Ebola Ground Zero—Should We Worry?

Friday Oct 17 | BY |
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Ebola 2

We are no longer at a viral crossroads. Severe viral infections are threatening our health, now.

A viral fire is blazing in Africa. Half of every one in Liberia who gets sick with Ebola dies. A death rate of 50 percent is unheard of in modern times. It’s more like a plague from the Dark Ages then an illness of the 21st Century. What’s going on?

Ebola Ground Zero

The term “ground zero” was first used in association with the atomic bomb to describe the point closest to detonation. It’s also used to pinpoint the source of a viral epidemic.

Ebola patient one was a two-year-old boy from a small village in southeast Guiana who died on December 2nd in 2013. Within weeks, more people died, including his parents. By March 2014, Ebola was spreading so fast, Doctors Without Borders called it “unprecedented.”

By October 8th, the official number of reported cases was 8,300 with 4,003 deaths. That’s the “official” toll. The actual number is likely much higher because cases in remote villages go unreported.

The CDC reported the first case in the United States on September 30, 2014. No other cases have been reported since. Like the U.S., several European countries have been treating single cases of Ebola contracted by health workers and volunteers working in West Africa. On October 6th, the first case in Europe occurred in Spain. Both patients died.

Emerging Viruses

Viruses do not recognize international boundaries or time zones. They don’t discriminate based on race, belief, or social status. If given the opportunity, they can travel extraordinarily long distances. They can easily hitch a ride on an international flight and, along with their human host, be on the other side of the world within twenty-four hours.

More About Viruses

  • Viruses don’t just infect humans. All living things, including plants, are subject to viral diseases.
  • Viruses are everywhere, and are found in nearly every ecosystem on Earth.
  • Viruses are very small, so minute that they can only be seen with powerful electron microscopes.
  • Viruses are intracellular parasites. They have no metabolic life of their own until they link up with a living cell.
  • Viruses enter the body silently. Several days or weeks can pass without the infected person showing symptoms.
  • Viruses evolve rapidly. Our knowledge about a virus can become outdated due to fast-paced viral mutation.
  • Viruses are smart. They easily find ways around drugs designed to kill them.

In 2000, I wrote in the preface to my book Viral Immunity that we were in the early phases of facing a very real threat from emerging viral infections. I wrote that it was not a question of if, but when. We are already feeling the heat from viral fires. Now, it’s a matter of what direction an intense viral epidemic will take.

Possible Scenarios of Future Viral Epidemics

  1. Increasing incidence of acute plagues like Ebola.
  2. Spread of chronic viral infections like hepatitis C and HIV.
  3. Worldwide outbreak of pandemic influenza.
  4. Appearance of a new, unprecedented viral infection, something we’ve never seen before.
  5. Unleashing a viral storm like smallpox by an act of bioterrorism.

We are no longer at that crossroads. Severe viral infections are threatening our health, now.

Ebola is not new. It’s been known since 1976. Our response to the recent outbreak was too slow. What’s the likelihood of an outbreak in the U.S. or Europe? I suspect Europe will have more cases because it’s closer to Africa with more direct flights. The disease is not likely to be widespread in the U.S. or Canada, but the U.S. will see more cases. However, I’m confident that the American healthcare system, even if slow to get going, will contain and manage an Ebola-like epidemic if one occurs in the U.S.

With the ease of international air travel, which caused the Ebola incident in Dallas, there is no doubt that cases will appear in other parts of the world. Ebola could spread to the Caribbean. It could spread like fire through the slums of Lima or Calcutta.

What’s more troubling are airborne infections like influenza that spread from human to human. Ebola spreads through contact with infected body fluids. Mosquito bites that spread Dengue Fever is another concern. Insect borne infections spread without direct human contact, but easily infect people.

Viral Infection Watch 2014-2015

Ebola: Given the late and lame response of the U.S. and Europe to the current outbreak in West Africa, it’s likely that many more people will die, but not here. Ebola, at least at this time, will be limited to overcrowded conditions where poor public health is common. Eventually, it will spread out of Africa. WHO European director Zsuzsanna Jakab declared that an Ebola crisis is unavoidable in Europe.

H3N2 Influenza: This nasty flu is on its way north. It’s been causing severe infections in the Southern Hemisphere during their winter (our summer). H3N2 is a variant of H1N1 swine flu that alarmed the world and caused the WHO to declare a pandemic in 2009. It turned out to be mild, thankfully, but it’s gotten stronger. Influenza can be a serious illness in the elderly and those with compromised immunity.

Enterovirus D68: There are many types of enteroviruses, and most cause mild flu-like respiratory symptoms, but this one is different. Since it’s a relatively new virus, people haven’t developed immunity against it, so children and teenagers may have severe reactions that can lead to death. Enteroviral infection can also become chronic. In these cases, many organs are affected, causing a wide array of symptoms similar to those associated with chronic fatigue syndrome or Lyme disease. Enteroviruses have a unique ability to trigger dormant viruses like HHV-6, Epstein Barr, and herpes viruses.

Dengue Fever: Once common in North America, Dengue is a mosquito-transmitted viral infection that’s on the rise. Improved public health measures drove Dengue out of the U.S., but now it’s back. Not only has it become common in Cuba and other Caribbean Islands, cases are showing up in South Florida. Dengue is found in all subtropical and tropical regions across the globe. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 100 million new cases occur every year. You are at risk for getting Dengue if you travel to any country in Latin America or the Caribbean. Symptoms can come on fast and be severe. Hemorrhagic Dengue causes internal bleeding and requires hospitalization.

What’s the Best Treatment for Viral Infection?

