"Noi fummo i Gattopardi, i Leoni; quelli che ci sostituiranno saranno gli sciacalletti, le iene; e tutti quanti gattopardi, sciacalli e pecore, continueremo a crederci il sale della terra."
("We were the Leopards, the Lions; those who'll take our place will be
little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals,
and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the
earth.")” ― Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard
Hundreds of fossilized human footprints found in Africa could reveal ancient traditions @CNN
Hundreds of fossilized human footprints made between 5,760 and 19,100
years ago have been discovered in Africa, shedding light on what life
was like in ancient communities, according to a new study.
This represents the largest collection of fossilized footprints found
in Africa to date.
Researchers believed the 408 footprints, which form 17 different
tracks, belonged to 14 adult females, two adult males and one juvenile
"The footprints were made in a volcanic mudflow, and when that wet ash
dried it hardened almost like concrete," said Kevin Hatala, study
author and assistant professor of biology at Chatham University in
Pennsylvania, in an email to CNN.
"So the footprint surface itself is very resilient. But this surface
was also buried by other layers of sediments, which helped to form
protective layers that shielded the surface from the elements for
thousands of years."
The footprints are located at the Engare Sero site, just south of Lake
Natron, in northern Tanzania.
"It is notable that the site, which preserves the most abundant
assemblage of hominin footprints currently known from Africa, is
within roughly 100 km [62 miles] of the site of Laetoli, which
preserves the earliest confidently attributed hominin footprints," the
authors wrote in the study.
"Footprints preserve amazing windows to the past, through which we can
directly observe snapshots of people moving across their landscapes at
specific moments in time," Hatala said.
"They can inform us of how fast people were moving, in which direction
they were heading, how large their feet were and sometimes whether the
people who made them may have been traveling in groups.
With such rich details, we can directly observe behaviors in the
fossil record, something that is very difficult to do with other forms
Snapshots of human anatomy, locomotion, and behavior from Late Pleistocene footprints at Engare Sero, Tanzania
The Engare Sero footprint site lies just south of Lake Natron, in
northern Tanzania (Fig. 1). It is notable that the site, which
preserves the most abundant assemblage of hominin footprints currently
known from Africa, is within roughly 100 km of the site of Laetoli,
which preserves the earliest confidently attributed hominin
The Engare Sero site was originally discovered by members of a Maasai
community living nearby.
The human footprint surface has been dated by this research team to
between 5760 + /− 30 yrs BP and 19.1 + /− 3.1 ka, based on 40Ar/39Ar
analysis as well as 14C radioisotopic dating techniques24.
Another group suggests it may be closer to ~11,000 yrs BP27. Our team
has built upon radioisotopic results to further constrain the likely
age of the footprint surface to the latest Pleistocene, as we
identified in previous analyses a calcite cement in an overlying
sedimentary layer that was likely produced during a highstand of Lake
Natron that occurred between 12 and 10 ka24
Examples of Engare Sero tracks.
From top to bottom are tracks A8, I2, and D6. Overhead photographs are
at left, orthographic images of 3D track models are at right, colored
according to depth. Images are not set to common scale but each image
includes a scale bar that is 15 cm in length.
Crisis in the Hot Zone Lessons from an outbreak of Ebola. By Richard Preston October 19, 1992
The main building of the United States Army Medical Research Institute
for Infectious Diseases is an essentially windowless concrete block
that covers several acres at Fort Detrick, an Army base in Frederick,
Maryland, fifteen miles east of Antietam. Military people call the
structure the Institute, or they call it by its acronym, usamriid,
drawling it as You Sam Rid. Or they call the place riid, as in getting
rid of something. Vent stacks on its roof discharge filtered exhaust
air from sealed biological laboratories inside the building. Fort
Detrick, the envelope of usamriid, sits in rolling country on the
eastern slope of the Appalachian Mountains, in the drainage of the
Potomac River. The Potomac bends through oak-blanketed mountains at
Harpers Ferry and enters farmland, and eventually passes near Reston,
Virginia, a town outside the Washington Beltway where farms give way
to business parks, and where in the eighties office buildings accreted
The mission of usamriid is medical defense. The Institute conducts
research into ways to protect soldiers against biological weapons and
natural infectious diseases. It specializes in vaccines, drug therapy,
and biocontainment. That is, the Institute knows methods for stopping
a monster virus before it ignites an explosive chain of lethal
transmission in the human race. The laboratory suites at usamriid are
maintained at four levels of biological security. The levels go from
Biosafety Level 1, which is the lowest, up to Biosafety Level 4, the
highest. The Biosafety Level 4 rooms contain BL-4 agents, also known
as hot agents. A BL-4 hot agent is a lethal virus for which, in most
cases, there is no vaccine and no cure. It is in the nature of hot
agents to travel through the air: they can become airborne. The hot
agents live in the hot suites in blood serum and bits of meat, frozen
at -70° Centigrade. All the biocontainment laboratories at usamriid
are kept under negative air pressure, so that if a leak develops air
will flow into the hot rooms and out of the normal world, rather than
the other way around. The Army does not publish a list of the viruses
it keeps in the hot suites at usamriid, but here is a list of BL-4
viruses: Junin. Lassa. Machupo. Tick-borne encephalitis virus complex.
Guanarito. Crimean-Congo. Marburg. Ebola Sudan. Ebola Zaire. Ebola
Reston. If you want to shake hands with one of these viruses, you had
better wear a space suit. That’s a federal rule. It holds equally at
usamriid and at the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, which are
the only two laboratories in the United States that can handle BL-4
To go inside a Biosafety Level 4 hot suite that contains life, first
you have to strip naked. You put on surgical scrubs and then a space
suit. You pull the helmet down over your head and close the suit. Then
you enter an antechamber, a kind of air lock. It leads to Biosafety
Level 4. Military people consider this air lock a gray zone, a place
where two worlds meet. The air-lock doors are blazed with the
international symbol for biohazard, a red trefoil that reminds me of a
flower. I think it looks not unlike a red trillium, or toadshade. At
usamriid, toadshades bloom in the gray zones.
In 1980, Nancy Jaax joined a group of military scientists who were
performing experiments with Ebola virus on monkeys. They were
infecting monkeys with Ebola and then treating them with interferon
and other substances to see if the treatments stopped or weakened the
disease. The purpose of the experiments was to find some chemical
therapy for military personnel who might become infected with Ebola.
Ebola is one of a class of viruses known as the filoviruses. That
means thread viruses. They look like spaghetti. As of this writing,
the class comprises three subtypes of Ebola and a virus known as
Marburg. Ebola virus is named for the Ebola River, a tributary of the
Zaire (Congo) River which runs through northern Zaire. The first known
emergence of Ebola Zaire—the hottest subtype of Ebola virus—happened
in September, 1976, when the virus erupted simultaneously in
fifty-five villages near the Ebola River. Ebola Zaire is a slate-wiper
in humans. It killed eighty-eight per cent of the people it infected.
Apart from rabies and the human immunodeficiency virus, H.I.V., which
causes aids, this was the highest rate of mortality that has been
recorded for a human virus. Ebola was spread mainly among family
members, through contact with bodily fluids and blood. Many of the
people in Africa who came down with Ebola had handled Ebola-infected
cadavers. It seems that one of Ebola’s paths wends to the living from
Ebola victims died about a week after the onset of the first symptom,
which was a headache. The Ebola patient soon breaks into a relentless
fever, and then come the complications. Ebola triggers a paradoxical
combination of blood clots and hemorrhages. The patient’s bloodstream
throws clots, and the clots lodge everywhere, especially in the
spleen, liver, and brain. This is called D.I.C., or disseminated
intravascular coagulation. D.I.C. is a kind of stroke through the
whole body. No one knows how Ebola triggers blood-clotting. As the
strokelike condition progresses and capillaries in the internal organs
become jammed with clots, the hemorrhaging begins: blood leaks out of
the capillaries into the surrounding tissues. This blood refuses to
coagulate. It is grossly hemolyzed, which means that its cells are
broken. You are stuffed with clots, and yet you bleed like a
hemophiliac who has been in a fistfight. Your skin develops bruises
and goes pulpy, and tears easily, and becomes speckled with purple
hemorrhages called petechiae, and erupts in a maculopapular rash that
has been likened to tapioca pudding. Your intestines may fill up
completely with blood. Your eyeballs may also fill with blood. Your
eyelids bleed. You vomit a black fluid. You may suffer a hemispherical
stroke, which paralyzes one whole side of the body and is invariably
fatal in a case of Ebola. In the pre-agonal stage of the disease (the
endgame), the patient leaks blood containing huge quantities of virus
from the nose, mouth, anus, and eyes, and from rips in the skin. In
the agonal stage, death comes from hemorrhage and shock.
People seem unable to develop protective antibodies to Ebola. You
can’t fight off an Ebola infection the way you fight off a cold. Ebola
seems to crush the immune system. The virus perhaps makes
immunosuppressant proteins. No one knows the nature of such proteins,
since there aren’t many virologists who care to study a virus for
which there is no vaccine and no cure. (They don’t want the virus to
do research on them.) Immunosuppressive proteins—if, indeed, they
exist—would act as molecular bombs that ruin parts of the immune
system, enabling the virus to multiply without opposition.
Like all viruses, Ebola and its cousin Marburg are parasites. They can
copy themselves only inside a cell. Viruses need to use a cell’s
equipment to reproduce. Ebola and Marburg grow promiscuously in human
tissue, sprouting from cells like hair, forming tangled masses and
braids and “g”s and “y”s and pigtails. Marburg-virus particles often
roll up into tiny Cheerios. All filoviruses form semi-crystalline
blocks inside cells, which are known as inclusion bodies. Some
scientists call them bricks. The bricks may pack a cell until there’s
almost nothing left of the cell but bricks: the cell bloats into a
sack of bricks. Then the bricks break apart into threads of virus, and
the threads push through the cell wall like grass rising from seeded
A classic sign of infection by Ebola or Marburg is a certain
expression that invariably creeps over the patient’s face as the
infection progresses. The face becomes fixed and “expressionless,”
“masklike,” “ghostlike” (in the words of doctors who have seen it),
with wide, deadened, “sunken” eyes. The patient looks and sometimes
behaves like a zombie. This happens because Ebola damages the brain in
some way that isn’t known. The classic masklike facial expression
appears in all primates infected with Ebola, both monkeys and human
beings. They act as if they were already embalmed, even though they
are not yet dead. The personality may change: the human patient
becomes sullen, hostile, agitated, or develops acute psychosis. Some
have been known to escape from the hospital.
Disseminated clotting cuts off the blood supply to tissues, causing
focal necrosis—dead spots in the liver, spleen, brain, kidneys, and
lungs. In severe cases, Ebola kills so much tissue that after death
the cadaver rapidly deteriorates. In monkeys, and perhaps in people, a
sort of melting occurs, and the corpse’s connective tissue, skin, and
organs, already peppered with dead areas and heated with fever, begin
to liquefy, and the slimes and uncoagulated blood that run from the
cadaver are saturated with Ebola-virus particles. That may be one of
Ebola’s strategies for success.
Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Jaax’s job during the Army’s 1980 experiments
with Ebola was to dissect and examine monkeys that had died of the
virus. Her space suit had triple pairs of gloves.
