Inadvertent Overkill

In Uganda, the fourth outbreak of Ebola in twelve years has killed sixteen people. On We Beasties, Kevin Bonham says the virus is “readily transmissible,” kills quickly and assuredly, “and the way it kills is gruesome – causing massive bleeding from all orifices.” These may seem like dominant characteristics, but a virus is not a predator. Bonham says Ebola viruses, like other emerging diseases, are “poorly adapted for our immune systems,” and wipe out their hosts too quickly to spread. But all that can, of course, change. On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith details the history of outbreaks in Uganda, and the methods of transmission from person to person. She says that fruit bats are likely reservoirs for the virus, with non-human primates acting as an amplifying species.

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