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Ebola: a quick question

matukonis meghan mmatuk1 at gl.umbc.edu
Wed Apr 30 18:01:28 EST 1997


On 30 Apr 1997, Megan wrote:

> At 11:00 PM 4/29/97 -0400, Michael Osier wrote:
> >Nanda Somarajan wrote:
> >>         You would think that the whole nation would be in an outbreak,
> >> but for some reason, it is not. 
> >
> >from what I understand, the virus is so quick to kill its host that it
> >"burns itself out"...if a virus spreads slowly, undetected, and without
> >killing the host, it will be easier for the virus to become
> >widespread...for instance, HIV kills its host relatively slowly (years
> >vs days)...often it has years of infectivity where it shows no major
> >effects on the host, and is therefore unable to be detected without
> >antibody tests...except for the later stages, one can't look at someone
> >and tell if they are HIV positive...
> >
> 
> This is true, however it does not answer the question originally posed.  WHY
> ARE WE NOT SEEING AN OUTBREAK OF EBOLA IN ZAIRE?  Not just no infection of
> American troops, and not just because the people avoid the infected person
> (which, incidentally, they do not do nearly enough - I recall that a good
> many of the people who died last time were caring for sick people and caught
> the virus).
> 
> In this time of mass migration, movement of hundreds and thousands of people
> through the forest, where it is presumed a natural vector would live, why
> are we not seeing anyone in Zaire with ebola?  It is a very interesting
> question, and I sincerely hope we are not answered with an outbreak.  The
> people there are having a hard enough time without Ebola.  But the question
> remains, why are we not having an outbreak, and where is the virus hiding.
> The people in the forests of Zaire right now are probably hungry, and eating
> anything that they can - something there must carry ebola.  How much longer
> can this crisis go on before we do get an outbreak?  And this time, it is
> not likely to be so easily contained, with people moving rapidly, and a war
> going on.  There are few services in place that are capable of containing it
> if it does show.
> 
> Any ideas why we havent seen it?  any thoughts as to when we might?
> 
> Megan Igo
> megan at ucla.edu
> 
> >if a virus rapidly displays symptoms, it loses this protection, as
> >people stay away from the infected person, etc...
> >
> >hope this helps
> >Og
> >
> >----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Michael Osier = mosier at moose.uvm.edu | "He is not well rounded who does
> >http://mole.uvm.edu/~mosier/         | not have an equally keen interest
> >BS Biochemical Science - UVM         | in all of the things within the
> >Yale University                      | compass of painting."
> >Human Genetics             - Og      | Leonardo da Vinci
> >
> 
Megan,

	As far as I understood, although Ebola only has an incubation
period of days (14 if I remember correctly) as opposed to years for HIV,
it is much more easily transferred from one person to another.  The
strains that have been found to be pathenogenic to humans, have been able
to be transferred by nearly any bodily fluid, including sweat, saliva,
etc.  This makes any person within a reseanable distance in danger of
being infected. In some cases the blood of a dead person have been found
to hold still potent viruses for more than 48 hours after death.  The
Reston strain, although non-pathenogenic to humans, was proven to travel
via air like the influenza virus.  If the Zaire or Ivory Coast strains
were to mutate so that they could be transferred via air yet still
retained there pathogenicity, we would be in a terrible predicament
indeed.  
	there are so many theories on what the carrier for the virus is,
but some have noticed a pattern of an outbreak every other rainy season,
which I believe is around September or October.  Although this pattern may
narrow the scope of searching, it still does not give virologists that
information.  Maybe the current war and excessive movement possibly scares
the animal or whatever the carrier might be back into isolation, and thus
possibly explain the lack of an outbreak.  Hopefully, one day I will be
able to conduct field research on this subject, for it is what I want to
do with my life.  Any other ideas on why there has been no outbreak?

							--Meg




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