Nancy Jaax continued with the experiment, and all the monkeys that had
been infected with Ebola died; the drugs had no effect on the course
of the disease. She kept two control monkeys—healthy monkeys—apart
from the others, in separate cages inside the hot suite. Then both
control monkeys died of Ebola. They had not been injected with virus,
and their cages were on the far side of the room from those of the
sick monkeys. “So the question is: How did they get it?” Lieutenant
Colonel Nancy Jaax said to me. “They probably got it from aerosolized
droplets from the sick monkeys. That was when I knew that Ebola could
spread through the air.”
virus is a small capsule consisting of membranes and proteins. The
capsule holds one or more strands of RNA or DNA that contain the
software program for making a copy of the virus. The virus penetrates
a cell wall, and the capsule breaks apart inside the cell, releasing
the strands of genetic material, which take over the cell and force it
to make copies of the virus. Eventually, the cell gets pigged with
virus, and pops. Or viruses can bud through a cell wall like sweat
coming off a drip hose. In either case, viruses tend to kill cells. If
they kill enough cells, or if they kill a class of cell that the host
needs for survival, then the host dies. Viruses that kill their hosts
do not themselves survive. It is in the virus’s best interest to let
the host live, but accidents happen. Some biologists classify viruses
as “life forms”—ambiguously alive. Bacteria and cells are always
humming with activity, enzymatic processes. Viruses that are outside
cells merely sit there; nothing happens. But when they get inside a
cell they switch on and begin to replicate. Viruses can seem alive
when they multiply, but in another sense they are molecular
machines—obviously non-living, strictly mechanical, no more alive than
a jackhammer. Compact, logical, hard, engineered by the forces of
evolution, and totally selfish, the viral machinery is dedicated to
making copies of itself—which it can do on occasion with radiant
Viruses are not easy to see, even with an electron microscope. Here is
a way to imagine the size of a virus. Consider the island of
Manhattan, shrunk to this size:
This shrunken Manhattan could easily hold nine million common-cold
viruses. If you made an aerial reconnaissance of it with an electron
microscope, you would see little figures milling like the lunch crowd
on Fifth Avenue. Viruses can be purified and concentrated into
crystals. Packed in a crystalline layer, shoulder to shoulder and only
one virus deep, a hundred million polio viruses could cover the period
at the end of this sentence. There could be a thousand Giants Stadiums
of viruses sitting on that period—two hundred and fifty Woodstocks of
viruses, a third of the population of the United States, sitting on
that period—but you wouldn’t know it without a scope.
In 1892, a Russian scientist named Dimitry Ivanovsky studied a disease
of tobacco leaves which gives them white spots. He passed the juice of
sick leaves through extremely fine filters, and when he injected
healthy plants with the filtered juice they got sick and developed
white spots. Ivanovsky concluded that some very small agent was
causing the disease, but he didn’t know whether it was a toxic
chemical or a living thing. In 1898, Martinus Beijerinck, a Dutch
botanist, proved that Ivanovsky’s virus was a replicative infectious
agent. It has since come to be called tobacco-mosaic virus. In 1900,
the United States Army discovered the first human virus—the
yellow-fever agent. That was the work of Walter Reed and his team. The
Army has tracked viruses from the beginning.
There is no fossil record in rocks to indicate that viruses existed
before the late nineteenth century, when tobacco-mosaic virus was
first noticed. Fossils of bacteria have turned up in rocks that are
more than three billion years old, but no fossils of viruses have ever
been found. Nevertheless, viruses are obviously ancient, and perhaps
primeval. They are molecular sharks, a motive without a mind. They
have sorted themselves into tribes, and they infect everything that
The human immunodeficiency virus, or H.I.V., is a not very infectious
but lethal Biosafety Level 2 or 3 agent, which most likely emerged
from the rain forests of Central Africa. You don’t need to wear a
space suit while handling blood infected with H.I.V. During the
nineteen-seventies, the virus fell like a shadow over the human
population living along the east-west highway that links Kinshasa, in
Zaire, with Mombasa, in Kenya. The emergence was subtle: the virus
incubates for years in a human host before it kills the host.
A zoonotic virus is a virus that lives naturally in an animal and can
infect human cells, perhaps mutating slightly in the course of
passage, which enables the virus to start a chain of infection through
human hosts. For example, H.I.V.-2 (one of the two major strains of
H.I.V.) may be a mutant zoonotic virus that jumped into us from an
African monkey known as the sooty mangabey, perhaps when
monkey-hunters touched bloody tissue. No one really knows where H.I.V.
came from. H.I.V.-1 (the other strain) may have jumped into us from
chimpanzees, or it may be a human virus that has been in our species
for ages,circulating in some isolated group of people in Central
Africa. As outsid-ers came into the area, aids came out, and passed
into the general human population.
The emergence of aids appears to be a natural consequence of the ruin
of the tropical biosphere. Unknown viruses are coming out of the
equatorial wildernesses of the earth and discovering the human race.
It seems to be happening as a result of the destruction of tropical
habitats. You might call aids the revenge of the rain forest. aids is
arguably the worst environmental disaster of the twentieth century, so
far. Some of the people who worry in a professional capacity about
viruses have begun to wonder whether H.I.V. isn’t the only rain-forest
virus that will sweep the world. The human immunodeficiency virus
looks like an example rather than a culminating disaster. As lethal
viruses go, H.I.V. is by no means nature’s preëminent display of
power. The rain forest, being by far the earth’s largest reservoir of
both plant and animal species, is also its largest reservoir of
viruses, since all living things carry viruses. Just how large the
tropical reservoir of viruses is no one knows, but here is one way to
consider the question. The earth is estimated to contain between three
million and thirty million species of plants and animals. Most of the
species are fungi, insects, and non-insect arthropods, such as ticks
and mites, and the bulk of them live in tropical forests. Viruses
often adapt to one or two species. For example, human beings carry
more than a hundred different cold viruses that are adapted almost
exclusively to the human host. If we suppose that every species
carries one virus exclusively adapted to it, then there may be from
three to thirty million strains of viruses. Possibly the number of
virus strains is much larger than that—perhaps a hundred million—but
nobody has ever tried to count them.
When an ecosystem suffers degradation, many species die out and a few
survivor-species have population explosions. Viruses in a damaged
ecosystem can come under extreme selective pressure. Viruses are
adaptable: they react to change and can mutate fast, and they can jump
among species of hosts. As people enter the forest and clear it,
viruses come out, carried in their survivor-hosts—rodents, insects,
soft ticks—and the viruses meet Homo sapiens. Here are the names of
some emerging viruses: Lassa. Rift Valley. Oropouche. Rocio. Q fever.
V.E.E. Guanarito. Ross River. Monkeypox. Dengue. Chikungunya. Hantaan.
Machupo. Junin. The rabies-like strains Mokola and Duvenhage. Le
Dantec. Human immunodeficiency virus—which might have been called
Kinshasa Highway, if it had been noticed earlier—is considered an
emerger, since its penetration of the human race is incomplete and is
still happening explosively, with no end in sight. The Kyasanur
Forestvirus. The Semliki virus. Crimean-Congo. Sindbis.
O’nyong-nynong. Marburg. Ebola. Most of them—but not all—come from
tropical forests or tropical savannas. When a virus that lives in some
nonhuman host is about to crash into the human species, the warning
sign may be a spatter of breaks—disconnected emergences, at different
times and places. I tend to think of rats leaving a ship. The presence
of international airports puts every virus on earth within a day’s
flying time of the United States.
Reston, Virginia, is near Washington.The town has an active chamber of
commerce and a visitors’ center designed to lure high-technology
businesses to the area. Along the Leesburg Pike, a commuter route that
funnels traffic to Washington, you see developments of executive
homes. The homes are pseudo-Victorians, with unused porches, and
stick-built neo-Georgians, with false-brick fronts and a Baby Benz
parked in a semicircular carriageway. You also see the occasional
bungalow with cardboard stuffed in a broken window and a Harley in the
driveway. The town of Reston is bisected by the Dulles Access and Toll
Road, which connects Dulles airport with Washington. Not far from the
Dulles Access Road in Reston is a small business park. Until recently,
a company called Hazleton Research Products had a monkey house in a
one-story building in the business park. It was known as the Reston
Primate Quarantine Unit. Hazleton Research Products sells animals for
research; it is a division of Corning Incorporated. Hazleton was
importing monkeys from the tropics and bringing them through J.F.K.
International Airport to the Reston Primate Quarantine Unit. Each
year, about sixteen thousand wild monkeys are imported into the United
States, to be used as laboratory animals. Federal regulations require
that imported monkeys be held in quarantine for at least thirty-one
days before they are shipped anywhere else in the United States. This
is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases that could kill other
primates, including laboratory workers.
Dan Dalgard, doctor of veterinary medicine, is the principal scientist
at Hazleton Washington, which has its offices on the Leesburg Pike, in
Vienna, next to Reston. Dan Dalgard has an international reputation as
a knowledgeable and skilled veterinarian who specializes in primate
husbandry, and he understands monkey behavior and monkey diseases. He
is a calm, blunt man in his late fifties. He wears glasses, and he has
a square, pleasant face. On evenings and weekends, he repairs antique
clocks as a hobby. He likes to use his hands and his mind to figure
out how a broken complicated system can be fixed. Dalgard sometimes
has longings to leave veterinary medicine and immerse himself in
On Wednesday, October 4, 1989, Hazleton accepted a shipment of a
hundred wild monkeys from the Philippines. The shipment originated on
the island of Mindanao, at a Philippine monkey-export company. The
monkeys were macaques, and the species was Macaca fascicularis.
Zookeepers call it the crab-eating macaque. It is a common monkey that
lives along rivers and in mangrove swamps in Southeast Asia, and it is
often used as a laboratory animal. It eats fruit, crabs, insects, and
small pieces of clay. A crab-eating macaque will snatch a crab out of
the water and quickly rip its claws off and throw them away before
devouring the rest of the crab. Sometimes a crab-eating macaque isn’t
quick enough with the claws, and when the monkeys are on a feeding
bout in a mangrove swamp at low tide you can occasionally hear shrieks
when a crab fastens on a monkey. The crab-eating macaque has brown
eyes, pointed ears, tawny fur, and a long tail. As monkeys go,
crab-eating macaques have a calm temperament, provided that you don’t
stare at them. Any monkey thinks staring is rude, and the crab eater
will respond on the same level, screaming “Kra, kra! ” and hurling its
feces at you.
The Philippine monkeys arrived at J.F.K. and were taken by truck to
Hazleton’s Reston Primate Quarantine Unit. The monkeys were kept in
stainless-steel cages in windowless rooms, under artificial lights,
and were fed monkey biscuits. The Reston quarantine rooms were
designated by letters ofthe alphabet, from “A” through “L.” The
Philippine monkeys were put in Room F. The ventilation system
recirculated some air in common through the rooms, so that the monkeys
were breathing one another’s air.
By the first of November, twenty-seven monkeys had died. That was more
than usual for a shipment of wild monkeys. Dan Dalgard performed
necropsies on the ones that had died, and concluded that they were
being killed by dysentery and pneumonia. These diseases are not
uncommon in wild monkeys. A week later, on Monday, November 6th,
another shipment of crab-eating macaques arrived, making a total of
about five hundred monkeys in the quarantine unit, all crab-eating
macaques from the Philippines. But by November 10th Dalgard had begun
to suspect that some of his monkeys might be dying of simian
hemorrhagic fever, or S.H.F., a virus that is lethal to monkeys but
does not cause clinical disease in humans. (It infects people but
doesn’t make them sick.) The possibility worried Dalgard, because
S.H.F. is highly contagious in monkeys, and can wipe out a colony.
He began sacrificing monkeys that appeared sick, by injecting them
with overdoses of an anesthetic, and then he opened them up. He found
that their spleens were enlarged—a classic sign of simian hemorrhagic
fever. But monkeys infected with S.H.F. typically die sneezing blood
or with other evidence of hemorrhaging, and Dalgard hadn’t seen any of
these signs in the monkeys that died before November 10th. The monkeys
had simply stopped eating and died of shock. The focus of the
infection was Room F, where most of the monkeys had perished. The
disease gave Dalgard an eerie feeling, and prompted him to keep a
diary. Of the monkeys that had died in Room F he wrote:
Many of the animals were in prime condition and had more abdominal and
subcutaneous fat than is customary for animals arriving from the wild.
The diagnosis at this time was continuing to point more strongly
toward S.H.F. but the slow progression [of the disease] and the lack
of the hemorrhagic component confused the diagnosis.
