on the physical traits of Ebola, so if it does appear in their country they can recognize and contain it quickly. Canada recently released one of these updates, called the Pathogen Safety Data Sheet, and it clearly warns doctors that Ebola can be transmitted by aerosolized viral particles. In fact, it only takes 1-10 of these aerosolized organisms to cause infection in humans.
Yet the media refuses to acknowledge that these studies and data sheets exist. Instead, hundreds or articles have been published that only referenced the transmission of this disease through body fluids. The man who discovered Ebola even went as far to say, "I wouldn't be worried to sit next to someone with Ebola virus on the Tube as long as they don't vomit on you or something. This is an infection that requires very close contact."
What this implies is that somehow more than 1,400 people came into contact with an infected person's blood, diarrhea, vomit or some other type of bodily fluid, and then touched their mouth or an open wound, eyes, nose, etc. This scenario is possible, but common sense makes the argument sound a little thin.
The final study, which is more in depth than the Canadian study, took place in 1995 on the Ebola virus, Zaire strain. Scientists introduced Using macaque monkeys to the Ebola virus using a head-only exposure aerosol system. Virus-containing droplets of .8-1.2 µm were given to the monkeys into their respiratory tract through inhalation, and they were seeing results within 4-5 days.
The monkeys began to show signs of infection. Those given a lower dose took slightly longer to show symptoms, while those given higher doses began to deteriorate much more quickly.
"Immunochemistry revealed cell-associated Ebola virus antigens present in the airway epithelium, alveolar pneumocytes and macrophages in the lung and pulmonary lymph nodes; extracellular antigen was present on mucosal surfaces of the nose, oropharynx and airways," the researchers reported. The bottom line is that this study showed that the Zaire strain of Ebola can be spread by aerosol in an experimental primate model.
This new Ebola strain is 97 percent similar to the Zaire strain. It has up to a three-week incubation period, the longest of the other strains, and it seems to be spreading much more rapidly than any of the other outbreaks in history.
Healthcare workers who have full protective gear have gotten ill, and some are dying. No one is certain how quickly the Ebola virus can mutate, but it is a deadly disease.
While it is understandable that the media does not want to create a panic among citizens, this information should not be buried underneath safe testimony. Telling the public that Ebola can only be transmitted through bodily fluids and direct contact is both irresponsible and dangerous. It is important to tell people the proper precautions in order to stop this infection's spread.
The study recently mentioned is available on the U.S. National Library of Medicine through the National Institute of Health. Type "Ebola" into the search bar and go to page 18, about halfway down the page, and that is where the study has been all this time. It is completely accessible to the public, to the media, to the CDC — all they had to do was search for it, and yet it remains hidden in plain sight.
Ebola is an infectious virus that needs to be watched carefully to limit its spread and to be cognizant of any possible mutations. The better informed people and healthcare workers are, the better they can theoretically prepare, and the more they can push for action. Hopefully a vaccine will be ready within the next year or so, and we can start developing an immunity to this high-risk pathogen.
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