Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization

By Geoffrey Zubay | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
EBOLA VIRUSES

Rohit Puskoor

Geoffrey Zubay

The viral family Filoviridiae represents one of the most serious threats to public health in the twenty-first century. Filoviruses are the causative agent for viral hemorrhagic fevers, so named because of the high fevers and profuse bleeding caused by the viruses. This family of viruses encompasses the Ebola viruses and the Marburg virus. The most well known of the viruses is Ebola Zaire, an extremely devastating strain of Ebola that causes the most fatal of the fevers, with a fatality rate upward of 90%.

There is currently no prophylactic treatment against the Ebola virus. The concern is compounded by our current lack of knowledge about its origins and its pathogenesis in a human host. The natural hosts for filoviruses have not yet been identified. Owing to the ability of the virus to spread by aerosolization, its high mortality rate and transmissibility, and the lack of an effective prophylactic therapy, Ebola is characterized as a Biosafety Level 4 pathogen; this makes research work with Ebola extremely tedious, because of the compliance measures that must be observed.


HISTORY

The virus family Filoviridiae comprises the Marburg and Ebola viruses. The Ebola virus is further divided into four major strains: Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Ivory Coast, and Ebola Reston. Ebola is endemic in Africa.

The first strain of Ebola virus to be identified was Ebola Sudan. The first known outbreak of this strain infected 284 people and was characterized by a mortality rate of 53%. Just a few months after this devastating outbreak was controlled, another strain appeared in Yambuku, Zaire. This strain, called Ebola Zaire (EBOZ), proved to be the more fatal strain by far. Of the 318 people it infected, 200 died. These nearly simultaneous outbreaks in the Sudan and Zaire

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