Ebola: Virus whose very name strikes fear in every nation on earth
Ebola is indeed a rare and deadly virus caused by infection with a strain of Ebola virus, among the strains, the Zaire strain is known to be the deadliest. It was first recorded some 50 years ago although there are some disputes that suggest the virus had been detected many decades ago, may be even more than 100+ years ago.
In the United States, a public-health horror incident shook up the authorities when they expected an outbreak of this wildly deadly virus near the nation's capital city, Washington D.C. back in 1989. During this incident, multiple people tested positive and the authorities had no idea how to contain nor how to treat such a deadly virus.
In an office park building (child care facility on Isaac Newton Square) in Reston, Virginia near Dulles International Airport, not far from Washington D.C., a team of U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID) responded to the 1989 Ebola outbreak to contain this hyper-deadly Zaire strain that had killed thousands of people, even entire villages, in Africa.
The building in Reston a group of primates (monkeys) shipped into the U.S. for research were quarantined by a private company, Hazelton Research Products, before being delivered to laboratories across the country. But the monkeys started dying. And as it turned out, they were dying from Ebola.
One irony of the Zaire strain of Ebola is that it is so deadly that it kills its victims so fast and so efficiently, that no one is left alive to transmit the disease to others. This is the only reason why more people have not died of this strain, since the incubation period is so quick, it spreads very slowly since contaminated people don’t live long enough and hence cannot come in contact with others to infect them.
Initial evaluation of the African experience by the Army scientists in 1989 revealed that the Zaire strain of Ebola is expected to have a 90 percent fatality rate in United States, despite our advanced medical facilities, as compared to Africa. This was quite alarming since four workers at the quarantine facility in Reston had tested positive for exposure to the virus and there was no way of knowing if they had contaminated others prior to quarantine.
Army scientists and medical experts with access to advanced laboratory research facilities conducted many tests and eventually realized they were dealing with a different strain, than the Zaire strain. It was concluded that the virus is one that does not harm humans. They called this strain, Reston strain.
The Zaire strain (and its sister Marburg strain), Sudan strain, Tai Forest strain, and Bundibgyo strain are all known to be deadly to humans as opposed to the Ebola Reston. All strains (including Reston) are filoviruses (fever, liver attack, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and shock), distinguished under a microscope by their rope-like features, often with hooks, crooks or squiggles.
With the exception of Reston, all are deadly, and Ebola Zaire, the strain that is raging through Sierra Leone, Liberia and all of Guinea in West Africa, is indeed the worst with about 90% fatality.
Although the Reston looks very similar under a microscope to the Zaire strain, Ebola-Reston is the only one of the five Ebola strains that are not harmful to humans. Any of the four other strains of Ebola, and the incident would have ended with completely different results, may be even very devastating outbreak. Many scientists admit: we were lucky it was Reston strain.
Many years have passed since 1989, but the ugly head of Ebola has risen once again:
The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, affecting multiple countries in West Africa. The risk of an Ebola spreading is quite real, although still somewhat low. What we do know now (which was incorrectly misdiagnosed back in 1989), is that Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood and body fluids of a person already showing symptoms of Ebola, and cannot spread through the air, water, food, or mosquitoes.
Medical research facilities are far more advanced today than back in 1989. Today, we have access to many types of antiviral drugs and excellent research staff with incredible experience and knowledge working inside advanced automated laboratories. Ebola is real, no doubt. But given capability and capacity of Ebola verses our medical and scientific infrastructure, I would not worry too much nor lose sleep over Ebola spreading in U.S. or having the ability to harm our population. The protocols in place will, in my opinion, protect our population from an Ebola epidemic.
However, strains are known for constantly changing, adapting – and some even go airborne. If Ebola does go airborne and can spread through the air or water, then that is a whole different ballgame. Let’s hope it never does. To make sure we can eliminate the threat, we have to kill it by investing in the eradication of Ebola at its source – and that is, by investing in medical facilities in Africa. This is much cheaper, than waiting for the virus to get over here and then trying to fight it or stopping it from spreading. Our tax Dollars would be wisely spent if our government decided to fight and kill the virus over there rather than wait to fight it over here when it’s lose among the population.