He decided to take the mystery to the United States Army Medical
Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, where he knew about a
virologist named Peter Jahrling, who had done work on S.H.F. He
described to Jahrling the illness that was burning through his
monkeys, and he sent some blood and tissue samples to Jahrling. Some
of the samples came from a monkey known as O53, which had lived in
Room F. Jahrling froze some of the tissues and placed them in a
Biosafety Level 3 containment room. This level is kept under negative
pressure, but you don’t need to wear a space suit inside it.
One way to identify a virus is to make it multiply inside living cells
in a flask. You drop a very small sample of the virus into the cells,
and as the virus spreads through the cells extraordinary numbers of
virus particles are produced. You can then look at them under a
microscope, or you can put different kinds of fluorescent
antibodies—immunity proteins—in the virus culture. These antibodies
attach themselves to infected cells and glow under ultraviolet light,
and the antibody that makes cells glow tells you which particular
virus you have in the flask.
A civilian technician named Joan Rhoderick cultured the unknown monkey
virus from the liver of Monkey O53. She ground up a bit of the liver
with a mortar and pestle, and dropped some of the resultant mush into
flasks that contained a living strain of cells from the kidney of a
green monkey. Joan Rhoderick wore a surgical mask and rubber gloves
but not a space suit, and she worked with the samples kept in a safety
cabinet that pulls air away from the samples and through a filter.
John Rhoderick and Peter Jahrling looked at slices of liver and spleen
from Monkey O53, and Jahrling gave a presumptive diagnosis of simian
hemorrhagic fever to Dan Dalgard. At this point, Dalgard felt that he
had no choice but to sacrifice all the monkeys in Room F in order to
halt the spreading disease. If those monkeys were infected with
S.H.F., they would die anyway, and if they weren’t sacrificed the
disease could spread to other rooms, killing more monkeys. Dalgard and
an assistant, wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves, euthanized all
the monkeys in Room F on November 16th—some seventy monkeys in all.
They gave the monkeys injections of an anesthetic. Dalgard opened ten
of the corpses to see what he could see, and sent everything to an
At the beginning of Thanksgiving week of 1989, when these events were
taking place at the Reston Primate Quarantine Unit, Thomas Geisbert
was a twenty-seven-year-old civilian researcher working at usamriid
while he studied for a Ph.D. in microbiology. His specialty is the
electron microscope. Geisbert is something of a loner, a tall man with
blue eyes, brown hair, and arrestingly large ears. He grew up an only
child in western Maryland, where he spent a lot of time camping in the
woods alone or with his uncles, who taught him how to hunt and fish.
Geisbert’s boss at usamriid was Peter Jahrling. Tom Geisbert goes deer
hunting in West Virginia every year around Thanksgiving. He planned to
leave on Monday morning of that week, but something prompted him to
stop by his lab at usamriid for a last look at the flasks of monkey
cells that were incubating the virus from Reston. At nine in the
morning, he put on a surgical mask and gloves and entered the BL-3
suite. There he met Joan Rhoderick, the technician who had started the
Reston culture. She was looking at a flask under a microscope. The
flask contained cells infected with virus from the Reston monkey O53.
She said to Geisbert, “There’s something flaky going on in this
The flask was small—four inches long—and it was made of plastic and
had a screw cap. Geisbert looked through the eyepieces of the
microscope into the flask. Living cells ordinarily cling to the bottom
of a flask in a carpet. This carpet looked eaten by moths. It was full
of holes: dead and dying cells had detached from the flask and drifted
into the fluid. Later, he described to me what he’d seen. “Cells that
have been infected with S.H.F. take on a spiderweb look. These cells
didn’t look like that. They were rounded and had a granular,
pepperlike look. Some were dead. They were ‘off the plastic,’ as we
say. It means they had floated away.”
This didn’t look like simian hemorrhagic fever. He went out and got
Peter Jahrling, his boss. He said to Jahrling, “There’s something very
strange going on in that flask, but I’m not sure what.”
Jahrling had worked at usamriid long enough to have seen some strange
things in flasks. “The cells were blown away. They were crud,”
Jahrling recalled later. He thought that a wild strain of bacteria had
invaded the cell culture. This is a common and annoying occurrence in
cell cultures, and it wipes out the culture. Bacteria give off odors
as they multiply, and Peter Jahrling had smelled enough bacterial
contaminations so that he knew how to distinguish them by nose.
Viruses, on the other hand, kill cells without releasing an odor.
Jahrling guessed that the flask had been wiped out by a common soil
bacterium named pseudomonas, which, he says, “smells like Welch’s
grape juice.” He unscrewed the cap and waved his hand over it, and
took a whiff, and said to Geisbert, “Have you ever smelled
pseudomonas?” Geisbert accepted the flask from Jahrling and sniffed.
He didn’t smell any Welch’s grape juice. There was no odor. Jahrling,
who hadn’t smelled anything, either, took back the flask and whiffed
it again. Nothing. No smell. But the cells were blown away.
Geisbert poured some milky fluid out of the flask into a test tube and
spun it in a microcentrifuge. A small “button” of material collected
at the bottom of the test tube—a pill of dead and dying cells.
Geisbert removed the button with a wooden stick and soaked it in
plastic resin. Then he went hunting in West Virginia. He planned to
look at the button in his microscope when he returned, after
Thanksgiving. When Ebola virus infects a human being, the incubation
period is from seven to fourteen days, while the number of virus
particles gradually climbs in the bloodstream. Then comes the
The first known emergence of a filovirus happened in August, 1967, in
Marburg, Germany. A shipment of green monkeys from Uganda had arrived
in Frankfurt. Green-monkey kidney cells are useful for the production
of vaccines, and these monkeys were going to be killed for their
kidneys. Most of the monkeys were trucked from Frankfurt to a factory
in Marburg that produced serum and vaccines, while a few monkeys from
the same shipment stayed in Frankfurt, and a few others went to
Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The first person known to be infected with the
virus—the index case—was a man known as Klaus F., an animal-care
technician at the serum factory in Marburg. He broke with fever and
rash on August 8th, and died two weeks later.
So little is known about the Marburg agent that only one book has been
published about it, “Marburg Virus Disease,” edited by G. A. Martini
and R. Siegert. In it we learn:
The monkey-keeper heinrich p. came back from his holiday on August
13th 1967 and did his job of killing monkeys from August 14th-23rd.
The first symptoms appeared on August 21st.
The laboratory assistant renate l. broke a test-tube that was to be
sterilized, which had contained infected material, on August 28th, and
fell ill on September 4th 1967.
And so on. Thirty-one laboratory workers acquired the disease; seven
died. In other words, the case-fatality rate of Marburg virus in
hospitalized patients was twenty-two per cent. That was terrifying.
Yellow fever, which is considered a lethal virus, kills only five per
cent of the infected once they reach a hospital.
Marburg began with a splitting headache, focussed behind the eyes and
temples. That was followed by a fever. The characteristic diagnostic
sign was a red speckled rash over the body which blistered into a sea
of tiny white bubbles. “Most of the patients showed a sullen, slightly
aggressive, or negativistic behavior,” Martini wrote. “Two patients
[had] a feeling as if they were lying on crumbs.” One became deranged
and psychotic. These mental signs were caused by the virus’s having
damaged the brain. The patient Hans O.-V. showed no signs of mental
change, but he suffered a sudden, acute fall of blood pressure and
died. At autopsy, his brain was found to be laced with hemorrhages,
and there was a massive, fatal hemorrhage at the center. In Frankfurt,
an animal attendant known as B. developed a high fever and eventually
began bleeding from his mouth, nose, and gastrointestinal tract. He
was given whole-blood transfusions, but then he developed
uncontrollable hemorrhages at the sites of the I.V. punctures. He died
with blood running from his mouth and his nipples. All the survivors
lost their hair. During convalescence, the skin peeled off their
faces, hands, feet, and genitals. It was a small, frightening
Marburg virus looks like rope, or it rolls up into the rings that
resemble Cheerios. Virologists had never seen a ring-shaped virus, and
couldn’t figure out how to classify it. They thought that it might be
a type of rabies. The rabies particle is shaped like a bullet, and if
you stretch a bullet it becomes a rod, and the rod can be bent into a
doughnut: Marburg. They started calling Marburg “stretched rabies.”
But it is not related to rabies.
The question was: What is the virus’s natural history? In what animal
or insect does Marburg hide? Marburg evidently does not circulate in
monkeys. Monkeys die quickly of the disease, and if they were the
reservoir, Marburg wouldn’t wipe them out. The monkey’s immune system
would have learned to attack the virus, and the virus itself would
have become better adapted to living in monkeys without killing them,
since it is in the virus’s best interest to let the host survive. The
Marburg monkeys had been collected in Uganda by native
trappers—apparently in forested habitat to the west of Mt. Elgon, an
extinct volcano that straddles the border between Uganda and Kenya.
Teams of epidemiologists combed Uganda, and especially the western
slopes of Mt. Elgon, looking for some animal or insect that harbored
Marburg virus; they found nothing.
In 1980, a French engineer who was employed by the Nzoia Sugar Company
at a factory in Kenya within sight of Mt. Elgon developed Marburg and
died. He was an amateur naturalist who spent time camping and hiking
around Mt. Elgon, and he had recently visited a cavern on the Kenyan
side of the mountain which was known as Kitum Cave. It wasn’t clear
where the Frenchman had picked up the virus, whether at the sugar
factory or outdoors. Then, in the late summer of 1987, a Danish boy
whose name will be given here as Peter Cardinal visited the Kenyan
side of Mt. Elgon with his parents—the Cardinals were tourists—and the
boy broke with Marburg and died.
Epidemiologists at usamriid became interested in the cases, and they
traced the movements of the French engineer and the Danish boy in the
days before their illnesses and deaths. The result was weird. The
paths of the French engineer and the Danish boy had crossed only
once—in Kitum Cave. Peter Cardinal had gone inside Kitum Cave. As for
the Ugandan trappers who had collected the original Marburg monkeys,
they might have poached them from the Kenyan side of Mt. Elgon. Those
monkeys might have lived near Kitum Cave, and might even have
occasionally visited the cave.
Mt. Elgon is a huge, eroded volcanic massif, fifty miles across—one of
the largest volcanoes in East Africa. Kitum Cave is one of a number of
caverns that penetrate Mt. Elgon at an altitude of around eight
thousand feet and open their mouths in a deep forest of podo trees,
African junipers, African olives, and camphors. Kitum Cave descends
into tight passages and underground pools that extend an unknown
distance back into Mt. Elgon. The volcanic rock within Kitum Cave is
permeated with mineral salts. Elephants go inside the cave to root out
chunks of salty rock with their tusks and chew on them. Water buffalo
also visit the cave to lick the rocks, and they may be followed into
the cave by leopards. Fruit bats and insect-eating bats roost in the
cave, filling the air with a sour smell. The animals drop their dung
in the cave—an enclosed airspace—and they attract biting flies and
carry ticks and mites. The volcanic rock contains petrified logs, the
remains of trees that were enveloped in lava, and the logs are filled
with sharp crystals. Peter Cardinal may have handled crystals inside
the cave and scratched his hands. Possibly the crystals were tainted
with animal urine or the remains of an insect. The Army keeps some of
Peter Cardinal’s tissues frozen in cryovials, and the Cardinal strain
is viciously hot. It kills guinea pigs like flies. In February, 1988,
a few months after Peter Cardinal died, the Army sent a team of
epidemiologists to Kitum Cave.
The team wore Racal suits inside the cave. A Racal is a lightweight
pressurized suit with a filtered air supply, used for hot operations
in the field. There is no vaccine for Marburg, and the Army people had
come to believe that the virus could be spread through the air. Near
and inside the cave they set out, in cages, guinea pigs and
primates—baboons, green monkeys, and Sykes’ monkeys—and they
surrounded the cages with electrified wire to discourage predators.
