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The return to The Hot Zone

Hans Andersson hasse at PANIX.COM
Thu Jan 18 09:47:12 EST 1996

Ian York wrote:

>The lethality of a virus has little or nothing to do with the potential
>public >health problem.

It's only in a world of theories that the lethality of a virus has little
or nothing to do with the potential public health problem. In this case you
can add the high lethality of Ebola Zaire to USAMRIID's assessment that the
Reston strain has showed airborne potential just outside Washington D.C.
And when you have done that, then take a moment to consider the recent
USAMRIID study that shows airborne potential for Ebola Zaire.

If it was just a lethal virus hiding forever in the deep forest where
nobody lived - Yes, then you might be right. But, Richard Preston is, in my
opinion, correct in his observation that Ebola is a virus trying to break
out - out
of the jungle, out of the monkey species, and out of Africa...

>For example, diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease are lethal, but
>they >are not of concern to the population as a whole because they're not
>>particularly infectious.

Maybe you should read something more recent than Jane Austen's "The History
of England"?

For the population in the U.K. and for more than 20 nations that are now
banning British beef it seems to be a concern with Creutfeldt-Jakob
disease. You can read about it in the British Medical Journal, Vol.311,
November 25, 1995, Nature, Vol 378, 21/28 Dec.1995 and on proMED. In BMJ a
range of professionals are discussing how likely they think it is that
cattle affected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy could be responsible
for cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in farmers and among a few
teenagers. Some experts believe that the outbreak of "Mad Cow disease"
could led to an epidemic of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Others (see the
Nature article) don't think that BSE can jump species,
from cattle to human, and that the risks are overexaggerated. Personally, I
agree with Paul Brown, neurology expert from NIH: "The jury is still out".

>The worst case for an Ebola virus outbreak would be the appearence of the
>>disease in an urban center in the third world, where identification and
>>isolation of patients is difficult. Well, pay close attention: That's
>pretty >much what happened in Zaire, and if you'll notice the world is
>still alive.

Gee whiz,to quote Ed Regis. That's a good case scenario for Ebola - except
for those who died and their families! Kikwit '95 was not even a worst case
scenario for Zaire, Africa or the third world. And, believe me, I'm not at
all suprised that the world is still alive - but I'm suprised that you and
some others are so sure that Ebola will stay in the third world.

A worst case scenario for the authorities in the U.S.is an outbreak of
highly lethal airborne Ebola in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles.
That's a real worst case scenario that CDC and USAMRIID are working to

In your post, you said:

>Look, nobody argues that we should not be paying attention to emerging
>But you've lost sight of the diseases that have already emerged.

>No realistic mutation you can propose for filoviruses can make it a worse
>killer than any of these diseases.  (Measles, Rabies, and TB.)

>It helps to understand which diseases are more important.

You're correct that we shouldn't ignore bacterial diseases just because
there are viruses.  We shouldn't ignore any health threats.  *This*
discussion just happens to be about Ebola.

USAMRIID's experts have demonstrated "fatal aerosol transmission" of Ebola
Zaire in monkeys and are emphasizing "the importance of taking appropriate
precautions to prevent its potential aerosol transmission to humans".  That
could well be worse than measles.

However, why set one disease against another as though it were a
competition?  *All* of these things are worthy of consideration.  In *this*
discussion, we are talking about scenarios that haven't happened yet, but
risk assessment is a valid pursuit.  This doesn't take anything away from
the seriousness of things which have already happened.

>Everybody on this newsgroup agrees that virology funding should be increased.

I don't think so. Ed Regis have already answered you that he can't agree "to
any such blank statement to the effect that 'virology funding should be

>Until it is, let's use our knowledge to identify true menaces, not the
>flavour >of the month.

Yes, let's agree on that one.

Hans Andersson, NYC
hasse at panix.com

Hans Andersson, NYC
hasse at panix.com

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