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The Ebola virus - the end of the civilize

Walter Ogston ogston at HOBBES.KZOO.EDU
Tue Aug 22 19:57:26 EST 1995

hiro at mill2.millcomm.com (Hiro) writes:
> Why did AIDS come out of obscurity and start spreading like
> wildfire?  Why are there suddenly all these hemorrhagic fevers of 
> different genetic description (Junin, Ebola)?  Marburg and Ebola are
> similar enough (both are filoviruses) but the others are not filoviruses,
> and I wonder what human behaviours exist that would favor the emergence
> of diseases of this sort.  
> What are WE doing?  What behaviours exist in our lifestyles that would
> contribute to the spread of new infectious agents?
Without getting personal, the emergence of Junin, Ebola and other
viruses can be explained by several relatively non-threatening aspects of
human behavior.  First, virologists are a fairly recent innovation,
and lots of new viral diseases were discovered when the Rockefeller lab
and others started looking for them.  Before that, people just died or
got sick without being diagnosed.  Second, a lot of viruses like Junin
are acquired by people going into the forests and cutting down trees, or
otherwise exposing themselves to the bites of mosquitoes that normally
don't feed on humans.  So cutting down trees is not that great a thing
but is not going to start any worldwide epidemic.  

As for HIV, we know how most transmission occurs.  I worry that the
powers that be don't seem to concern themselves with the social and
economic conditions that lead to intravenous drug abuse and multiple sex
partners, including of course prostitution.  Tackling these problems is
politically much more difficult, it seems, than paying for research into
drugs and vaccines.  My $0.02 worth.  

Walter Ogston				ogston at hobbes.kzoo.edu
Department of Biology			Phone: (616)337-7010
Kalamazoo College			Fax:   (616)337-7251
Kalamazoo, MI 49006-3295

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