The guinea pigs and monkeys were sentinel animals, like canaries in a
coal mine: they were placed there in the theory or the hope that some
of them would develop Marburg. With the help of Kenyan naturalists,
the Army team trapped as many different kinds of wild mammals as they
could find, including rodents, rock hyraxes, and bats, and drew blood
from them. They collected insects. Some local people, the il-Kony, had
lived in some of the caves. A Kenyan doctor from the Kenya Medical
Research Institute, in Nairobi, drew blood from these people and took
their medical histories. At the far end of Kitum Cave, where it
disappears in pools of water, the Army team found a population of sand
flies. They mashed some flies and tested them for Marburg.
The expedition was a dry hole. The sentinel animals remained healthy,
and the blood and tissue samples from the mammals, insects,
arthropods, and local people showed no obvious signs of Marburg. To
this day, the natural reservoir of Marburg is unknown. Marburg lives
somewhere in the shadow of Mt. Elgon.
On July 6, 1976, five hundred miles northwest of Mt. Elgon, in the
township of Nzara, Sudan, in densely wooded country at the edge of the
African rain forest, a man referred to as YuG died of a hemorrhagic
fever. He was a storekeeper in a cotton factory, and he was the index
case of a new strain of filovirus. The clinical features of the
disease were indistinguishable from those of Marburg—masklike facial
expression, rash, bleeding, terminal shock. Two of YuG’s co-workers
also came down with the disease and died. No one knows how the virus
got into the cotton factory. One of the dead men, a man known as PG,
had a wide circle of friends and contacts, and he also had several
mistresses. Most of the subsequent fatal cases of what later came to
be known as the Sudan subtype of Ebola hemorrhagic fever can be traced
back through chains of infection to PG, through as many as six
generations of infection. The strain burned through the town of Nzara,
and then reached eastward to the town of Maridi, where there was a
large hospital, and it hit the hospital like a bomb. It killed nurses
and aides, and it savaged patients and then radiated outward from the
hospital through patients’ families. (A characteristic of a lethal,
highly transmissible, and incurable virus is that it kills medical
people first. Frequently, as in this case, the medical-care system
actually intensifies the outbreak, like a lens that focusses sunlight
in a heap of tinder.) The Sudan virus was more than twice as lethal as
Marburg—its case-fatality rate was fifty per cent, the same as that of
bubonic plague before antibiotics. And the death rate kept climbing,
until by the third month of the Sudan outbreak mortality among the
infected had hit seventy per cent, as if perhaps the virus were
mutating, getting hotter as it passed from generation to generation in
humans. Then, for reasons that aren’t clear, the outbreak subsided.
The surviving staff of the Maridi hospital had panicked and run away,
and that may have helped break the chain of infection. Or possibly the
human hosts died too quickly to be efficient transmitters of the
virus. Whatever the reason, the organism vanished.
In early September, 1976, two months after the beginning of the Sudan
break, a similar yet more lethal strain emerged five hundred miles to
the west, in the Bumba Zone of Zaire, an area of humid rain forest
drained by the Ebola River. The Ebola River strain seemed to come out
of nowhere, and popped up in the Yambuku Mission Hospital, an
upcountry clinic run by Belgian nuns. The nuns and staff at Yambuku
were using five needles a day to give injections of antibiotics and
vitamins to hundreds of people in the hospital’s outpatient and
maternity clinics. The staff sometimes rinsed the needles in a pan of
warm water between injections. The virus entered the cycle of dirty
needles, and erupted in fifty-five villages around the hospital. It
first killed people who had received injections, and then killed
family members—particularly women, who in Africa prepare the dead for
The virus also wiped out the Yambuku hospital’s medical staff.
(Medical people go first.) By the end of September, two-thirds of the
staff were dead or dying, and the hospital closed down. A critically
ill Belgian nun who was a nurse at the hospital, Sister M.E., was
flown to Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire, with another nun, Sister
E.R., who nursed her. Sister M.E. was admitted to the Ngaliema
Hospital, and she died there shortly afterward. Sister E.R. then
became ill and died. Then a Zairian nurse at Ngaliema Hospital,
identified as M.N., developed fever and bleeding. She had cared for
Sister M.E.; she herself would soon die. While M.N. was incubating the
virus, she had had face-to-face contact with several dozen people in
the city of Kinshasa. The virus seemed about to start an explosive
chain of lethal transmission in Kinshasa, a poor, crowded city with a
population of two million, where the virus might go off like a
bonfire. This epidemiological possibility triggered a panic in
European capitals. Kinshasa has direct air links to Europe, and
European governments contemplated blocking flights from Kinshasa. The
World Health Organization feared that the nurse M.N. might be the
vector for a worldwide pandemic. The Zairian government ordered its
army to seal off the Bumba Zone with roadblocks, and all radio contact
with the province was lost. Bumba had dropped off the earth, into the
silent heart of darkness.
Out of Bumba came some tubes of blood, and from Sudan came some vials
of serum. A few of the samples ended up in Atlanta, Georgia, at the
Centers for Disease Control, where a team headed by Karl M. Johnson
isolated the Ebola River virus for the first time. Key members of the
team were Frederick A. Murphy, who is an expert in the electron
microscope, and Patricia A. Webb, a virologist. (She was married to
Karl Johnson at the time.) The team started to grow the virus in
cultures of monkey cells, and Murphy began looking at the cells in his
microscope. On October 13th, Webb telephoned her husband, Johnson, and
said to him, “Karl, you’d better come quick to the lab. Fred has
harvested some cells, and they’ve got worms.” The virus looked like
Marburg, but Johnson found that it didn’t react to Marburg antibodies.
Therefore it was a new virus. Karl Johnson and his team had performed
what is known as the first isolation and characterization of the
agent—they had got it to replicate, and they had proved it was
something new. (Teams at the Microbiological Research Establishment in
Porton Down, England, and at the Institute for Tropical Medicine in
Antwerp, Belgium, had isolated the virus, too, but they didn’t know
what it was.) Johnson’s team had earned the right to name the
organism. They named it Ebola.
I learned that Johnson could be reached at a fax number in Big Sky,
Montana, so I sent him a fax, in which I said that Ebola virus
fascinated me. My fax machine emitted this reply:
Crisis in the Hot Zone Lessons from an outbreak of Ebola. By Richard Preston October 19, 1992 B
Unless you include the feeling generated by gazing into the eyes of a
waving confrontational cobra, “fascination” is not what I feel about
Ebola. How about shit scared?
The richest trout river in America may be the Bighorn, a green,
muscular river in Montana that flows out of the Bighorn Mountains into
grassland, and is lined with cottonwoods. One recent day in October,
the brown trout were spawning in the Bighorn, and the cottonwoods had
turned yellow and rattled in a south wind. Standing waist-deep in a
mutableslick of the river, wearing sunglasses, with a cigarette
hanging from the corner of his mouth and a fly rod in his hand, Karl
Johnson ripped his line off the water and laid a cast upstream.
Johnson is a great figure in the history of virology; he trained an
entire generation of field virologists at a tropical laboratory called
MARU, which he ran in Panama. “I’m so glad nature is not benign,” he
said. He studied the water, took a step downstream, and whipped
another cast. “But on a day like today, we can pretend nature is
benign—all monsters and beasts have their benign moments.” Johnson was
a member of a World Health Organization team that went to Kinshasa to
try to contain the Ebola virus. “When we got to Kinshasa, the place
was an absolute madhouse. There was no news coming out of Bumba
province, no radiocontact. We knew it was bad in there, and we knew we
were dealing with something new. We didn’t know if the virus could be
spread by droplets in the air, somewhat like influenza. If Ebola had
easily spread through the air, the world would be a very different
“There would be a lot fewer of us. It would have been exceedingly
difficult to contain that virus if it had had any major respiratory
“Were you afraid you wouldn’t come out alive?”
“Yeah. But I’d been there before. In 1963, I led the investigation of
the Machupo outbreak, named for a river that runs by a little town in
the plains of eastern Bolivia. Same kind of thing. People bleeding and
Karl Johnson performed the first isolation of the Machupo virus, a
deadly emerger that belongs to a family known as the arenaviruses,
because the virus particles are speckled with dots that look like
sand. (Arena is Latin for “sand.”) Johnson came down with Machupo in
Bolivia—he went into borderline shock in a hospital in the Canal Zone,
after he’d been flown out of Bolivia, and he nearly died. Johnson also
collaborated on the first isolation of the Hantaan virus, a lethal
east-Asian organism (classified as a BL-3 agent), which happens to be
another important emerger. A Hantaan relative now infects the rats of
Baltimore and Philadelphia; no obvious human epidemic has yet occurred
in the United States. Johnson has therefore been credited with work
that led to the discovery and classification of three major groups of
emerging human hemorrhagic-fever viruses—the filoviruses, the
arenaviruses, and the hantaviruses (named after Hantaan).
“I’ve seen young physicians run from these hemorrhagic viruses,
literally,” he said. “In the Zaire thing, we had a young doctor from
the C.D.C. who just couldn’t get on the plane with me to Kinshasa. He
admitted he was too afraid. We sent him home. I did figure that if
Ebola was the Andromeda strain—incredibly lethal and spread by droplet
infection—then there wasn’t going to be any safe place in the world
anyway. It was better to be working at the epicenter than to get the
infection at the London opera.”
The W.H.O. team in Zaire wore fabric helmets with full-face
respirators, and disposable gowns, gloves, and overshoes. They set up
two containment pavilions at Ngaliema Hospital. Into one pavilion they
shut thirty-seven people who had had face-to-face contact with M.N.,
the Zairian nurse who was then dying, and into the other pavilion they
shut all medical staff who had had contact with the nuns who had
already died. Doctors and nurses entered the containment areas through
a double-doored antechamber, a gray zone. They wrapped the cadavers of
the nuns and the nurse (when she died) in sheets soaked in a phenolic
disinfectant, then double-bagged these mummies in plastic, put them in
coffins that had screw-down lids, and issued instructions to the
families of the deceased to bury the coffins immediately, with no
wake. The rooms where the nuns had suffered their agonals were not
pleasant to behold. The floors, furniture, and walls were stained with
blood. The aspect of those rooms may have raised in some minds one or
two questions about the nature of the Supreme Being; or, for persons
not inclined to theology, the blood on the walls may have served as a
reminder of the nature of Nature. The team washed everything with
bleach and smoked the victims’ rooms with formaldehyde vapor. No one
in the containment pavilions or in the city fell ill with the virus.
Somewhat to the team’s surprise, and to its great relief, the Ebola
agent seemed not to be contagious in face-to-face contacts.
“We got an advance party into the bush with a couple of Land Rovers,”
Johnson said. “They wore respirators and paper gowns and rubber
gloves. It turned out that the epidemic was already in decline when
the teams got there. The village elders had had the wisdom to
institute procedures for dealing with smallpox, which has been a
problem for centuries in Africa. An infected person was put in a hut
by himself, and food and water were pushed through the doorway. If the
person was able to care for himself, he’d eventually come out of the
hut. Otherwise, they’d burn the hut down. It really worked with Ebola.
But think what that does to a traditional culture. In order to stop an
epidemic that way, you have to suspend all the normal cultural
relations that surround death. You have to put a parent or a child
into that hut and burn it down afterward. The African technique would
work in the United States, but I don’t think we’d do it.”
During Thanksgiving week of 1989, Nancy Jaax’s father was dying of
cancer in Wichita, Kansas, and she and Jerry drove home. Nancy had
grown up on a farm in Wichita. Her father had owned a small chain of
hamburger restaurants called Dunn’s Grills. They lived on a farm
outside town, where they grew truck crops, such as tomatoes,
cantaloupes, peppers, watermelons, and corn, for the restaurants.
