Ebola: This is Not "Over"
but not for the reasons you might think
The Ugandan government declared the Ebola emergency “over” on Sept 29, 2022 . So why is the US government NOW screening passengers? What do they know that Uganda is not telling us?
Well, lots of things. First -off let’s review the news stories about this outbreak. Of interest, was that I tried to find information about this current outbreak late in September and could find nothing new.
This is what came up.
Reuters, Sept 27, 2022
KINSHASA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo has declared the end of its latest Ebola virus outbreak in the eastern province of North Kivu, Health Minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani Mbanda said in a statement on Tuesday.
The fifteenth outbreak in the central African country emerged when a new case of the deadly virus was confirmed in the eastern city of Beni on Aug. 22.
Testing showed the case was genetically linked to the 2018-2020 outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which killed nearly 2,300 people.
Evidently the World Health Organization, who are actually doing their job this time, didn’t agree with the Ugandan assessment of the situation. They came out with this briefing two days ago.
World Health Organization, 5 October 2022
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.
First to Uganda, where WHO is continuing to support the government to respond to an outbreak of Ebola disease in four districts.
So far, 63 confirmed and probable cases have been reported, including 29 deaths.Ten health workers have been infected, and four have died. Four people have recovered and are receiving follow-up care.
WHO has released US$2 million from our Contingency Fund for Emergencies, and we’re working with our partners to support the Ministry of Health by sending additional specialists, supplies, and resources.
When there is a delay in detecting an Ebola outbreak, it is normal for cases to increase steadily at the beginning and then decrease as life-saving interventions and outbreak control measures are implemented.
The vaccines used successfully to curb recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are not effective against the type of Ebola virus that is responsible for this outbreak in Uganda.
However, several vaccines are in various stages of development against this virus, two of which could begin clinical trials in Uganda in the coming weeks, pending regulatory and ethics approvals from the Ugandan government.
The assessment from the World Health Organization caused the US Government to rightly be concerned. They immediately began screening passengers coming from these regions for symptoms and a history of whereabouts while in Uganda (“enhanced screening”).
NPR, October 6, 2022
Ugandan health officials declared an Ebola outbreak in several regions in late September. Now, travelers who have been to the African country within 21 days of arriving in the U.S. will be subject to enhanced screening, according to a health alert issued Thursday by the U.S. Embassy in Uganda.
So far, cases from this outbreak have only been detected in Uganda.
Passengers from that country will be routed to one of five airports: New York's John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Chicago O'Hare International or Washington D.C.'s Dulles International. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection are adding new screening measures at the airports.
Ebola virus disease, also referred to as EVD, is passed among humans through direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids or objects and surfaces contaminated with such fluids.
According to the World Health Organization, the average fatality rate for Ebola is about 50%. The WHO says this outbreak appears to have been caused by Sudan virus, which it describes as a "severe, often fatal illness affecting humans." There are currently no approved vaccines or therapeutics for the Sudan ebolavirus.
So, should the US government take this outbreak seriously? Absolutely.
Should people in the USA be worried? Not at this time.
As the route of infection is limited to “infected person's bodily fluids or objects and surfaces contaminated with such fluids,” it is hard to see how this or other Ebola outbreaks in Africa could be a significant threat in the USA at this time. Particularly, as there aren’t any cases in the USA and the outbreak in Uganda appears limited in scope.
Hypothetically - if at some point, the virus were to mutate and become more virulent and be able to infect through the respiratory tract, or tweaked in gain of function research or be accidentally released or be used as a biological weapon -then that would be cause for real worry. More than worry - a global emergency. But this is not the case now.
During the 2014 outbreak, modelers for the Department of Defense and in the UK made exaggerated predictions based on the assumption of respiratory spread (which was false), this created a state of heightened emergency from our government, media and the World Health Organization. This type of over reaction is not helpful either.
However, creating situations for aerosolizing Ebola or creating Ebola gain-of-function aerosolized adapted variants seems to be courting disaster. And yet, research using aerosolized Ebola with the reason being that Ebola could be weaponized is ongoing. Some of the published peer reviewed papers documenting how this research is being carried out are below.
Viruses. 2022 Apr 9;14(4):780. doi: 10.3390/v14040780.
Viruses 2021 Nov 17;13(11):2297. doi: 10.3390/v13112297.
Vet Pathol. 2013 May;50(3):514-29. doi: 10.1177/0300985812469636.Epub 2012 Dec 23.
Risk Anal 2020 Nov;40(11):2390-2398. doi: 10.1111/risa.13551. Epub 2020 Jul 7.
In my opinion, there is absolutely no good reason to be aerosolizing Ebola in a laboratory situation. The risks are significant.
In 2016, an opinion piece in CIDRAP discussed the outcomes of a NAS meeting held to discuss how to conduct gain of function research.
A meeting at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) this week presents a tangible opportunity to spell out concrete steps for research that alters pathogens—and we mustn't let it pass by. We offer several approaches for moving forward.
These are the six approaches for moving forward with gain of function research suggested by the NAS.
“Six possible approaches”
Lift the moratorium on GOFoc
Seek international consensus
Secure national and international agreement to restrict the performance of GOFoc studies
Designate a board
Establish clear red lines for GOFoc research
Require the purchase by research institutions of specific liability insurance policies to cover GOFoc research (This last one just blows me away. The idea that a research institution should just buy insurance in case there is a lab leak -and hypothetically millions of people die? Make me wonder, do you think the Wuhan lab has liability insurance?).
So there you have it. In 2016, the NAS- this is an organization that acts as the mouthpiece of our government- gave the green light for gain of function research. Note that the option to NOT conduct gain of function research is NOT in the “list.” They did this directly after Pres. Obama left office, who had put a temporary stop to such research, due to its risky nature. This gave cover for Dr. Fauci, the NIAID, DTRA and the NIH to ignore the ban on gain-of-function research and continue with this research. As we now know, that is how SARS-CoV-2 was created and then accidentally released on the Chinese people. At least we hope it was accident. If the National Academy of Science had not condoned gain of function research, would the Wuhan lab have been funded? Probably not.
Given what we know about the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 gain-of-function research and yes, it is still ongoing, I believe we can assume that such research is also being conducted with the Ebola virus. This is downright frightening and we deserve answers. What gain of function research on Ebola is being conducted? What about other lethal pathogens?
Frankly, I am more worried about the potential of a biological weapon or lab leak of a variant that is adapted for humans to be spread by aerosol infection than I am of wild-type Ebola being spread by human to human contact in Africa.
Gain of function research and aerosolization of pathogens is dangerous and unsafe and must be stopped globally. It is time for the United Nations to step up and do their job. We need a new biological weapons treaty.
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