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10/14/14

A Primer on Ebola


With Ebola blowing up in the headlines, WHO projecting 10K infections/week by December and an apparent 70% mortality rate, longtime reader JeepBoy was kind enough to send in some background and info.

Hope this is helpful in answering questions you may have. 

From JeepBoy1991:

I feel I really should post this due to all the half ­truths and outright falsehoods being spread on many websites about Ebola. I am NOT an expert but I am a reasonably knowledgeable individual on the subject. I have a BS as a Medical Technologist (this qualifies me to work in a hospital lab) and a BS in Microbiology. Not a Masters degree, not a PHD, just a Bachelor's of Science degree. I worked 8 years in hospital labs, then 19 years as a chemist with the state department of health. I followed the various Ebola outbreaks since back in the early 1980s.

Ebola is a filo-virus, and is an odd duck even for viruses which are really strange at times. OK this is the c­a­t spells cat version of virology (I'm really just hitting the basics here). Viruses contain a strand of DNA or RNA that they "inject" into a cell after the virus particle invades the body. This strand of DNA or RNA uses the cell's own DNA repair mechanisms to "hijack" the cell and to reproduce more virus particles, consuming the cell's resources until the cell bursts (lyses) and releases the virus particles to continue the process.


Many people misunderstand what is meant by airborne transmission of a disease causing organism. Medical lingo is like Lawyer lingo, words mean specific things. Airborne transmission means something like a person in office 7C gets "the flu" and three days later a person down the hall, around the corner in office 23F gets the same bug because it is spread throughout the building by the air conditioning system.

This is different from a virus that is spread by body fluid contact. Body fluids can be spread a considerable distance by aerosol (coughing and sneezing) but this is a different medical term than airborne. Too many people are confusing airborne and aerosol, they are different.

Ebola has several known strains, Reston, Marburg, Zaire, Sudan, and a few others I cannot remember off the top of my head. One strain, Ebola Reston IS known to be airborne transmission. This is the strain talked about in the book THE HOT ZONE that took place in Reston, VA in the primate research facility. This strain can infect people but it has NO harmful effects on people. You do not even know you have it. For some reason it is not a species jumper like the other strains.

The other strains ARE species jumpers and do have harmful effects on people (massive understatement, what hemorrhagic fever does to the human body is truly horrible ). Fortunately, the strains that affect people are only spread by body fluid contact. These fluids can contain viable (infectious) particles for a considerable length of time, under perfect conditions for at least several days. Proper sanitation methods as practiced in the western world will do an excellent job of containing an outbreak, simply wiping down surfaces with disinfectant will get most if not all of the virus particles on surfaces. More on this later.

The reason that Ebola gets to epidemic stages in sub-Saharan Africa is due to the near total lack of Western levels of sanitation and hospital care in these areas and the funeral practices in these countries. The family of the deceased cleans and prepares the body for burial. This almost always leads to the family being infected.

Now to getting infected with Ebola and what it does to you. It does not take many virus particles to infect you, in theory only one is needed but usually more than that. A bit of information bandied about on the web is that 10 drops of body fluid contains enough Ebola to infect 10,000 people. True in theory but not in practice.

One mililiter of Botulism toxin can in theory wipe out half of New York city but in reality.... you have to eat Botulism and getting that one mililiter broken down and spread in that much food to affect half of New York is a different story. It makes for great headlines but isn't really accurate.

When you get infected with Ebola, the first thing that happens is the virus enters your cells and begins to reproduce by hijacking the cell processes. During this time, your body is beginning to produce more virus particles and at SOME point, you begin to shed virus particles in body fluids. You DO shed virus particles BEFORE you start to show the first symptoms.

The CDC annoucements that say you are not infectious until you show symptoms are NOT ACCURATE and anyone who has taken a single virology class will know this. Why the CDC is spreading this deliberate falsehood I do not know.

As the virus spreads to different parts of your body and the amount of virus builds up you begin to show symptoms, starting with fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Please note that these symptoms are not unique to Ebola, they are what you will often get with any number of mild diseases including food poisoning and most Influenza (the "flu") infections. Many people with weakened immune systems can die at this stage before reaching the distinct symptoms of Ebola.

As the infection progresses, the virus invades more and more organs of the body and "takes them over" as I described earlier. This causes the organs to begin to fail as they LITERALLY begin to LIQUIFY as the cells burst releasing more virus particles. In some cases the bones even begin to liquify. This is the final stage of infection and many people die before getting to this stage but by this time you are leaking blood through your skin, vomiting blood and pretty much anything your body is excreting is full of virus particles.

Another thing not discussed much recently: different strains of Ebola have different fatality rates. One of the strains has only a 50% fatality rate, half the people who get it survive. Some of the others have 85­%-90% fatality rates. We do not know why they are different.