Nancy would get up at five in the morning to work in the fields with
her father. Later, in high school, she moved in with her grandmother
in Wichita, and in the evenings she would help run another restaurant
owned by her father called the Plantation (her father had sold Dunn’s
Grills). Thanksgiving of 1989 was the most painful family reunion of
her life. She said her farewell to her father. She didn’t know whether
she would see him again.
Tom Geisbert shot a buck in West Virginia, and returned home to spend
Thanksgiving with his family. Dan Dalgard spent an uneasy Thanksgiving
with his wife. He had not stopped the apparent course of simian
hemorrhagic fever in his monkeys by sacrificing the monkeys in Room F.
Dead monkeys appeared in Room H, two doors down the hall from Room F.
After the holiday weekend, Dalgard performed necropsies on four
monkeys, taking slices of spleen, liver, and kidney. He wrote in his
diary, “Gut feeling after looking at the animals and tissues is that
we are not seeing lesions compatible with S.H.F.” He had no idea what
was killing his monkeys.
At seven-thirty on Monday morning, November 27th, Tom Geisbert
reported to work at his laboratory at usamriid. He wanted to get an
early start with his electron microscope, looking at the button of
dead cells he had harvested the previous Monday. Recently, I met with
Geisbert in his office. The walls were plastered with photographs of
the Ebola virus. Some of the viruses were ten inches long and
resembled ballpark frankfurters. I asked him how he takes a photograph
of a virus. He unlocked a filing cabinet and removed from it a metal
object the size of a pocket pencil sharpener. “This is a diamond
knife,” he said. “These things cost about four grand apiece. See the
diamond?” Hesitantly, he slid his treasure across his desk toward me,
and I picked it up. A prism gleamed. “Please don’t touch the edge,” he
said. “You’ll completely trash it. You’ll dull it, and your finger
oils will stick to the edge. Four thousand dollars.”
He showed me a button of cells. It was a dot the size of a toast
crumb, embedded in a wedge of clear plastic. The cells—from a monkey’s
liver—were almost rotten with Ebola virus, but he’d sterilized the
button with chemicals. He took the button into another room, where he
mounted the button and the diamond knife in a machine and threw a
switch. The machine worked like a deli slicer. It drew the diamond
knife across the button, peeling off a slice, just like a slice of
luncheon meat. The slice was this size:
It contained as many as ten thousand cells. Geisbert picked up the
slice with a tiny copper mesh, and carried the sample into a darkened
room containing a metal tower taller than a person. That was his
microscope. He put the sample in a chamber in the microscope, and
pushed a button. A complicated image appeared on a viewing screen,
showing a tiny corner of one cell—a cellscape of oxbow rivers and
lakes that reminded me of an aerial view of jungle.
“I don’t see any Ebola here,” Geisbert declared, turning a knob, while
the cellscape drifted across the field of view. We huddled over the
viewing screen, and lakes and paths and specks went by almost without
end, until I felt as if we were inside a starship, making a low-orbit
pass over a huge, unexplored planet near Tau Ceti. “Sometimes the
viruses are everywhere, or sometimes I have to look for six hours
before I find a particle,” Geisbert said. He was immutably patient,
his eyes scanning the terrain. He could pick out patterns of sickness
in a cell, subtle anomalies which, like footprints, would lead him to
the horrible brood. In the case of Ebola, it is a brood. When Ebola
replicates, the virus grows in blocks inside a cell, which are like
nests. These are the inclusion bodies, or bricks. The bricks migrate
toward the surface of the cell. As a brick reaches the cell wall, it
disintegrates into hundreds of individual viruses, and the broodlings
bud through the cell membrane and float away in the universe of the
host. No one knows how the Ebola bricks are propelled toward the
surface of the cell.
“That was quite a day,” Geisbert said, sitting at the microscope in
the darkened room. His face glowed in the light of the screen. “It’s
in the morning, around ten o’clock. The sample is cell culture from
Monkey O53. I put the sample in the scope. I switch it on. I’ve looked
at it for maybe fifteen seconds, and then—‘Oh, shit.’ The tissue was a
mess, and it was wall-to-wall with filovirus.” Some areas were so
thick with virus that they looked like buckets of rope. “I almost lost
it,” he said. “The only filovirus I’d ever seen in the microscope was
Marburg. I had worked with the Cardinal strain of Marburg—the strain
from the Danish boy who got Marburg at Kitum Cave in Mt. Elgon—and I
knew what that looked like. So I thought, Marburg. I knew that Pete
Jahrling and I had sniffed those flasks. I thought, Oh, man, Pete and
I have been handling this stuff in BL-3 conditions, and this is a BL-4
He developed a few photographs of the virus particles and hurried into
the office of Peter Jahrling, his boss. Jahrling reacted calmly. It
seemed to be a filovirus—Jahrling could see wormlike shapes. Jahrling
and Geisbert could have breathed it into their lungs. They began
counting days back to the time of their exposure. Seven days had
passed since they inhaled from the flask. Well, they didn’t have
Jahrling went to get his boss, Colonel Clarence James Peters—he goes
by the name C.J.—who was then the chief of the disease-assessment
division at usamriid. Colonel Peters came into Jahrling’s office and
looked at Geisbert’s photographs. Peters feared that any public
announcement of a Marburg-virus outbreak might cause a panic in
Reston, once people had learned the history of Marburg. He wanted to
get a definite positive identification of the strain before the Army
made any announcement.
Tom Geisbert stayed up most of that night. He went into the BL-3
laboratory and found a plastic jug that contained sterilized pieces of
liver from Monkey O53. He fished some liver out of the jug, clipped
bits off it, and fixed the bits in plastic, preparatory to slicing
them for viewing in his electron microscope. He left the plastic to
cure and went home for a couple of hours to try to sleep. He returned
to Fort Detrick while it was still dark, at five in the morning, and
before the sun rose he had developed photographs of filovirus
particles budding directly out of cells in the monkey’s liver. It was
a definite confirmation that the Reston monkeys were infected with a
filovirus. But what strain was it? Everyone assumed that it was
Marburg, which kills about one in four people it infects. All that
day, in his laboratory, Peter Jahrling used a fluorescence test to try
to nail down the strain. At five o’clock in the evening, he put some
samples under an ultraviolet light and, to his shock, found that the
stuff that glowed wasn’t Marburg: it was Ebola, the slate-wiper, which
kills almost nine out of ten people.
The news that Ebola virus had broken out near Washington, D.C., was
not received casually at Fort Detrick. Shortly after five o’clock,
minutes after Jahrling typed the strain, Colonel Peters notified the
chain of command. First, Peters and Jahrling went to Colonel David
Huxsoll, the head of usamriid. Picking up Huxsoll and then Nancy Jaax,
the group then went to Major General Philip Russell, the commander of
the Army Medical Research & Development Command at Fort Detrick.
General Russell was himself a virologist, and when he saw Geisbert’s
glossy photographs he knew what he was looking at. The meeting became
tumultuous. With people talking loudly in the background, General
Russell picked up the telephone and called the Centers for Disease
Control, and got Frederick Murphy on the line. Murphy is an expert on
the Ebola virus—he had performed the first isolation of the virus with
Karl Johnson, during the 1976 Zaire outbreak—and now, perhaps
understandably, Murphy was skeptical when General Russell told him
that the Army had isolated Ebola near Washington. Murphy is reported
to have said to General Russell, “You can’t fool me. You have crud in
your scope.” Still, Murphy took it seriously. He said that a team from
the C.D.C. would fly to usamriid early the next morning to review the
data. He advised Russell to notify Hazleton Research Products, so that
the company’s employees could be protected, and also to notify the
Virginia State Department of Health.
Russell and Huxsoll put C.J. Peters in charge of any Army units that
would be needed to deal with the Ebola outbreak. Next, Peters set up a
conference call with Dan Dalgard, at his home. He told Dalgard that
his monkeys had Ebola virus, probably in a mixed infection with simian
hemorrhagic fever. Dalgard had heard of Marburg but never of Ebola.
The next morning—Wednesday, November 29th—seven dead monkeys turned up
in Room H at the Reston Primate Quarantine Unit. It seemed that Room H
had now become the hot spot.
Then Dalgard got another disturbing piece of news. An animal caretaker
at the Reston monkey unit, who will here be called Jarvis Purdy, had
suffered a heart attack and had been taken to Loudoun Hospital, near
Reston. Dalgard wondered if Purdy’s heart attack had been triggered by
an Ebola infection. Had Purdy thrown an Ebola clot? Dalgard called the
hospital and, without mentioning the word “Ebola,” left instructions
for Purdy’s doctor that if he saw any unusual signs in Purdy he should
immediately notify Colonel C. J. Peters, of the United States Army.
Dalgard also issued an order to the monkey caretakers at the Reston
unit. As he recorded in his journal,
All operations other than feeding, observation and cleaning were to be
suspended. Anyone entering the rooms was to have full protection—Tyvek
suit, respirator, and gloves. Dead animals were to be double-bagged
and placed in a refrigerator.
That morning, Colonel Peters and Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Jaax drove
down to Hazleton Washington’s headquarters, in Vienna, where Dalgard
has his office and the company has a laboratory. Peters, in command of
the Army groups that would respond to the Reston emergence in whatever
way might be needed, sensed that the Army might have to act decisively
to deal with the virus. As he drove to Vienna, he turned over in his
mind the question of whether the Army would have to sterilize the
Reston Primate Quarantine Unit, using military biohazard teams. There
is a slang term in the Army for this type of action: the term is
“nuke.” In the world of biocontainment, nuke has nothing to do with
nuclear weapons. It has to do with neutralizing hot organisms: to nuke
a place means to sterilize it. You go into the place in space suits
and you isolate any infected hosts. If the hosts are animals, you kill
them, bag them, and incinerate them. If the hosts are human, you put
them in bubble stretchers and take them to the biocontainment hospital
at usamriid—the Slammer. Then you sterilize the hot zone with biocides
and formaldehyde gas.
C.J. Peters is not a hardboiled military type. He is a medical doctor
and a field virologist of the old school, a jungle hand who got his
training with Karl Johnson in Panama and worked with him during the
Machupo outbreak in Bolivia. Peters has recently left the Army to
become the chief of the Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for
Disease Control—a job that he landed at least partly because of the
way he handled the Reston emergence. Peters is a chunky, affable man
in his fifties, with a mustache, a round face, and what I think of as
stingingly alert eyes.
Not wanting to attract attention, Peters and Lieutenant Colonel Jaax
drove in separate civilian cars to the corporate office of Hazleton
Washington. They were in uniform. At Hazleton, they talked with
Dalgard and looked at slides of monkey tissue. They wanted to get
samples, and perhaps some cadavers, and they wanted to see the monkeys
at the monkey house face-to-face. Dalgard, perhaps fearful of losing
control of the situation, would not allow them to visit the Reston
Primate Quarantine Unit. Instead, the two Army officers drove four
miles down the Leesburg Pike into Reston and parked in a cul-de-sac
beside an Amoco station, near some pay telephones, waiting for someone
from the Reston monkey house to bring them samples of monkey tissue.
It was early afternoon. “We watched guys buying Cokes to drink, and
housewives calling their boyfriends,” Peters said to me. Eventually a
windowless Hazleton van pulled up and parked beside the colonels, and
a Hazleton employee swung heavily out of the driver’s seat. “I’ve got
’em right back here,” he said. He threw open the door of the van, and
the colonels saw seven garbage bags.
“I said to myself, ‘What is this?’ ” Peters recalled. The garbage bags
held seven dead monkeys, and they were as hot as hell. Presumably
lethal. They were the seven crab-eating macaques that had turned up
dead that morning in Room H.
