To get started, let’s take a little trip back in time on JB’s personal lifeline that plays into the growing threat of Ebola here in the U.S. of A.
As a High-School lad, I had the enjoyment of getting employment at Ft. Detrick in my hometown of Frederick, Maryland. The base was previously an R&D facility with world-class labs, containment facilities and every other necessary infrastructure for the military’s biological and chemical warfare development. The bio/chem warfare business was shuttered in 1969, just a few years before I was there. I got a good recommendation from a high-school instructor of mine and was accepted into what was first a summer jobs program that later turned into a regular part-time job during my Junior and Senior High School years. I was assigned to the Post Engineer’s office and an Engineering Technician/Draftsmen intern, filling a desperately needed position in the Design Branch.
The base was being converted rapidly into a multi-faceted facility for civilian agencies to conduct medical research using the existing infrastructure with some modifications. My assignment involved researching the numerous buildings on post and updating as needed the blueprints in order for the new lease holders to determine their suitability. Naturally, since my work involved entering many buildings that had been decontaminated due to their previous use, we had to obtain various inoculations for some of the nasty little bugs the military had been playing with. We reported to the base hospital which is actually USAMRIID. Our gentle readers might recall the movie “Outbreak” that featured a team of doctors from this facility attempting to save a small town from an outbreak of a disease that greatly resembled Ebola in it’s symptoms. At the time I learned that the hospital/research center was deeply involved in research of what was then called “Monkey Fever” due to it’s extremely high mortality rate. I’m quite certain that they were just beginning to investigate what would become to be known as Ebola and it’s somewhat nicer cousin, the “Marburg” virus and other hemorrhagic fevers all known commonly as filoviruses, which are single RNA genome strands.
The mandatory read for anyone interested in Ebola and it’s variants are outlined in great detail in the non-fiction book “The Hot Zone” by Author Richard Preston. The book details an actual outbreak of the Ebola virus in Reston, Virginia, fortunately the strain did not cross-species into humans. When I read the book, I was surprised to see some names mentioned at USAMRIID that were actual long-time friends and members of our church back home.
I’m not rambling on here, just providing some background to what has apparently come to pass. Ebola has arrived on our shores, infected humans and from what I’ve been able to gather the one thing most feared by the CDC and USAMRIID is that it could mutate into an airborne vector and jump into humans. Make no mistake about this virus friends, this is so far the nastiest bug the world has ever seen with a mortality rate in the upper 90% range. In contrast, The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 had a mortality rate of 10-20%. Until now it hadn’t broken out into larger population centers because the outbreaks have been limited to remote western African villages and those infected are killed by it so fast that they just haven’t had the time to make it to any larger population centers and hospitals.
Now, on the bright side, by all indications the experimental treatment with the drug ZMapp has been nearly miraculous (but it’s true efficacy is not proven as of yet) against what is apparently a strain of Ebola Zaire (read the Hot Zone for the rest of the variants of the virus). The issue is that we have no facilities capable of producing the drug in quantities that would be needed in an outbreak into the general populace.
Now the good news, like most viruses, outside it’s host, the bug is rather easy to kill. Standard bio-hazard precautions are adequate with some additional measures, solely related to the high mortality rate of the Ebola virus. Most modern hospitals are equipped to deal with highly infectious diseases, but with this nasty bastich which has an incubation period of 8-10 days within (before early symptoms are manifested) the host that makes it a bitch before someone exposed may realize that what they have is more than just the flu or a bad cold, and depending on the individual, many others could be exposed during the period between exposure, however it still appears that direct contact with bodily fluids are the only vectors involved.
Let’s get to the meat of this post. This is a nasty disease and it’s possible that our sworn enemies, ISIS in particular may use the porous southern border to infiltrate infected persons to bring about a general outbreak of the disease, as many of the illegals are now being flown to various parts of the country and L_rd knows how many folks can be exposed.
Is it time to panic…..the answer is no, but a bit of research into this critter is in order for all of us. How to avoid contact with possible carriers and what simple precautions to use to prevent bringing it home to our families, friends and other loved ones.
Stay informed, and keep up the pressure in the upcoming elections for candidates that are fully committed to closing our borders to this potential horrific pestilence.