Saturday, November 17, 2012

Could Ebola now be airborne? New research shows lethal virus can be spread from pigs to monkeys without contact

Fears are growing that the most lethal form of the Ebola virus can mutate into an airborne pathogen, making the spread of the terrifying disease more difficult to check. It was previously thought the untreatable virus, which causes massive internal bleeding and multiple organ failure, could only be transmitted through contact with infected blood.
 Deadly: The Ebola virus, which causes fever-like symptoms, usually followed by organ failure and unstoppable bleeding, and eventually death

Deadly: The Ebola virus, which causes fever-like symptoms, usually followed by organ failure and unstoppable bleeding, and eventually death. New research shows that it could be transmitted through the air

But now Canadian researchers have carried out experiments showing how monkeys can catch the deadly disease from infected pigs without coming into direct contact. 'Our findings support the hypothesis that airborne transmission may contribute to spread, specifically from pigs to primates, and may need to be considered in assessing transmission from animals to humans in general,' they said. The findings come as scores of people in Uganda were yesterday isolated to prevent the spread of a new Ebola outbreak that has already killed three in the country.

Ebola cause fatal haemorrhagic fevers in humans and many other species of non-human primates. It was first reported in 1976 in Congo and is named for the river where it was recognized. There is no cure or vaccine for it. The illness is 'characterised by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pain,' according to the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'A rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients.' The virus is known to be transmitted through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person, or objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
 Highly contagious: A Medicins Sans Frontieres team prepares to move eight Ebola patients from a government isolation ward to a newly installed MSF ward in Bundibugyo during a 2007 outbreak

Highly contagious: A Medicins Sans Frontieres team prepares to move eight Ebola patients from a government isolation ward to a newly installed MSF ward in Bundibugyo during a 2007 outbreak


Ebola is thought to be introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found dead or ill in the rainforest.
Once infected individuals return to their communities, Ebola spreads through human-to-human transmission resulting from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people.
Health-care workers have frequently been infected and must wear gloves, masks and goggles while treating patients suffering from Ebola.
The viral haemorrhagic fever Ebola causes is often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. 
This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding, and eventually death. 
Severe cases require intensive supportive care. No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola, although several vaccines are in development.
It is often spread during communal funerals where there has been an outbreak when the bereaved come into contact with an Ebola victim. In some cases, it can trigger organ failure and unstoppable bleeding, killing a previously healthy adult within days. One of the deadliest diseases known, it has killed two-thirds of the roughly 1,850 people who have been diagnosed with it. Experts say this extreme virulence is its weak spot. The virus can be contained because it kills its victims faster than it can spread to new ones. However, if the disease is now airborne it could make containment more difficult.

 Source: Daily Mail UK

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