A doctor working in south Texas is raising concerns that the Ebola strain recently contracted by a Dallas nurse may have undergone a mutation.
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Michael Jelenik says he’s troubled by the circumstances surrounding Dallas Presbyterian Hospital nurse Nina Pham’s recent contraction of the Ebola virus.
Pham, 26, was one of a team of medical staff tending to Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan before his death last week.
On Sunday, Texas health officials announced Pham had tested positive for the Ebola virus, even though she was careful to wear protective gear when she came in contact with the infected patient.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims a “breach in protocol” may have contributed to the disease spread, however Dr. Jelinek says Ebola research is still in its infancy and therefore the chance that it has possibly mutated cannot entirely be ruled out.
“My biggest concern is that we don’t have enough knowledge about the virus and this outbreak and whether it’s mutated or not,” Dr. Jelinek told ABC affiliate KRGV, echoing anxieties voiced by other high level health professionals.
The doctor adds that from an infectious disease standpoint, Ebola is still a bit of a mystery.
“We know how to stop the transmission of HIV, that’s very simple. We know how to stop the transmission of influenza, that’s also very simple, but I don’t think it’s been fully defined how to stop the transmission of Ebola,” Jelinek says.Like many Americans, Jelinek says he’s not placing complete faith in the assurances of “powers that be” government officials who are merely working to suppress public panic.
“I just kind of object to the powers that be telling us, ‘Well we don’t need to worry about this because we have it all under control,’” Jelinek says. “Well, under control means nobody else is gonna get it.”
Speaking to the chance that illegal immigrants from Ebola-stricken countries may penetrate the southern US border with Mexico, Dr. Jelinek did not completely rule out the possibility of an outbreak impacting the Rio Grande Valley, but instead labeled that risk “extremely small.”
Earlier this month, a health official with the United Nations raised the “doomsday” prospect that the virus could possibly mutate to have infectious airborne properties, an unlikely “nightmare scenario” which he said “can’t be ruled out.”
On Sunday another health professional also came forward with the startling claim that Ebola was “primed to have respiratory transmission.”
“It can enter the lung from the airway side,” Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Purdue University Dr. David Sanders said. “So this argues that Ebola is primed to have respiratory transmission.”
“We need to be taking this into consideration,” Sanders added. “What if? This is not a crazy, ‘What if?’ This is not a wild, ‘What if?'”
Fears of an airborne mutation are exacerbated by a previous mutated Ebola strain in a Reston, Va., medical lab in 1989, where researchers had to euthanize over 55 monkeys each being held in separate cages after they contracted the disease, proving that infection did not require direct contact with contaminated bodily fluids.
Despite attempts by federal officials to tamp down speculation, the fact that numerous health professionals are now raising concerns over a potential airborne spread should be of great concern to the general public.