The deadly Ebola virus has been making headlines recently, especially in Atlanta, Georgia, where two Ebola victims from western Africa will be placed in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital. Emory, by the way, is adjacent to the main campus of the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC.
Some people are quite concerned that we now have “Ebola in America.” While it’s front-page worthy news, the reality is the situation doesn’t present a threat to the general public. Ebola, though exceptionally virulent, is not easily transmitted. It’s passed from person to person only through close personal contact. You’d have to be exposed to a victim’s blood, urine, vomit, etc., before you’d be a candidate for contracting the disease.
Ebola isn’t like the flu, for instance, which can be transmitted through the air or by touching objects that a victim has handled. In other words, Ebola isn’t an airborne disease . . . except in my novel, PLAGUE.
In PLAGUE, my antagonist, a rogue microbiologist, bioengineers the virus into a weaponized airborne form. The novel, ironically, is set in Atlanta.
So, an airborne form? Yes, there may be such a thing. In the late 1980s, there was an Ebola outbreak among lab monkeys in Reston, Virginia. It was thought that it may have been an airborne form of the virus that triggered the flare-up. Fortunately for us, that particular strain of Ebola turned out to be non-fatal to humans. The monkeys weren’t so lucky.
At any rate, that event became the basis for the bioengineering feat in PLAGUE: marrying an airborne, non-lethal (to humans) form of Ebola to a strain deadly to humans, such as that currently ravaging western Africa.
Be assured, that’s the stuff of fiction, however. I have no knowledge that anyone, friend or foe, is actually attempting–or has ever attempted–to do that.
The really scary thing about Ebola is that there’s no vaccine, no cure, not even an established treatment protocol. Death by Ebola is god-awful. Here’s a character in PLAGUE, Dr. Dwight Butler, a virologist at the CDC, talking about it:
“Ebola attacks your body’s blood-clotting capabilities with particular ferocity. It goes after your major organs, devastating your kidneys, liver and spleen. You’re racked with crippling fatigue, agonizing pain, boiling fever. Your eyeballs become blood red. Your throat turns mushy and raw . . . to the point you can’t even swallow your own saliva. And there’s absolutely nothing that can help you.” He paused. “Not even prayer.”
Ebola is terrifying, but here in America, you’re more likely to win the Mega Millions Lottery than get struck down by Ebola.