Ebola Myths vs Facts (with references!)

Myth: New Ebola has not shown any significant mutations.

Fact: New Ebola is accumulating mutations at twice the rate of previous outbreaks. Further, sequence analysis shows that it appears to be under “incomplete purifying selection” (Gire et al. 2014). This suggests that the New Ebola is in the process of adapting to the human host.

Myth: New Ebola is not very contagious. It is hard to get.

Fact: Ebola is now transmitting to people at the same rate as the flu. R0 for seasonal influenza is about 1.3 (Cobum et al 2009). R0 for Ebola is currently calculated to be 1.4 to 1.8 (WHO Ebola response team, 2014).

Myth: The new Ebola hasn’t become more transmissible.

Fact: One of the top experts on Ebola, Dr. Peter Jahrling, has reported: ‘We are using tests now that weren’t using in the past, but there seems to be a belief that the virus load is higher in these patients [today] than what we have seen before. If true, that’s a very different bug.

‘I have a field team in Monrovia. They are running [tests]. They are telling me that viral loads are coming up very quickly and really high, higher than they are used to seeing.

‘It may be that the virus burns hotter and quicker.’ Daily Mail, October 18, 2014.

Myth: Quarantines don’t work.

Fact: Quarantines work very well if they are strictly enforced (McLeod et al. 2007).


Coburn BJ, Wagner BG, Blower S. Modeling influenza epidemics and pandemics: insights into the future of swine flu (H1N1). (2009) BMC Med. 7:30.

Gire SK et al (2014) Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak. Science 345: 1369-1372.

McLeod MA, Baker M, Wilson N, Kelly H, Kiedrzynski T, Kool JL (2008) Protective effect of maritime quarantine in South Pacific jurisdictions, 1918-19 influenza pandemic.Emerg Infect Dis. 14:468-70

WHO Ebola Response Team (2014) Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa — The First 9 Months of the Epidemic and Forward Projections. N Engl J Med 371:1481-1495.


4 thoughts on “Ebola Myths vs Facts (with references!)

  1. > the virus load is higher in these patients [today] than what we have seen before. If true,
    > that’s a very different bug.

    “before” = 1976 or 1995 or such, or before = weeks/months ago in this outbreak ?

  2. Hi Monotreme — Just saw postings about changes at PFI and wondered if it might be OK to try to reopen my account. I used to post as ‘Heddie’ here and on old yeller, was away for a while and then when I came back I couldn’t log on, even with multiple tries. Also saw many of my posts had been deleted. I just assumed that Pixie had blacklisted me; I had used the terms ‘harmonious’ and “California” a couple of times in postings, and she implied she thought I was a dupe or agent of a very large Asian country, or a weird California hippy techie leftist (although I am neither).
    Anyhow, if you want me back, let me know how to set up a new account — I think if you check you may find that a lot of the old posters that may be missing have not been able to log on.
    Best to you, Heddie

  3. Monotreme
    We in New York and rightly celebrating Dr Spencer’s recovery. I hope our luck holds out. I am not a big believer in luck these days thought. I am wondering if his contacts received any prophylactic treatment. I know his fiance was hospitalized for a day or two presumably for quarantine. Either way we dodged a bullet and that is a good thing. I hope they don’t use this N of 1 to eliminate quarantines.

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