New York Times: Some May Carry Ebola Without Showing Any Symptoms

Is the “Conventional Wisdom” All Wrong?

The New York Times reported in 2000:

The Ebola virus, which has caused deaths from high fever and bleeding in African outbreaks, can also infect without producing illness, according to a new finding by African and European scientists.

The possibility of asymptomatic infection was only suggested in earlier studies, they said in last week’s issue of The Lancet, a medical journal published in London. Now they said they had documented such infections for the first time. They found that the Ebola virus could persist in the blood of asymptomatic infected individuals for two weeks after they were first exposed to an infected individual. How much longer the virus can persist is unknown.

***

If people can be carriers without showing symptoms, it means control might be more difficult.

“This degree of containment would be virtually impossible if symptom-free carriers posed a significant threat of infection,” Dr. Alan G. Baxter of Newtown, Australia, wrote in an editorial in the same issue of The Lancet.

***

An immediate effect is to raise the need to reassess health policy about one of the most virulent viruses known and to determine how often healthy carriers transmit it, said the scientific team headed by Dr. E. M. Leroy of Franceville, Gabon.

***

Dr. Leroy’s team studied 25 individuals who never developed symptoms although they lived with family members and cared for them without using gloves and other precautions in two outbreaks in Gabon in 1996.

Using standard virologic techniques, the scientists from Gabon, Germany and France said they could not detect the virus in the blood of the healthy contacts. But Dr. Leroy’s succeeded by using a technique known as polymerase chain reaction to grow the tiny amount of virus present.

Here is the study published in Lancet.  And here is the editor’s comment.

The Lancet study does not warn of an apocalyptic scenario where any casual contact could cause infection. It is more focused on contagion through sex or blood transfusions.

But Western governments and scientists have repeatedly said that Ebola carriers can only infect others if they are showing symptoms.  So they need to adjust their strategies to account for potential contagion from people who aren’t showing any symptoms.

Aerosol Transmission

Two national experts on infectious disease transmission – both professors in the School of Public Health, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, at the University of Illinois at Chicago – report that Ebola can be transmitted by aerosols … i.e. fluids mixed with air (footnotes omitted):

We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks. [Aerosols are liquids or small particles suspended in air. An example is sea spray:  seawater suspended in air bubbles, created by the force of the surf mixing water with air.]

The important points are that virus-laden bodily fluids may be aerosolized and inhaled while a person is in proximity to an infectious person and that a wide range of particle sizes can be inhaled and deposited throughout the respiratory tract.

***

Being at first skeptical that Ebola virus could be an aerosol-transmissible disease, we are now persuaded by a review of experimental and epidemiologic data that this might be an important feature of disease transmission, particularly in healthcare settings.

***

Many body fluids, such as vomit, diarrhea, blood, and saliva, are capable of creating inhalable aerosol particles in the immediate vicinity of an infected person. Cough was identified among some cases in a 1995 outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and coughs are known to emit viruses in respirable particles. The act of vomiting produces an aerosol and has been implicated in airborne transmission of gastrointestinal viruses. Regarding diarrhea, even when contained by toilets, toilet flushing emits a pathogen-laden aerosol that disperses in the air.

***

There is also some experimental evidence that Ebola and other filoviruses can be transmitted by the aerosol route. Jaax et alreported the unexpected death of two rhesus monkeys housed approximately 3 meters from monkeys infected with Ebola virus, concluding that respiratory or eye exposure to aerosols was the only possible explanation.

Zaire Ebola viruses have also been transmitted in the absence of direct contact among pigsand from pigs to non-human primates, which experienced lung involvement in infection. Persons with no known direct contact with Ebola virus disease patients or their bodily fluids have become infected.

***

Experimental studies have demonstrated that it is possible to infect non-human primates and other mammals with filovirus aerosols. [Ebola is a type of filovirus]

Altogether, these epidemiologic and experimental data offer enough evidence to suggest that Ebola and other filoviruses may be opportunistic with respect to aerosol transmission. That is, other routes of entry may be more important and probable, but, given the right conditions, it is possible that transmission could also occur via aerosols.

In other words, these two infectious disease experts believe that Ebola is already – in its current form – transmissible via aerosols.  They therefore urge all doctors and nurses working with Ebola patients to wear respirators.

We need to understand how Ebola is really spread, and then take appropriate counter-measures.

