The chorus of U.S. health officials constantly reassuring the public that Ebola can't transmit through the air is quickly tailing off, as virologists and other disease experts say "not so fast." Health experts know very little about the nature of the Ebola strain now in circulation, they say, and it appears as though the current iteration of the disease is much more virulent than previously believed.
Dr. C.J. Peters, a former researcher who worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study Ebola's transmissibility in humans, is just one of many who now say that airborne transmission of Ebola can't be ruled out as an impossibility. There simply isn't enough data to suggest otherwise, he says.
Dr. Philip K. Russell, a virologist who helped oversee Ebola research at the U.S. Army's Medical Research and Development Command, agrees. He helped stockpile massive amounts of the smallpox vaccine following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and now says that the government's flippant approach to dealing with Ebola is "dogmatic" and "ill-advised."
"I see the reasons to dampen down public fears," he told the Los Angeles Times, warning that, as the virus is subjected to mutations each time it replicates and gets passed from human to human, the potential for alterations in virulence and transmission increases.
"Scientifically [speaking], we're in the middle of the first experiment of multiple, serial passages of Ebola virus in man…. God knows what this virus is going to look like. I don't."
CDC admits to relying on antiquated 1970s science in assessment of Ebola outbreak
Responding to this, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told the media that his agency is merely following what was discovered about the virus back in 1976, as well as any new developments in the interim. But these developments, as explained by University of Minnesota Professor Lisa M. Brosseau, Sc.D., in a recent editorial, are still based on flawed theories about infectious disease transmission.
Even if Ebola can't truly go airborne, transmission is still possible through the air via aerosols. According to Brosseau, the way infectious disease experts look at the aerosol potential for disease spread today is based on outmoded scientific theories that fail to recognize the variances in small- and large-particle transfer.
"Modern research, using more sensitive instruments and analytic methods, has shown that aerosols emitted from the respiratory tract contain a wide distribution of particle sizes–including many that are small enough to be inhaled," she explained. "Thus, both small and large particles will be present near an infectious person."
CDC lying to public about safety screening in West Africa
The CDC is sticking with the official narrative, though, insisting that its existing protocols are adequate for containing the disease. The agency also claims that security screening at West African airports is working just fine, even though at least one infected traveler, the Dallas Ebola victim, has been confirmed as breaching it.
"It is highly unlikely that someone would acknowledge having a fever, or simply feeling unwell," stated Kim Beer, a resident of Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, to the media. Beer's statements refer to CDC claims that 100 percent of passengers traveling out of the country are being effectively screened.
The White House has announced that it is now conducting a review of existing airport screening methods to see if they're actually effective. But Lisa Monaco, an assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism to both Obama and CDC Director Tom Frieden, reiterated the administration's position that it does not plan to restrict travel to and from the affected countries.
To learn more about how to prepare for a potential Ebola crisis here in the U.S., be sure to check out: BioDefense.com.
Written by Jonathan Benson
Featured image: USARAF team helping fight Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Credit: USARAF (CC via Flickr)
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