The same thing occurs in other viruses, the "Spanish flu" of 1918 killed mostly people in the 20­-40 year old range, while most influenza strains tend to kill the very young and the very old. Scientists have never been able to figure out why. Influenza by itself is rarely fatal, it kills by weakening the body and the body's immune system so you are more susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections. This is why when you go to the doctor with influenza (the"flu"), they send you home with antibiotics. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses such as influenza but do help your body fight off the bacterial or fungal infections that you can get while weakened by influenza.

That is what the Dallas hospital did with "patient zero". Admittedly, the hospital really dropped the ball in this case but I can see how it happened (remember I worked 8 years in hospitals). Several mis­steps and errors had to stack up to get this blunder of sending the man home but this was the emergency room of a hospital and no one was really expecting a case of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever to walk into the ER. The symptoms he was showing are not unique to Ebola and are really quite common to a lot of different illnesses.

Big thanks go out to JeepBoy for the knowledge share! From Alex:
I'd like to add that, while the media is likely to continue to churn out the panic-driven headlines for the foreseeable future, there is not a need to freak out and quarantine yourself up.

Keeping away from sick people, washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face/mouth are some sensible daily precautions.

If the outbreak worsens stateside, expect to see a run on stuff like N95 masks, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer and so on, similar to what happened during the swine flu outbreak back in '09. With Ebola being a lot scarier, expect the reaction to be amped up accordingly.

I wouldn't be surprised to see some quarantining if the outbreak gets bad enough here in the U.S., or at least schools closed, employers telling their people to stay home and so on.

If you're in an a 'hot zone', self-imposing a limited quarantine would be a smart move. If there's a possibility that folks in the general public are stricken with Ebola, avoiding contact with 'em would be a sure ticket to avoiding infection.
Having basic necessities on hand to avoid a trip to the store for a week to a month (which we should all have anyways) would be a wise preparation for such an eventuality.

Got questions? Let us know.

16 comments :

  1. I wouldn't put my faith in hand sanitizer. It can't stop c-diff, let alone ebola. Soap and water or a bleach solution are your cleansing friends.

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    1. Hand sanitizer is not the 99% germ killer they advertise. I got to test some in a microbiology class last summer and they killed more like 45% of bacteria. We tested most household products and peroxide was by far the most affective that wasn't harmful to humans like bleach.

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  2. CHG or Decon DF200 is the way to go if you want to cleanse your hands, items, or body after possible exposure to Ebola....Nothing else is really designed and tested to do so.

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  3. Articles like this are why I read your blog. Excellent information you've just shared. Thanks!

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  4. The WHO has increased the incubation period from 21 to 42 days:

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/ebola/14-october-2014/en/

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  5. I believe the reason the CDC and our government are telling us that it is not contagious until symptoms arise, is that if people believe that it could be anywhere now, they will not go out and work, spend money, or go to school. Effectively slowing the economy drastically, causing them to get less in taxes :)

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  6. I HAD BETTER TRAINING IN HF ACID HAZMAT (LEVEL D FULLY ENCAPSULATED MOON SUIT WITH SCBA) THAN THOSE POOR NURSES. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHERE IS THE PROTOCAL FOR PESONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE). WHY WAS NOT A HOT, WARM, AND COLD ZONE SET UP IN THAT HOSPITAL FOR CONTAINMENT. WHEN DOES QUARANTINE MEAN EXACTLY THAT. THE CDC NEEDS TO PULL ITS COLLECTIVE HEAD OUT OF THE DARKNESS AND QUIT CARRYING BHO'S WATER BECAUSE IT IS CONTAMINATED.

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    1. jeepboy1991October 16, 2014

      In the defense if the hospital in question, they were not expecting an ebola patient to walk in, the emergency room in a major city gets a lot of indigent patients with bad influenza (the "flu") cases as well as general poor health overall so they were not in full hazmat gear. I saw the hospital from both sides (8 years as a hospital worker about 25 years ago and several times in the last 4-5 years after a relapse binge while I was trying to quit drinking)
      Even if the person was vomiting, it was not thought of as a "real" biohazard, just part of the job. you would change your gown and gloves before the next patient. NOW, everything has changed but until we had a "patient zero" in the continental usa (thank you president obastard) there was no reason to expect it.