Jaax was getting that oogh feeling in the pit of her stomach. She
turned to Peters. “I’m not putting that shit in the trunk of this
car,” she said. “As a veterinarian, I have certain responsibilities
with regard to transportation of dead animals, sir. I can’t just
knowingly ship a dead animal with an infectious disease across state
lines. You’re a doc. You can get away with this.” She nodded at his
shoulder bars and said, “This is why you put on those big eagles,
Nancy Jaax wanted to dissect the monkeys as soon as possible, since
she had noticed how Ebola-infected cadavers degenerate. (“If the
animal has been dead for more than twenty-four hours, you have a bag
of soup to look at.”) Peters inspected the bags—it was a relief to see
that the monkeys were triple-bagged, anyway—and he decided to take
them to Fort Detrick and worry about health laws afterward. “If the
guy drove them back to Reston, I felt there would be a certain added
risk to the population just from his driving them around in the van,
and there would also be a delay in diagnosing them,” he said to me.
“We felt that if we could quickly get a definite diagnosis of Ebola it
would be in everyone’s favor.” They loaded the bags into the trunk of
Peters’ car, a red Toyota. The monkeys depressed the rear end of his
car. Peters didn’t see anything dripping. Nancy Jaax followed him to
When she arrived, she immediately suited up. First, she went into a
locker room and put on a long-sleeved scrub suit and tucked her hair
into a surgical cap. She put on a pair of white socks. Then she walked
across the floor in her socks and waved a magnetic swipe-card across
an entry sensor. A central computer at usamriid noted that Jaax,
Nancy, was attempting entry into Containment Suite AA-5. Finding that
she was cleared to enter the area, the computer beeped and unlocked
the door. She went through the door into a negative-pressure Biosafety
Level 3 staging area, the route into BL-4, the hot zone. There were
two other pathologists in the staging area, and they and Nancy Jaax
would work as buddies in the hot zone. She put on her inner surgical
gloves and sealed them to the sleeves of her scrub suit with bands of
sticky tape. Now she had one intact barrier between her and Nature.
Her space suit was hanging on a peg, under ultraviolet lights. It was
bright blue and was made of plastic. It had a soft plastic helmet with
a clear faceplate. The suit had soft feet, like the feet in a bunny
suit, and, attached at the wrists, rubber gloves. She stepped into the
suit, fitted her hands into the gloves, and pulled the helmet over her
head. She closed a steel zipper, followed by a Ziploc-type zipper. Her
breath clouded the faceplate. Peering through condensation, she opened
a supply air lock. Sitting in the air lock were the seven bagged
monkeys. She picked up a couple of the bags and a box of necropsy
tools, opened a door marked with a red toadshade, and stepped into the
gray-zone air lock leading to Biosafety Level 4. In this air lock was
a chemical shower. She opened the far door and walked into Biosafety
Level 4, the hot zone. As she closed the air lock behind her, she
pulled a chain, and the air lock began a decon cycle: an Envirochem
shower ran in the chamber. That was to stop any backflow of organisms
from the hot zone through the air lock.
From the ceiling of the hot room dangled an array of yellow air hoses.
Jaax plugged a hose into her suit, and dry air cleared her faceplate.
It made a loud rushing noise. People in BL-4 can hardly hear each
other shout, and they often communicate by hand signals, like scuba
divers. When you were in BL-4, even with a buddy, you were essentially
alone. Jaax thought that it was like going into outer space.
She opened a stainless-steel-lined closet which was flooded with
ultraviolet light, and removed a pair of rubber boots and pulled them
on. She collected her necropsy tools and specimen containers and laid
them beside a stainless-steel table. She untied a bag, and laid a
crab-eating macaque on the table. Unclouded brown eyes stared at her.
Some animal behaviorists think that monkeys are an alien consciousness
unto themselves, where human rules don’t necessarily apply, and others
think that monkeys’ minds and emotions work much like ours, since we
are all primates. She slit the monkey’s abdomen with a scalpel, and
then disposed of the scalpel in a sharps container. From this point
on, she would use scissors. Scalpels are deadly instruments in a BL-4
hot suite. If you were to cut yourself with a hot scalpel, your boss
would be filling out accident reports while you sat in the Slammer for
the rest of your life—which might not be long.
The spleen was enlarged, but there were no obvious lesions inside this
monkey. Then, at the base of the stomach, she found a ring of
hemorrhages on the junction between the stomach and the small
intestine—a lesion that is associated with simian hemorrhagic fever.
She clipped samples of tissue and pressed them on glass slides. The
slides were the only glass objects allowed in the hot zone. All
laboratory beakers were plastic. A sliver of glass might pierce the
suit and you, bringing into your bloodstream the replicative other.
She worked slowly, rinsing her gloves often in Clorox. She was alone
in a cocoon with the sound of her air.
While Nancy Jaax was in the hot room, a big meeting occurred in a
conference room at usamriid. The meeting turned into a power struggle,
between the Centers for Disease Control and the Army, over which
institution would manage the Reston outbreak. Representing the C.D.C.
were Dr. Joseph McCormick, who was then the chief of the Special
Pathogens Branch at the C.D.C., and Dr. Frederick Murphy, who had
first isolated Ebola. McCormick spoke for the C.D.C., and, according
to the impression the usamriid people got, he said to them, in effect:
Thanks for alerting us. The big boys are here now. You can turn this
over to us. After all, the C.D.C. has a mandate for protecting the
American population from infectious disease.
Colonel Peters resisted a takeover by the C.D.C. He and McCormick
personally disliked each other, and the clash of personalities rapidly
became institutional head-butting between the C.D.C. and the Army. At
its heart, the argument concerned turf between doctors. Peters said to
McCormick that the Army had appropriate containment suites for
handling the organism and good tests that would reveal its presence in
tissue. McCormick claimed that the C.D.C. had a better, newer
technique for testing for Ebola. Peters replied that an ongoing
epidemic is not the time to try to field-test a new technique. Peters
added that usamriid was closer to the outbreak than the C.D.C. Peters
hardly needed to add that those seven dead monkeys, even as he spoke,
were being dissected in a hot suite: possession is nine-tenths of the
law, and the Army had the meat. The participants agreed, finally, that
the C.D.C. would manage the human-health aspects of the Ebola
outbreak, while the Army would deal with the monkeys in Reston.
The next day, Peters walked into the office of Colonel Jerry Jaax,
Nancy Jaax’s husband, and put him in charge of the group that would go
to Reston. Jerry Jaax, in turn, called a meeting of military people
and civilians at usamriid, and asked for volunteers to terminate the
monkeys in Room H, take clinical samples, and sterilize the room. It
was going to be a limited operation. They would leave the rest of the
monkey house alone.
Crisis in the Hot Zone Lessons from an outbreak of Ebola. By Richard Preston October 19, 1992 C
At five-thirty in the morning on Friday, December 1st, an Army
biohazard group—all volunteers, mixed civilians and soldiers
(including both officers and enlisted people), led by Jerry
Jaax—assembled in a parking lot next to usamriid. Everyone wore
civilian clothes, and they drove their own cars, to avoid attracting
attention. They had filled three unmarked vans with equipment. The
vans contained, among other things, Racal suits—the same type of
lightweight suit that the Army team had used inside Kitum Cave. The
group moved out, soon got stuck in rush-hour traffic, and didn’t
arrive at the business park where the monkey house was situated until
eight-thirty. They drove across a lawn and assembled in a secluded
spot behind the monkey house, along a fringe of woods. The back side
of the building presented a brick face, some narrow windows, and a
glass door. The door was the insertion point.
It was a freezing, overcast day. From where they stood, they could see
through the trees a day-care center with a playground, and they could
hear shouts of children in the air. The operation would be carried out
near children. Jerry Jaax had named Major Mark Haines, a veterinarian,
the operational leader of the space-suited teams working inside the
building. Haines, a Green Beret, had trained in the Green Berets’
scuba-diving school. Haines’ experience in underwater operations would
prove helpful. A battery pack attached to each suit powered a blower
that kept the suit pressurized with filtered air. The batteries had a
life span of six hours, and people would have to be extracted from the
hot area and decontaminated before their batteries failed, or they
would be in trouble. Major Haines told the group that he wanted
everyone to use the buddy system. Stick with your buddy and watch your
buddy’s suit for rips or holes, he told them. Two of the group members
were dating each other: they worked separately, following Army policy.
Almost none of the teams’ members, including Haines and Jerry Jaax,
had ever worn a Racal suit.
Nancy Jaax knew something about space suits, and she spoke to some of
the team members. “Your suits are under pressure,” she said. “If you
get a rip in your suit, you have to tape it shut right away, or you’ll
lose your pressure, and contaminated air could flow inside the suit.”
She held up a roll of brown sticky tape. “I wrap extra tape around my
ankle, like this”—she demonstrated— “and then you can tear off a
length of tape and use it to patch a hole in your suit. Be exquisitely
careful. Know where your hands and body are at all times. If you get
blood on your suit, stop and clean it off. Keep your gloves clean.
With bloody gloves, you can’t see a hole in the glove.”
Suiting up proved to be difficult and embarrassing. You had to remove
all your clothes, including your underwear, and then put on a surgical
scrub suit. The teams rigged up a changing room inside one of the
vans, screening it with sheets of plastic, but the women felt exposed.
It was also bitterly cold. After you had put on your scrub suit, you
went in through the insertion-point door to a staging area, and a
support team there helped you put on your Racal suit.
The staging area led into a hallway deeper in the monkey house. They
used this hallway as a makeshift air lock, or gray zone. It had doors
at either end. One door led out to the staging area; the other door
led into the monkey rooms. At no time were both doors to be opened
simultaneously. The first two people to put on their suits and enter
the air lock were Colonel Jerry Jaax and Major Mark Haines. They stood
in the air lock for a moment, and then opened the door and entered the
monkey area. Something had gone wrong with the heating system, and the
temperature had soared above ninety in there. Jaax and Haines began to
pour sweat—the Racal suits weren’t insulated—and their plastic head
bubbles fogged up. The monkeys were subdued and hungry. Jaax and
Haines walked up and down the hallways, going into each monkey room
and checking the cages for dead or sick monkeys. They fed the monkeys
their monkey biscuits. The monkeys hooted with excitement every time
Jaax got near a biscuit bin. They found some chairs in a lounge and
carried them into a hallway, where the volunteers could sit and rest
while they sorted tubes of blood and loaded syringes with drugs. Jaax
wanted to be sure that no one would reach inside a cage with a
hypodermic syringe and get bitten by a monkey infected with Ebola. He
had devised a mop handle with a U-shaped attachment on the end that
would pin a monkey down in its cage. Then someone could stick the
monkey with a syringe on the end of a pole.
Each insertion of a pair of buddies took twenty minutes. As the pairs
were coming in, Jaax and Haines loaded some syringes with double doses
of ketamine, an anesthetic. Then they went into Room H, the focus of
the outbreak, and ran the mop handle into one cage after another,
sticking each nervous animal with the pole syringe, and reloaded the
pole with a full syringe after each injection. The monkeys began to
collapse in their cages. When a monkey was down, Jaax injected the
animal with a sedative, Rompun, which put it in a deep sleep.
The bleed teams set up bleed tables in a hallway, outside the view of
any monkeys. (Monkeys get upset when they see euthanasia going on.)
Haines would put an unconscious monkey on a bleed table, stick a
needle in its thigh, and draw samples of blood. He would pass the
monkey to Major Nathaniel Powell, Jr., a veterinarian, at a euthanasia
table. Powell would lay the monkey out and give it an injection of
T-61, a euthanasia agent, which killed the monkey. When the monkey’s
breathing and heart had stopped, Powell would hand the monkey to Major
Stephen Denny. He would open the monkey with scissors, snip out bits
of spleen and liver, and put the samples in tubes. The other soldiers
and the civilians put the monkeys in plastic biohazard bags, adding
paper towels or kitty litter to soak up blood. They triple-bagged each
monkey, washing the outside of each bag with Clorox, and then they
loaded the bags into drums called hatboxes, which look like ice-cream
containers but are blazed with biohazard symbols.
