MOSCOW, September 2 (RIA Novosti) - The high rate of Ebola infections in West Africa and the length of time the outbreak has lasted increase the likelihood that the Ebola virus could become more transmissible through genetic mutations, said CDC Director, Thomas Frieden in a press briefing on Tuesday.
“There is a theoretical risk, it may be very low, we simply don’t know, that Ebola could become easier to spread through genetic mutation,” Frieden said to members of the press. “That risk might be very low, but it’ probably not zero. And the longer it spreads, the higher the risk.”
The outbreak which became serious in March has spread throughout West Africa, hitting Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea the hardest. According to official estimates over 1,550 people have died from the infection, though due to challenges of reporting deaths and cases, those numbers likely underestimate total fatalities.
Smaller outbreaks have occurred in Nigeria and Senegal. The CDC is hopeful that through public health education and improved preparation, smaller outbreaks can be contained.
Frieden noted that while the threat of genetic mutation is possible, he has no indications that it has occurred. “Nothing we have seen so far indicates that Ebola is spreading differently in this outbreak.”
Frieden continued that the outbreak represents a threat to the security and stability of all countries because of the inter-connectedness of the world. “We are all in this together,” he said. “Like this or not, we are in an interconnected world and what happens in West Africa has a direct bearing on our own ability to go about our lives.”