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    2. MY PROBLEM IS NOT WITH THE HOSPITAL. IT IS WITH THE ADMINISTRATION'S POLITICAL PROPAGANDA. DON'T LIE TO MY FACE AND TELL ME ALL HOSPITALS ARE READY WHEN IT IS CLEAR THAT THEY WERE NOT. DON'T LIE TO ME AND TELL ME TRAVEL BANS ARE NOT EFFECTIVE WHEN 25 AFRICAN COUNTRIES HAVE HAD THEM INPLACE AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER AND THEY DON'T HAVE EBOLA, OR HAVE QUICKLY STOMPED IT OUT. OBAMA'S PERCEPTION OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS SHOULD NOT BE A SUICIDE PACT. FROM ONE PERSON SO FAR TWO. HOW MANY OTHER'S DO WE ASSUME ARE IN THE COUNTRY? OH AND I AM SURE SOME PENTAGON WAR GAMERS ARE CONSIDERING WHAT HAPPENS WHEN JIHAD JOHNNY FIGURES OUT THAT INFECTING HIS/HERSELF WITH EBOLA AND COMING TO THE US COULD POTENTIALLY BE FAR MORE EFFECTIVE THAN ANY DAISY CHAINED IED OR WORLD TRADE CENTER SCENARIO. THE LOGISTICS OF CARE FOR 2 PATIENTS IS MIND BLOWING. THINK 200. COULD WE EVEN HOPE TO TRACK ALL THE CONTACTS. CURRENTLY THESE PEOPLE WANT TREATMENT WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ALLTHEY WANT IS PARADISE AND VIRGINS?

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  7. you guys rock this media hype is all about keeping the sheep in a state of fear driveing those rateings up before this it was antero virus last year swine flu etc . half the people i know on fb think this is some giant conspiracy to start martial law.


    im looking fwd to this blowing over thank you for the informative educational post guys keep the stuff comeing . i wish everyone a good healthy winter and good luck in their preps .


    ( if you hear anything about anything on the news take 5 min research a CREDIBLE !! credible i say again credible source and see if their is any reason to be concerned .

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  8. MY SON IS A NURSE PRACTITIONER IN AN ER IN TEXAS. THE WORD CAME DOWN TODAY ON WHAT THE SPECIFIC PROTICALS WERE. HIS ER HAS BEEN RUNNING DRILLS ALL DAY IN AN EFFORT TO GET AHEAD OF THE LEARNING CURVE WHICH DALLAS LEARNED THE HARD WAY WITH INFECTED NURSES. AND NO, HE DID NOT HAVE RECOMMENDED PPE BEFORE TODAY NOR HAD HE EVER BEEN TRAINED IN IT BEFORE TODAY. NOT HYPE JUST FACT. WHEN I HEAR THE HEAD OF THE CDC SAY THAT EVERY HOSPITAL IN THE COUNTRY WAS READY AND TRAINED I KNOW THAT TO BE A LIE. THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS NO CREDIBILITY NOT, ONE SMIDGEN,

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  9. jeepboy1991October 16, 2014

    feel free to add anything you know that I might have left out or forgotten.
    and BTW my cancer has recurred so I am in a kind of grey area right now

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  10. The American Civil Defense Association or TACDA (http://www.tacda.org/) just published its bi-annual Journal of Civil Defense magazine. It had a great article in there about Ebola and some of the facts you don't hear a lot about and common sense steps to help you stay healthy and informed. The magazine and past publication are also offered online to its members. Membership fees per year are pretty reasonable at $36.00 for a full membership and $12.00 for an online membership. If you are not a member of TACDA, it is a great resource and one you should consider supporting.

    Stay safe, stay healthy, stay prepared!

    Bar D

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  11. I live in Virginia, about 100 miles south of DC. I am a sales rep and cover VA, MD, DC, and DE. The DC metro area is a huge melting pot for immigrants from all over the world. A couple days ago I was speaking with a customer with an African accent. I asked him where he was from and was told Sierra Leone. He has been here for years, but has family back at home he speaks to every week on the phone. He tells me that the epidemic in Sierra Leone will not be controlled because "the families are hiding the bodies of those killed by Ebola. They hide them from the government and their neighbors because if reported, the teams come to remove the body and put the families in isolation and then destroy everything in the house. The families are instantly homeless. There is nothing equivalent in America. So, they hide the bodies and sneak them out at night to the forest, or river, or ocean, or leave them on the street as far away from their home as they can. Even the wealthy are hiding family bodies and burying them in their courtyards. The government has quarantined whole cities and forced everyone to stay home for 3 days and then gone door to door looking for infected and dead and the families hid the bodies. The only victims they found was when everyone was too sick to hide it. "

    He told me: "that part of Africa is not like the US is any way. It is always hot and only the very wealthy have air conditioning. You can not imagine it if you live in the US. You sweat all the time, constantly. There is never a time when you are not sweating. So, when ever you shake hands or brush up against someone in the market you are exchanging fluids". "I fear that the situation will soon be that Sierra Leone and the neighboring countries will cease to be countries."

    Admittedly this is third hand, but my customer has no reason to lie, unlike the CDC. It is also evidence that the governments and WHO really have no way of knowing the infection or death rate.

    Stay Safe and God bless!

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  12. "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"

    University of Missouri CIDRAP

    http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2014/09/commentary-health-workers-need-optimal-respiratory-protection-ebola

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  13. i think its all crazy

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