Ebola Is Mutating

In addition, Ebola is mutating.   The discoverer of the disease (Dr. Peter Piot) said last week:

It is clear that the virus is mutating.

Indeed, top doctors say that – unless contained – it could eventually mutate to become airborne.

And the Washington Post notes that terrorists could use Ebola as a bio-weapon. The longer the outbreak rages, the more likely such a scenario becomes.

We Need a World War 2, Marshall Plan or Moon Landing Level Effort to Stop This

According to American nurses, the U.S. healthcare system is woefully unprepared to handle Ebola.

We need an effort on the scale of World War 2, the Marshall Plan or the moon shot to contain and eradicate this modern plague.

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  • jadan

    So, we begin quarantine policy when evidence indicates Ebola spreads via aerosols. We also prove that asymptomatic individuals can be vectors for the virus. How do we identify and isolate these individuals from the herd? Is it even possible? We shut the country down, restrict air travel, stop public gatherings. Public gatherings to promote sale of war bonds was a big factor in the spread the of flu circa 1918. No more rock concerts, political events, church attendance. Other countries will adopt similar policies. Down goes the global economy. Down go the national economies built on global trade. Git on down, down , down you savage capitalism!

    Friends & neighbors, we can’t imagine what it’s going to be like if this disease spreads and cannot be contained by present lackadaisical means. Our world will change radically for the worse. There is currently a global plague of radionuclides in our environment emanating from Japan without let up since 2011. This is a subtle poisoning that sabotages the immune response first of all. Can you spell population reduction?

    There are multiple sources for disaster that can shut down our world quickly, as with a solar shot, or an EMP pulse, or less quickly with the slow moving death that is the promise of nuclear power. Let’s hope that our minds get marvelously focused and we come up with some policies to mitigate the crazy risk on which our way of life is built. Good-bye laissez faire capitalism. Hello democratic socialism.

    • sharpin la

      The whole point is to get to totalitarian control by a centralized body. As always happens it will fail. Evil men can’t control men and eliminate evil.

  • kimyo

    why did norad stand down with hijacked flights in the air on 9/11?

    why is the cdc standing down today?

    why is it so important to them to keep flights going in and out of west africa?

    the trigger for the making of the 9/11 movie posted here recently was the observation that the secret service wasn’t in any particular hurry to get president bush to safety after the first plane hit.

    perhaps the cdc isn’t worried cause they know exactly how it’s going to go down.

    • jadan

      With living organisms, I don’t believe it is possible to predict their behavior accurately. I’m open to being educated. It’s one thing to demolish some buildings with secret super weapons and another to control a virus IMHO. The greatest enemy of the people who imagine they run our world is lack of control. Chemical and bio weapons are banned not from altruism, but because they threaten the perps who like to have their wars tidy and under control.

      • kimyo

        if the virus deployed has a horrifically high death rate, then it will be possible to predict the behavior accurately. a sign that such an agent is in play would be if the majority of deaths are confined to one or two metro areas.

        cnn will call it ebola as they give us 24/7 coverage of face chewing zombie armies. but the strain of ebola circulating today is a terribly inefficient tool if you’re trying to manipulate a population.

        for the most ‘effective’ results, you need something which will inflict maximum damage and then burn itself out. that way you don’t get 30+ nuclear plants flaming out. that way you get to keep all the flights going. the tv will intone somberly about the ‘miracle’ of zmapp and the heroes at gsk who saved us yet again.

  • sharpin la

    So terrorists could use an airborne Ebola virus…created in a bioweapons lab. The fact that it is lab produced already makes it a method of terror.

  • What Isgoingon

    Why do I feel as if I’m living in a Prequel of the Walking Dead?

  • Kevin Worldsavior

    Don’t worry – I got the Ebola and any other viruses and bio-weapons devastating destroyer – Once everybody (kids and adults) start doing my Virus/Cancer Killer for a minute a day, any viruses, bio-weapons, cancers, diabetes and strokes will be killed the moment they touch us and by that made absolutely none-existent for everyone of us – To disclose my magic Virus/Cancer Destroyer (just an exercise for a minute a day) and rid the world of any diseases, I gotta be paid 50 billion EURO for the whole world – In any case becoming equals to Gods – never getting sick of any diseases even for a second, has its price, doesn’t it? But don’t forget – my Virus/Cancer Destroyer is the only escape on Earth for everybody from the imminent Ebola apocalypse.