People grew tired and overheated in their suits, and some needed to go
to the bathroom. As the day wore on, they began coming out in pairs
through the air lock. A gray team, also wearing Racal suits, stood in
the air lock between the two worlds and sprayed each person’s suit
with Clorox. Then the person went into the staging area, where the
support team peeled off the suit, and the person climbed into the van
and stripped to the skin, a shivering tropical primate. The men and
women put on their clothes and stood around on the grass, looking
pale, weak, and thoughtful. By nightfall, all the monkeys in Room H
had been put to death.
That weekend, Dan Dalgard caught up on his diary. “Retirement as a
clock repairman looks better each day,” he wrote. He worried that
television crews would show up on Monday morning, and he ordered the
Hazleton animal caretakers, who were still entering the Reston monkey
unit to feed the surviving monkeys but were now wearing respirators
and overalls, not to go outside the building with their protective
equipment on. He did not want images of Hazleton monkey workers
wearing what looked like gas masks to appear on the evening news.
He arrived at the monkey unit early on Monday morning, and was parking
his car when he saw a Hazleton animal caretaker, who will here be
called Francis Milton, standing out on the lawn by the main entrance
wearing his respirator and suit. Dalgard was furious. He jumped out of
his car. Suddenly, Milton pulled off his respirator, knelt in the
grass, and vomited. Dalgard was “scared shitless,” he told me later.
Milton developed the dry heaves. Dalgard helped him to his feet, took
him indoors, and had him lie down on a couch. They couldn’t find a
thermometer. Someone ran to a drugstore and bought one. Milton had a
fever of a hundred and one. He was shaky and felt faint. He appeared
to be breaking with Ebola. He did not seem afraid; he told people that
he had been previously saved, and had put his life in the hands of Our
Lord. They called an ambulance. Just as it showed up, so did
television crews. The ambulance, chased by television vans, took
Milton to Fairfax Hospital, where he was put into an isolation ward.
Dalgard now had two employees in the hospital—Purdy with a heart
attack and Milton with a fever—and either of them could be breaking
with Ebola. He decided that he must order the destruction of all the
monkeys. The time had come to evacuate the building and turn it over
to the Army. He called Colonel Peters at Fort Detrick. Peters asked
Dalgard to send him a letter ceding control of the building to the
Army. Dalgard sent it immediately by fax. Peters showed it to General
Russell. Peters saw a need for clarity and speed. “You reach a point
where you need to make a decision,” Peters explained to me. Dalgard,
in his letter, had asked the Army to assume responsibility for any
liability that would arise after the Army took over. Peters refused to
assume liability. Dalgard backed down; they signed the letter; Dalgard
evacuated and locked the building; a Hazleton courier drove the keys
to Fort Detrick; and the building fell under the control of the Army.
The next day—Tuesday—the biohazard teams returned, with their unmarked
vans, and deployed in the grassy area behind the building. The teams
began to suit up. Before they went inside, Major Haines, the Green
Beret, gave them a talk. By his later account, his words went this
way: “You are going to euthanize a whole building full of animals.
This is not a fun operation. You must consider these animals as beings
of a kind. Don’t go in and play with the monkeys. I don’t want to hear
laughing and joking around the animals. I can be hard. Remember the
veterinarian’s creed: You have a responsibility to animals and you
have a responsibility to science. These animals gave their lives to
science. They were caught up in this thing; it’s not their fault; they
had nothing to do with it. Go in by twos. Never hand a used needle to
another person. If a needle comes out of its cap, it goes straight
into an animal, and then don’t recap it, because you could stick
yourself. Put the used syringe straight into a disposal container. If
you get tired, tell your supervisor, and we’ll decon you out.”
It took three days to kill all the monkeys, and the teams did it room
by room. The most dangerous job fell to Jerry Jaax. That was to inject
conscious monkeys with the first anesthetic, and not get bitten. A
sergeant named Thomas Amen stayed at Jaax’s side during most of the
operation. He and Jaax took turns pinning the monkeys with the mop
handle and giving them injections with the pole syringe. The lowest
banks of cages were at floor level and were often dark. Jaax, who is a
tall man, had to get down on his knees to peer inside them. He could
hardly see anything through his head bubble. He would pick out the
shape of a monkey in the back of a cage, pin it down, and then
Sergeant Amen would ease the pole syringe into the cage, aiming for
the thigh. There would be screeches and a wild commotion, the monkey
shrieking “Kra, kra! ” Jaax’s knees hurt and he could hardly stand up
after a day of injecting monkeys. He was one of the last to be
deconned out at the end of each day, and Mark Haines remarked later
that when Jerry Jaax took off his Racal suit he looked ten years
At Fort Detrick, Nancy Jaax stayed up late every night, dissecting
monkeys and preserving their tissues. Nancy and Jerry didn’t speak
much about the job to their children—a son and a daughter, who were
both in middle school. The children hardly saw their parents during
the emergency. On December 7th, Nancy’s father died, in Wichita. Jerry
urged her to go home for the funeral. She flew home alone, reflecting
that she had not been there to hold her father’s hand.
Inside the Reston monkey facility, the bleed team set up a table in an
empty monkey room, where there was a water faucet and a floor drain.
The constant sampling of monkey blood and tissues generated much
blood; they washed it down the drain with Clorox. As the nuking went
on, by the second and third days you could see exhausted soldiers and
civilians in suits, men and women, their head bubbles clouded with
condensation, sitting in the chairs in the main hallway, loading
syringes with T-61 and sorting boxes full of blood tubes. Some talked
loudly, to be heard over the whine of their blowers, and others just
stared at the walls.
When the monkeys were dead, the teams cleared out, and locked the
building. They had collected a total of thirty-five hundred clinical
samples, but nobody had stuck himself with a needle or received a
bite. Then the decon team arrived. The rooms and halls were
bloodstained and strewn with medical packaging, monkey biscuits, and
monkey feces. Every object and surface had to be presumed lethally
hot. The decon team wore Racal suits and worked slowly. They washed
the walls with Clorox bleach. They bagged the medical debris, and
washed feces out of corners with bleach and shoveled it into bags. The
bagged monkeys were delivered to Dalgard’s people, to be burned at a
Hazleton incinerator. Using silver duct tape, the decon teams taped
all the doors and windows shut and taped sheets of plastic over vent
openings, first inside the building and then outside, until they had
made the building airtight.
Finally, on December 18th, the decon team set out patches of paper
saturated with spores of a harmless bacterium known as Bacillus
subtilis niger, scattering them all around the monkey house. These
spores are hard to kill. It is believed that a decon job that kills
niger will kill anything. The team had brought thirty-nine Sunbeam
electric frying pans. Sunbeam frying pans are the Army’s tool of
choice for a decon job. They plugged the frying pans into heavy-duty
electrical outlets all around the monkey building, which were wired to
a master switch. Into each Sunbeam they dropped a handful of
paraformaldehyde crystals. They dialled the pans to “high.” At 18:00
hours on December 18th, someone threw the master switch, and the
Sunbeams began to cook, releasing formaldehyde gas. The building’s
doors, windows, and vents, having been taped, prevented the gas from
escaping. Three days later, the decon team, again wearing Racal suits,
went back inside the building and collected the spore samples. The
Sunbeam treatment had killed the niger. Total, unequivocal
sterilization of a room is difficult to achieve and nearly impossible
to verify, but a Sunbeam cookout that exterminates niger implies
success. The building had been nuked. For a short while, the Reston
Primate Quarantine Unit was probably the only building in the world
where nothing lived, nothing at all.
Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling, who had breathed Ebola Reston virus
from a flask, worked around the clock for weeks, testing monkey blood
and tissues. As the days went by and they did not develop headaches,
their worry subsided. They were encouraged by the fact that Dan
Dalgard had not developed Ebola-virus infection. He had been
dissecting hot monkeys weeks before the Army found Ebola in them, and
he was fine. In the end, neither Geisbert nor Jahrling came down with
Ebola, and neither showed immunological signs of having been exposed
to the virus. As for Francis Milton, the Hazleton animal caretaker who
had vomited on the lawn, he recovered quickly. It seemed that Milton
had had influenza—or, possibly, an extremely mild case of Ebola
Reston. Later, Milton developed antibodies to Ebola Reston. That means
he had become infected with the strain. The virus had multiplied
inside him, but he had not developed clinical disease, except,
perhaps, nausea and fever—if, indeed, his illness came from Ebola
rather than flu. Milton did not give Ebola to anyone else. As for
Purdy, the animal caretaker who had had a heart attack, he recovered
After the decon team left, Hazleton Research Products took the
building back. In January, 1990, the company restocked the building
with monkeys, which it had bought from the same Philippine exporter
that supplied the earlier batches of sick monkeys. A few weeks after
the restocking, Ebola Reston virus mixed with simian hemorrhagic fever
again broke out in the monkey building. It seemed that the Ebola
Reston virus had been circulating at the Philippine exporter’s
compound in Mindanao.
This time, Dan Dalgard did not turn the Reston monkey house over to
the Army, but he did let the Army take samples back to usamriid. Since
no human illness had resulted from the first outbreak, Dalgard decided
to try to contain the disease room by room. When disease broke out in
a room, he sacrificed all the monkeys in that room. But the virus
began appearing in room after room, accompanied by respiratory signs,
such as coughing, bloody sputum, and hemorrhagic pneumonia, and by
March most of the monkeys were dead. Hazleton was renting the building
from a commercial landlord. Not surprisingly, relations between
Hazleton and the landlord did not improve during the Army nuking and
the second outbreak of Ebola. Hazleton vacated the building after the
second outbreak, and to this day it stands empty.
Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Reston emergence is that it
has not resulted in any obvious human illness or death. There was,
however, a subtle and perhaps sinister effect. Six Hazleton employees
had close contact with the sick monkeys, including Dan Dalgard. Of
those six men, four—all but Dalgard and a supervisor—developed
antibodies to the virus in their bloodstream. That means that the
virus replicated successfully in the four men’s tissues. One of the
four, a man who will here be called John Coleus, cut his finger with a
scalpel while performing a necropsy on a monkey that had died of Ebola
Reston. It happened during the second outbreak, in February, 1990. “We
were frankly fearful that he had bought the farm,” Peter Jahrling said
to me. But John Coleus didn’t even get sick. Why John Coleus didn’t
die of Ebola is one of the great mysteries of the Reston outbreak. He
was certainly infected with Ebola—the virus had multiplied in him—yet
he showed no ill effects. As for the three other men who caught Ebola
Reston, it seems that they must have picked up the virus through the
air. They were using water hoses to clean the cages, and they may have
breathed droplets of monkey waste or monkey mucus into their lungs. To
date, none of the four men have shown any clinical symptoms of
illness. Ebola Reston virus infects human beings but apparently
doesn’t make them sick—or possibly it gives them a flu-like illness.
Yet it appears to be absolutely deadly to monkeys.
Ebola Reston virus is an extremely close relative of Ebola Zaire, the
hot strain. It may be that Ebola Reston is a variant of Ebola Zaire;
perhaps a mutation rendered it harmless to human beings. It may be
that Ebola Reston is a Southeast Asian cousin of Ebola Zaire.
Epidemiologists visited the Philippine monkey-export facility in
Mindanao and found that none of the employees there had suffered a
serious unknown illness in the year preceding the Reston emergence.
Ebola Reston and Ebola Zaire look the same in an electron microscope.
