Jackson Kang-M Lin st0109 at STUDENT-MAIL.JSU.EDU
Mon Feb 27 15:16:37 EST 1995

On Sat, 25 Feb 1995, Patrick O'Neil wrote:

> From: dborden at umassd.edu
> Subject: Ebola
> >  I have read alot of the messages posted about the book The Hot Zone, and I
> >am am going to buy The Coming Plague.  But what I really want to know is how
> >real is the threat of this Ebola virus wiping out, basically, human kind the 
> >way we know it.  
> It is possible that a virus could so a number on the human species,
> certainly.  Plagues cannot happen unless the underlying structure to
> support one exists and that structure tends to rely on there being a lot
> of available hosts and a quick and easy means of getting from one to the
> other.  The flu pandemic of 1918 wiped out 20 million people within a few
> years but only after the crowded conditions in the trenches of WWI allowed
> it an opportunity to spread rapidly and mutate into a virulent, rapid
> reproducer.  Up to that point, it was just another mean flu strain... 
>   As for the various Ebolas, they potentially could plant themselves in
> humans.  With each passing year, as populations encroach on more and more
> previously untouched environments, they come into contact with more and
> more virus and other potential pathog ens.  With enough contact, something
> is bound to take advantage of a new, plentiful host (I do not intend to
> imply any intentionality - it is difficult to address these things without
> using such terms) and reproduce to the extent that their new environmen t
> (us) will permit. 
>   Ebola is not all that easy to pass on, with most cases being spread by
> direct innoculation, but...it CAN spread by aerosol to a limited degree. 
> If it were to mutate so as to be easily sneezed or coughed up into aerosol
> droplets, then you'd REALLY have a lovely situation.  With rapid worldwide
> travel, a person could contract a deadly virus today in Africa or Asia,
> jump on a plane tomorrow, land in any location on the planet within 8 to
> 10 hours and immediately begin spreading it around a new population. If it
> is in a huge city like New York or London, you could end up with an
> infection chain reaction.  With so dense a population of people, the virus
> would have a perfect environment to spread and even become more virulent. 
> The virus need only reach a b alancing point between destruction of it's
> host and further transmission and reproduction.  This balance can favor
> higher virulence only in a large, dense host population.  Ebola has been
> sporadic in occurrance thus far, as though it is "trying" to get a
> foothold in a new host population.  This applies to the monkeys that have
> contracted it too.  It is not thought to be a normal pathogen for green
> monkeys because it kills them as quickly s it kills humans.  Though this
> rule shouldn't be taken too far :  the idea that a virus will
> automatically become more and more benign as it adapts to a new host so
> that any particularly deadly virus must be new, is false.  It is ENTIRELY
> based on whether the virus gains a reproductive advantage by being
> virulent.  If it can spread quickly and easily (for instance, by insect)
> in spite of laying up and killing its host very quickly, then it will do
> so. That said, this idea of Ebola not being a normal agent in green
> monkeys is likely true simply because the monkey populations are not
> particularly dense and heavy.  Therefore, with it killing monkeys as
> quickly as it kills humans, it is not likely to do we ll as a very
> virulent bug IN MONKEYS.  If it takes out its host population, which is
> easy to do for an isolated troop of monkeys, it is also a goner.  With
> humans, this is not the case.  There are LOTS of hosts and they are
> densely packed... 
> >  All I want to know is, could this virus have a legitimate chance of 
> >taking out ninty percent of the population?  And someone told me that this 
> >virus could be man-made, how possible is that?  
> No.  This is typical paranoia when faced by a new challenge.  People STILL
> say this about HIV.  It is hard to fathom why people seem to think that
> nature is not capable of producing these guys regardless of whether humans
> exist or not.  Those that say the se things do not understand biology,
> virology, and more importantly, evolution.  Be assured (if that is the
> right words to use in this case) that there are many other VERY nasty
> pathogens "out there" waiting to be stumbled upon.  In each and every
> case, s ome fool will claim it is a human creation, gotta be, because
> nature itself is nice and has no "reason" to produce these things. 
>   Plagues are ALL human creations inasmuch as plagues require certain
> conditions for existence, such as those I mentioned above.  Unsound
> sanitary practices, high population density, etc, are products of human
> cultures and societies.  They are also a perf ect runway for plague
> pathogens to takeoff from.  In THAT sense any plague is a human creation. 
> Patrick
I have read a little bit about the contents of both The Hot Zone and The 
Coming Plague and heard a lot from my professors. Surely Ebola viruses 
are scary and needed for attention. But doesn't something else like all 
those STD's need more attention? I just read about herpes simplex viruses 
type I and II, for example, from books and this bio-internet that more 
than 85% of adults in U.S have this virus, and once you contract the 
virus, it will become your permanent "houseguest" and never leaves. So, Are 
this type of STD (HSV I) and possibly serious neonatal infections actually 
more scary than Ebola viruses? At least Ebola viruses are not one of the STD's? 


P.S. How much is "The Coming Plague?" I plan to buy one, but having 
trouble of locating one. I have heard it is a very hot book right now. 
Must be!

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