Originally published September 21 2014
Ebola already went airborne... back in 1989
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) There is a growing fear that Ebola will soon mutate and start spreading through the air, potentially infecting and killing millions of people. But there's solid evidence that the viral disease already went airborne as far back as 1989, when dozens of monkeys contracted Ebola through a ventilation system at a Virginia hospital.
The monkeys were shipped in from the Philippines and delivered to the Hazelton Research Products' Primate Quarantine Unit in Reston, Virginia, for quarantine. Prior to being released, all monkeys imported into the U.S. must first be proven to be free of disease, a process that usually takes about 30 days while under quarantine.
Rather quickly, the imported monkeys, known as crab-eating macaques, began to fall ill and die. In just one month, nearly one-third of them died, sparking an investigation into the cause. Veterinarians at the facility began to dissect the dead monkeys, observing that many of them had grossly enlarged spleens that had turned hard, while others had blood in their intestines.
Dan Dalgard, one of the vets at the time, came to the conclusion that the monkeys had died of simian hemorrhagic fever virus, or SHFV. Hazelton sent samples of this infected monkey tissue to federal authorities, who also confirmed SHFV. In the meantime, workers at Hazelton began to euthanize the remaining monkeys, which had all been exposed to the virus.
While this was occurring, another researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID), where the tissue samples were sent, conducted separate tests which confirmed the presence of Ebola, in addition to SHFV. Using a more advanced testing protocol, it was confirmed without a doubt that the infected monkeys had Ebola-Zaire, the most dangerous of the five known Ebola strains.
Meanwhile, back at Hazelton, staff were busy trying to rid the facility of the infected monkeys. But it was already too late -- monkeys in other cages far from the ones where the crab-eating macaques from the Philippines were located began to show signs of the disease. Many of them ended up dying, with the ventilation system being blamed as the source of spread.
"Due to the spread of infection to animals in all parts of the quarantine facility, it is likely that Ebola Reston may have been spread by airborne transmission," wrote Lisa A. Beltz in her book Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Each new Ebola infection opens door to mutations For three months, faculty at the quarantine facility labored to rid the place of Ebola. It was only after the entire building was chipped, scrubbed, bleached and ultimately "cooked" in high heat that Ebola was finally eradicated. At this point, though, the truth was undeniably apparent -- Ebola can spread through the air.
While the novel Ebola strain identified in the macaques, now known as Ebola-Reston, only transmits through monkeys and not humans, the strain itself appears to have been a mutation that had never before been observed. This is due to the fact that it was shown to spread through the air, which was not previously believed to be possible with Ebola.
What this suggests is that Ebola can mutate each time it spreads, a very real possibility during the current outbreak sweeping west Africa. Experts say that Ebola does not replicate the same way during each subsequent infection, meaning it can take on a life of its own over a very short period of time.
"If certain mutations occurred, it would mean that just breathing would put one at risk of contracting Ebola," wrote Michael T. Osterhold in a recent piece for The New York Times. "Infections could spread quickly to every part of the globe, as the H1N1 influenza virus did in 2009, after its birth in Mexico."
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