We’ve relied heavily on vaccination to prevent viral infections. Vaccination enlists the body’s own immunity to foil future attacks by viruses. Vaccines are important medical tools, because they work, but not always. They’re also ineffective once someone is sick.

Unfortunately, there is currently no safe and effective vaccine for Ebola. We don’t have one yet for Dengue, either, but one is in development.

We have few safe and effective anti-viral drugs. There are no drugs to treat Dengue. There are several experimental drugs, including ZMapp and Favipiravir(Avigan), undergoing trails for Ebola treatment. Except for limited use for experimental purposes, though, they’re not available for wide use. Immune therapies from the blood of survivors using antibodies against the virus have shown promise, but are not widely available.

Because viruses are minute, smart, and evolve rapidly, it’s hard to make drugs that destroy them. Viruses have a honing process that sharpens their vigilance against drugs. They are so effective at this that drug resistance is common. Because it’s too expensive and time-consuming to make new drugs, scientists can’t keep pace with the speed of viral drug-resistant strains.

Without a cure for Ebola or Dengue, the role of medical treatment is to support the body while the immune system fights off the virus. Supportive therapy in the hospital involves intravenous fluids for the prevention of dehydration, breathing machines to maintain oxygen, and antibiotics when necessary to treat secondary infections. Blood transfusion may be necessary. Ebola and severe Dengue require treatment by medical professionals.

For less severe symptoms, management at home is straightforward. Take acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever. If you suspect that you have a hemorrhagic viral infection, do not take aspirin or ibuprofen, because it can thin the blood and make bleeding hard to control. Go to bed and drink plenty of fluids. If your symptoms worsen, go to the hospital.

Viral infections hang around. Ebola can remain active for three or more days on surfaces like countertops or doorknobs. How easy is it to kill the virus on surfaces? According to health authorities, it’s not hard. In the Ebola-affected countries, health teams are using bleach to disinfect surfaces and bed sheets. But good hospital-grade disinfectants will kill off the virus as well, as will alcohol-based and acetic-acid based cleaners.

There is no herb that cures hemorrhagic fevers, but because plants have built-in combinations of anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and immune boosting properties, natural medicines might improve survival. Potential herbal therapies include isatadis, andrographis, uncaria (cat’s claw), and curcumin extracts. If you are young and healthy, do not take immune boosters like beta-glucan or Echinacea because they might over-stimulate the immune response, causing more aggressive symptoms. Do not take fish oils or vitamin E, as these may promote more bleeding. Improving nutrient states is important for healthy immunity. Zinc and vitamins A, C, and D might be a valuable as part of a survival strategy for viral infections.

Remember, for the common cold or seasonal influenza, natural medicine is best, but Ebola and Dengue are deadly infections and move fast. Natural medicines work slowly. Herbal teas are not strong enough. If you are to use herbal medicines for several viral infections, concentrated extracts may improve effectiveness.

The best way to beat severe viral infections is to avoid getting sick. Avoiding exposure is the best prevention. But, that’s not as easy as it sounds. If you get sick, quality medical care is essential, especially to manage hemorrhagic fevers. A combination of pharmaceutical drugs and supportive natural agents is a wise approach. Don’t underestimate the power of severe viral infections. Some kill.

Dr. J. E. Williams

J. E. WILLIAMS, OMD, FAAIM

Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

Visit Dr. Williams’ Website: https://drjewilliams.com/

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3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. June Hanson says:

    Thank you for such a timely article, valuable information, needed by all. That is why, everyone should be as fortunate, as I am to have such a knowledgeable Doctor as you. Teaching your patients how to build a strong immune system. We are, what we eat. Disciplining our self to eat healthy vegetables, less meat, eliminate all sugars and not give in to our appetites. We soon learn how delicious they taste. Energy increases, weight falls off, giving us the incentive to exercise. Your supplements work. Supplying the missing nutrients in our food and hurried lifestyles. I am so blessed to have responded to your type of acupuncture, therapies, keeping me free from painful spasms and inflammation. Something, no drug, hospital, or multitude of conventional doctors could do for me. Vitamin C IV’s. L-Glutathione, have kept me from viruses, infections, are worth the miles travelled to get them. Ebola is in our country now, in places that are suppose to be safe. It is no respecter of age. Do not depend on our government to protect us. We must be diligent to sanitize, wipe off areas, that others have used. Build a strong immune system. read your books on Viral Immunity and How to Beat The Flu. Practical, every day tips, how to stay well. Then there will be no need to panic . So, my dear doctor,, never give up the drive that is within you, warning,,teaching ways to keep us well and your research of natural plants. For me, your work, has not been in vain. I am one of your miracles.

  2. Very disappointed in this article, Dr Williams. I have your books and generally have great respect for you. This article is empty of useful information and just reiterates what we can read about ebola anywhere on the web: There is a lot more to it than that! Lots of dirty politics, direct links to biowarfare development and testing funding by the US government at the epicentre of the pandemic, and more generally, all the other aspects that relate to the nature of health and disease based on the biochemical environment of the body and its cells. I didn’t expect you to write a book here about all that, but at least touch upon these essential points, and not just repeat the standard lines about ebola, viruses and viral diseases.

  3. Kym says:

    Thanks Dr. Williams. As a nutritional med. student (college degree), I found the article to be an excellent summary. I wonder though, for the commenter above, if your conclusion might not have been a better place to start. Most people don’t really understand why viruses are so difficult to target, or even how they are different to bacteria. This is one situation where the most, or really only, effective solution is to combine complementary and mainstream medicine. In any case, just a perspective from someone who is starting to understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together but still remembers what was most confusing before.

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