Ebola strain appears to be different

Posted at 4:00 AM, Oct 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-15 12:00:08-04

This strain of Ebola virus is different, a local infectious disease doctor said Tuesday.

Dr. Bob McBroom said most Ebola outbreaks in the past have numbered 500 patients or less. This one, mostly in West Africa, has resulted in close to 10,000 cases worldwide, including the first transmission case in the United States.

“I think it may be an increase in population, or it may be a change in the virulence of the virus,” he said. “It’s hard to say. But certainly with what’s going on now in Africa is a lot different from what type of experience health care workers have experienced in the past there.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden admitted Tuesday afternoon the agency could have done things differently after Thomas Eric Duncan had been diagnosed, including sending a special response team to Dallas. It could have prevented Texas Presbyterian Hospital nurse Nina Pham from contracting the potentially deadly virus.

The CDC announced Tuesday a team of infectious-disease experts would go to the Dallas hospital and help with containment and treatment efforts.

“I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient — the first patient — was diagnosed,” Frieden said.

It took a while for the CDC to admit transmission of Ebola could be airborne. McBroom told the Times Record News on Oct. 1 that transmission methods included blood — the most likely method — bodily fluids and through coughs or sneezes.

He said Tuesday the disease is “definitely” airborne.

But he said that transmission of Ebola through sneezes and coughs is a major mode among “nonhuman primates” and that there are cases to suggest it’s not airborne among humans.

“I think the problem that I’ve always had with the CDC was that when they get fixated on a subject, ‘never’ becomes absolute,” he said. “I never trust people who say ‘never’ in absolute terms.”

The World Health Organization ratcheted up the outbreak chatter Tuesday by claiming that if Ebola is not contained within the next two months, there could be 10,000 new cases of the disease each week. McBroom said he believes that’s a worst-case scenario based on lack of containment.

The infectious disease physician said the WHO would play a significant role in containment efforts, much like the success they had in containing severe acute respiratory syndrome during its outbreak in 2002-04 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in 2012.

McBroom said that if WHO is able to get a containment plan in place, it might be better to follow their recommendation than the CDC’s.

“The CDC is just a governmental agency of the United States,” he said. “So far, governmental agencies haven’t been very quick to pick up on things that they need to be doing to contain this. The World Health Organization, on the other hand, might be a little more aggressive.”

McBroom said he is available to meet with health care-related businesses in the area to conduct group training on Ebola. He traveled to Electra on Tuesday evening to meet with their emergency medical service personnel.

Follow John Ingle on Twitter at @inglejohn1973.