There are five strains of Ebola that infect humans. If you are paying attention, no agency has identified which strain is causing the epidemic in West Africa until late August. If events continue along its projected course, it will be a pandemic shortly. A little research gives the following from April 17, 2014:
The team’s genetic analysis found a high degree of similarity among 15 partial and 3 full-length sequences. Meanwhile, their full-length sequence analysis revealed that the Ebola clade is separate from other known viruses of its kind.
I suspect that the common genetic markers are allowing the CDC to identify Ebola as the source of infection instead of the shorter Marburg virus. But on August 28th, researchers at Harvard have identified the strain as a mutated strain of Zaire.
The genomic sequencing also offers hints as to how the Ebola “Zaire” strain at the heart of the current outbreak — one of five types of Ebola virus known to infect humans — likely ended up in West Africa in the first place. Researchers said the data suggests that the virus spread from an animal host, possibly bats, and that diverged around 2004 from an Ebola strain in central Africa, where previous outbreaks have occurred.
“We don’t actually know where the virus has been since then,” said Sabeti, referring to the time between 2004 and when the virus resurfaced earlier this year. “We’re trying to piece together an historical record.”
Thursday’s study also details hundreds of genetic mutations that make the current Ebola outbreak different from any in the past. Some of those changes have the potential to affect the accuracy of diagnostic tests or the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments under development for the disease
.“We’ve uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks,” Stephen Gire, one of the study’s co-authors and an infectious disease researcher at Harvard, said in an announcement about the findings. “Although we don’t know whether these differences are related to the severity of the current outbreak, by sharing these data with the research community, we hope to speed up our understanding of this epidemic and support global efforts to contain it.”
The issue is the degree of mutation. Since this epidemic has gone under an exponential growth curve, even a mutation rate as low as 1 in one billion will impact its contagion. Keep in mind that most mutations are less lethal since it provides an increase in its infection vector and subsequently its survival. A good case of this is syphilis from its first introduction to Europe until now. A more lethal mutation is less likely but must be considered. Such mutations include airborne capabilities (which I believe are a factor in this case due to the spread on Ebola on a short air flight to Lagos), an increase in the death rate and/or a change in the onset of contagion.
Mutations will most likely impact any vaccines that have been developed previously and hamper the development of new vaccines. Since no one is discussing these points in the public, I can only conclude that some of these changes have already occurred. Something else to consider is that any survivors can spread this disease. Transmission by one survivor through semen has been documented at seven weeks after recovery. Another point no one is discussing.
I would like to point out that hysteria over hypothetical scenarios will not be productive. Now is the time to prepare for a possible outbreak in the country. Learn how to use any equipment such as hazmat suits: they are one time use. Learn how to dispose of waste products. And learn to trust in the Lord.