ebola

Much is still unknown about the Ebola virus. The microbe, which re-emerges from time to time usually in Africa, causes a hemorrhagic fever with a fatality rate as high as 90%.

One of the many goals of epidemiology is to understand the ecology of infectious disease. Where does the virus go when there isn't an active human outbreak? Viruses can't survive in the environment, so some type of animal must be serving as a "reservoir" from which outbreaks re-emerge. So far, evidence points to fruit bats as the guilty party, but gorillas, chimpanzees, and antelope may also play a role.

Furthermore, there was some evidence that pigs might be able to host the Ebola virus. This is particularly worrisome because it would mean that a common animal used as livestock could be spreading...

It's been three and a half years since the last Ebola outbreak in West Africa, when 28,600 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone were infected and over 11,300 killed. Despite the WHO declaring the region Ebola-free two years later, there is a new wave of cases, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.) 

One big difference between 2014 and today is the existence of a vaccine. In fact, the outbreak in 2014 is responsible for the push to create an effective vaccine. Health officials announced this week that 4,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine have already arrived in the DRC, to be distributed to the areas currently in the midst of the outbreak. 

The vaccine has been distributed before. In March 2016, nearly 800 people were ring vaccinated (the...

Microbiologist Stanley Falkow is credited with saying, "The goal of every bacterium is to become bacteria." Similarly, the goal of every pathogen is to infect a new host.

Pathogenic microbes face an evolutionary trade-off: On the one hand, they want to be as nasty as possible, because the nastier they are, often the easier it is to spread from one host to the next. Think of Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, which upon infection can result in a person producing gallons of diarrhea. Death is due to dehydration, but not before the patient served as an incubator and excreted billions of more bacteria into the environment.

On the other hand, a microbe does not want to be too nasty. If it incapacitates or kills its host quickly, it will be difficult for...

Let’s wax nostalgic. Do you recall the Ebola outbreak a few years ago that brought fear into many American’s lives and ravaged our television screens? Those spacesuit-like outfits medical personnel wore to prevent acquiring the infection were demonstrated by anchors and blasted out via all media forms. The challenge of taking the gear on and off without compromising one’s safety was replayed nearly on a loop.

The messages transmitted then still ring true now regarding the importance of health care worker biohazard protection—not only for themselves, but also the communities they inhabit. In a recent statement put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the governing agency revealed...

Kissing bug

Our public health system has a very bad habit of fighting the last war. This has resulted in a real-life version of American Horror Story. Like the plagues of Egypt, one exotic disease after another keeps washing ashore, catching scientists and public health officials flat-footed. 

First, it was Ebola. For decades, Ebola was a bizarre and terrifying disease associated with remote villages in Africa and a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. Out of sight, out of mind. Then, things "got real" when it killed a Liberian man in Texas in October 2014. Only after that public scare did Ebola research and prevention kick into high gear. Likewise, Zika was once an obscure virus, until...

 CDC

Source: CDC

Military conventional wisdom, in addition to ACSH President (and former Army officer) Hank Campbell, likes to remind us, "Generals are always fighting the last war."

They have a good point. Fifteen years after 9/11, we still ban non-ticketed passengers from entering airport terminals. Ten years after a failed attack in 2006, we cannot bring more than 3.4 oz of liquids onto an airplane, a policy that has resulted in TSA confiscating gigantic piles of 4-oz cups of applesauce. We continue to remove...

Ebola via Golding et al. (doi:10.1038/srep26516)Ebola via CG Golding et al. (doi:10.1038/srep26516)

When I told her that I wanted to major in microbiology, my best friend from childhood responded, "Are you sure you want to look in a microscope all day?"

But, as it turned out, a lot of microbiologists don't use microscopes very often. I was one of them. The reason is because a substantial proportion of modern microbiology research uses the tools of molecular biology, for which microscopes are not needed.

If my microbiology career had required the prolific use of...

Ebola_Virus_TEM_PHIL_1832_loresFor a week now, there have been no new reported cases of Ebola in the three West African nations at the heart of the most recent epidemic.

Don't worry, you haven't unknowingly clicked on a story from 2014. This is today's news. Despite the fact that Ebola disappeared from headlines in America almost a year ago, the epidemic in West Africa is ongoing, and has thus far claimed over 11, 000 lives. It is the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been hit hardest by the virus, with almost all of the fatalities from the disease having occurred in...

Ebola_Virus_TEM_PHIL_1832_loresACSH friend Dr. David Seres, the director of nutritional medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, wrote a thought-provoking piece in The Hill about rampant Ebola paranoia the US, entitled What we learned from Ebolanoia .

He begins by pointing out that the unfounded hysteria over Ebola in the US Ebolanoia is more dangerous to us than the virus. There is no vaccine against Ebolanoia, he writes, except factual and scientific information.

We have learned facts about the...

Facts vs. FearsIn today s Science section, NYTimes Jane E. Brody s Personal Health column has a headline that sums up much of what ACSH has been telling our readers over our 36-year history: Emotion is not the best medicine. Ms. Brody begins by using the widespread hysteria bordering on panic induced by the exactly two severe cases of Ebola virus (one fatal) diagnosed on our shores during the recent...outbreak?

There is indeed a serious outbreak of ebola hemorrhagic...