A molecular biologist at the C.D.C. named Anthony Sanchez has begun to
analyze the Ebola virus’s genetic sequences. He has found that Ebola
Reston is, genetically, very close to Ebola Zaire. “I term them
kissing cousins,” he said to me. “But I can’t put my finger on why
Reston is apparently apathogenic in human beings and doesn’t make us
In March, 1990, right after the second Reston outbreak, the C.D.C.
slapped a heavy set of restrictions on monkey importers, tightening
the testing and quarantine procedures. The C.D.C. also temporarily
revoked the licenses of three companies—Hazleton Research Products,
the Charles River Primates Corporation, and Worldwide
Primates—charging those companies with violating quarantine rules. The
C.D.C.’s actions effectively stopped the importation of monkeys into
the United States for several months. The total loss to Hazleton ran
into the millions of dollars. Monkeys are worth money. Crab-eating
macaques fetched around five hundred dollars apiece before the Reston
outbreak; since then, government regulations and a monkey shortage
have driven the price to fifteen hundred dollars. Despite the C.D.C.’s
action against Hazleton, scientists at usamriid, and even some at the
C.D.C., give Dalgard and his company high praise for making the
decision to hand the monkey facility over to the Army, which cost the
company millions but seemed essential for the safety of the American
population. “It was hard for Hazleton, but they did the right thing,”
Peter Jahrling said to me.
Jahrling, an inhaler of Ebola who lived to tell about it, is now the
acting chief of virology at usamriid. He is also credited, along with
Tom Geisbert, with having performed the first laboratory isolation and
characterization of the Ebola Reston strain. This recognition gives
Jahrling the right to name it; he hasn’t decided on a name. One day,
in his office, he showed me a photograph of some Ebola virus
particles. They looked as if they had been cooked al dente and would
make a tempting first course at a trattoria in Rome. “Look at this
honker. Look at this long sucker here,” Jahrling said, his finger
tracing a spaghetto. “It’s Res— Oh, I was about to say it’s Reston,
but it isn’t. It’s Zaire. The point is, you can’t easily tell the
difference between them by looking. It brings you back to a
philosophical question: Why is the Zaire stuff hot? Why isn’t Reston
hot, when they’re so close to each other? The Ebola Reston virus is
almost certainly transmitted by some airborne route. Those Hazleton
workers who developed antibodies to the virus—I’m pretty sure they got
the virus through the air.”
“Did we dodge a bullet?” I asked.
“I don’t think we did,” he said. “The bullet hit us. We were just
lucky that the bullet we took was a rubber bullet from a .22 rather
than a dumdum bullet from a .45. My concern is that people are saying,
‘Whew, we dodged a bullet.’ And the next time they see Ebola in a
microscope they’ll say, ‘Aw, it’s just Reston,’ and they’ll take it
outside a containment facility. And we’ll get whacked in the forehead
when the stuff turns out not to be Reston but its big brother.”
Karl Johnson, the leader of the team that isolated and named the Ebola
virus, is sitting in a swale of dry grass on the bank of the Bighorn
River. Something screams on the opposite bank. “Hear that pheasant?
That’s what I like about the Bighorn,” he says. He peers across the
water, where insects are hatching from the river’s surface. “Huh!
We’ve got two different emergences going on here.”
I look carefully and see two swarms of insects coming off the water.
One type of insect is flying upstream, into the wind; the other type
is being blown downstream. The clouds are passing through each other,
two interpenetrative rivers of insects flowing above the river of
water. “The ones that are flying upstream are little tiny mayflies
called tricos,” Johnson says. “The others are the baetises. They have
really long tails. These insects spend a year or more at the bottom of
the river as nymphs. Then they pupate and rapidly emerge from the
water and fly away as adults. The adults molt into spinners, which is
the egg-laying form, and the spinners lay their eggs on the surface of
the river and die. The process from emergence to dying can happen
fast—the whole thing might take a couple of hours. These hatchers are
like emerging viruses. The viruses have been on the earth a long, long
time. Invisible. In the river, you might say.” Johnson tells me that
the word “emerge” comes from the Latin word emergere. In Webster’s
unabridged dictionary, its first meaning is: “To rise from . . . an
enveloping fluid.” He says, “It means to come through another medium.
Most of the emerging viruses are being transmitted to man from
animals. Coming through another medium. There’s been this incredible
damned surge of people on our planet. There’s been a human population
explosion and a human invasion of tropical habitats. There are just
too many people entering too many ecosystems and violating them.
People stumble into something and get sick.”
Johnson stands up and knots to his line a tiny fly that looks like a
dead spinner, a canapé for a trout. Bufflehead ducks are diving at the
head of the pool, and a trout rises and flops, transmitting rings into
the water that spread and die, absorbed in the filiations of the
“Do you find viruses beautiful?”
“Oh, yeah,” he says softly. “Looking at Ebola under an electron
microscope is like looking at a gorgeously wrought ice castle. The
thing is so cold. So totally pure. In Bolivia, we found out that the
reservoir of the Machupo virus is a wild mouse. Machupo is
fundamentally a sexually transmitted infection in a mouse. These
Bolivian mice live in demes, which are like villages. They copulate
frequently. When the mouse population expands to the point where there
is contact among the demes, you have a sexually transmitted plague of
Machupo in the mice, and the population crashes. The Machupo virus is
a force that keeps the mouse population from going out of control and
using up its food supply. Machupo benefits the mouse as a species,
because when the demes touch, the population gets thinned out. This is
Nature. And I happen to think it is one of the loveliest biological
structures I’ve ever seen.”
“It sounds like aids,” I say.
“You’re damned right. aids is that way for us. As a biologist, from a
deeply philosophical viewpoint, I don’t think there’s any difference.
As a physician, of course, I can’t turn my back on another human
This past week in Washington, the Institute of Medicine, which is
chartered by the National Academy of Sciences, called a news
conference and released a frightening report entitled “Emerging
Infections.” The report was two years in the making. Under the heading
“Trouble Ahead,” the report described the Reston emergence as a
classic example of “the potential of foreign disease agents to enter
the United States.” The Reston emergence scared a lot of
The Institute of Medicine report essentially warns us to stay tuned.
It says that not only emerging viruses but also mutant bacteria, such
as the strains that cause multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, and
protozoans, such as mutant strains of malaria, have become major and
growing threats to the American population. The report says, “We can
also be confident that new diseases will emerge, although it is
impossible to predict their individual emergence in time and place.”
The Institute of Medicine finds that there has been a general
breakdown in the public health system in the United States. We lack
the forces to deal with a monster, at the very time when a monster
could appear—especially given the emergence of H.I.V.
In its two years of deliberation, the committee came up with some
recommendations: We need to have a national and worldwide surveillance
system to identify emergences as they happen. (If we had had such a
system in place fifteen years ago, we might have seen aids hatching
off the river, as it were, perhaps in Central Africa, and we might
have been able to save thousands of American lives.) We need a
modernized and strengthened vaccine program, which would include a
“surge” capacity for vaccine development, to respond to an emergency.
We need better preventive medicine, to keep people from spreading
emergent infectious diseases. And we need to train more field
epidemiologists, since they are the detectives who help us find and
know our enemies.
One of the authors of the Institute of Medicine report is a virologist
named Stephen Morse. In the course of writing this account, I dropped
in on him several times at Rockefeller University, in Manhattan. Morse
is a voluble, bearded figure, who inhabits a paper-jammed lair on a
hallway that reeks of urine from rabbits and mice. (Viruses need to
grow in cells.) One day an unpleasant thought crossed my mind, and I
asked Morse if an emerging virus could wipe out our species.
“Isn’t H.I.V. enough?” he asked. He said that H.I.V. might actually do
the job. There has been some debate, recently, about whether H.I.V.
could mutate into an airborne disease, like influenza. Then aids would
suddenly become aids-flu. It would circle the globe in a flash. The
case mortality in aids seems to be close to a hundred per cent. “The
H.I.V. particle does get into the lung,” Morse explained to me. “There
is no reason in principle why H.I.V. couldn’t spread by the
respiratory route. Many viruses that are closely related to H.I.V.,
such as the Visna virus, which is a fatal immune-deficiency virus of
sheep, do spread through a cough. The sheep cough, and the virus is
aerosolized. Indeed, primary H.I.V. infection—when you first get
infected—has been associated with a flu-like illness, with upper
respiratory system involvement: coughing, wheezing, and so forth.” He
added that if H.I.V. did mutate into aids-flu, the question was
whether it would remain fatal. Would it kill its human hosts or would
it evolve toward something more benign, something like a nasty but
survivable cold? “The human population is genetically diverse, and I
have a hard time imagining everyone getting wiped out by a virus,” he
said. “But if one in three people on earth were killed—something like
the Black Death in the late Middle Ages—the breakdown of social
organization could be just as deadly, almost a species-threatening
drove to Reston one day in autumn to see the former Primate Quarantine
Unit, and stopped my car in front of the building. A sycamore tree on
the lawn dropped an occasional leaf. The place was as quiet as a tomb.
“For Lease” signs sat in front of many of the offices around the
parking lot. I sensed the presence not of a virus but of financial
illness—signs of convalescence from the eighties, like your skin
peeling off after a bad fever. I parked beside a school and walked
across the grassy area behind the former monkey house until I reached
the glass door that had been the insertion point. It was locked.
Shreds of silver duct tape dangled from the door’s edges. I looked
inside and saw a floor mottled with reddish-brown stains. A sign on an
inner wall said “clean up your own mess.” I discerned the air-lock
corridor—the gray zone through which the teams had passed into the hot
zone. It had unpainted cinder-block walls: the ideal gray zone.
My feet rustled through shreds of plastic in the grass. I heard a ball
bounce, and saw a boy dribbling a basketball in the school playground.
The ball cast rubbery echoes off the buildings. I walked along the
back wall of the former monkey house until I came to a window. Inside
the building, climbing vines had rioted, and had pressed themselves
against the inside of the glass. The vine was Tartarian honeysuckle, a
weed that grows in waste places and abandoned ground. I couldn’t see
through the leaves into the former hot zone. I walked around to the
side of the building, and found another glass door, beribboned with
tape. I pressed my nose against the glass and cupped my hands around
my eyes, and saw a bucket smeared with a dry brown crust. It looked
like monkey excrement. I guessed that it had been stirred with Clorox.
A spider had strung a web between a wall and the bucket of shit, and
had dropped husks of flies and yellow jackets on the floor. Ebola had
risen in these rooms, flashed its colors, replicated, and subsided
into the forest. ♦
In 1989, Washington, D.C., saw an outbreak of the Ebola Reston virus, a close relative of a species that killed nine out of ten infected people in Africa, in 1976.Photograph
The Hot Zone
A hot virus from the rain forest lives within a twenty-four hour plane
flight from every city on earth. All of the earth’s cities are
connected by a web of airline routes.
The web is a network. Once a virus hits the net, it can shoot anywhere
in a day: Paris, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, wherever planes fly.
Charles Monet and the life form inside him had entered the net.
When a hot virus multiplies in a host, it can saturate the body with
virus particles, from the brain to the skin. Then, the military
experts say, the virus has undergone ''extreme amplification''
By the time an extreme amplification peaks out, an eyedropper of the
victim's blood may contain a hundred million particles of virus.
During this process, the body is partly transformed into virus
particles. In other words, the host is possessed by a life form that
is attempting to convert te host into itself.
This is called depersonalisation, in which the liveliness and details
of character seem to vanish. He is becoming an automaton.
He is positive for Marburg Virus. The Virus erupted were in 1967 in a
factory called Behring Works, which produced vaccines using kidney
cells from African Green monkeys.
Behring Works regularly imported monkeys from Uganda.
Marburg Agent travelled invisibly from Central Africa to Germany and
when it got there it jumped species and suddenly emerged in the human
This is an example of virus amplification.
The Laboratory assistant RENATE L broke a Test-tube that was to be
sterilised, which had contained infected material on August 28th and
fell ill on September 4th 1967
Marburg is one of a family known as filoviruses. Marburg was the first
Filovirus to be discovered. ''thread virus''
Family of Filoviruses comprised Marburg Ebola Zaire and Ebola Sudan
Kill rate of Ebola Zaire is 9 out of 10.
The virus lingered in the fluid inside the eyeballs of some victims.
It is generally believed that AIDS came originally from African Primates
Ebola virus in named after the Ebola River, wich is the headstream of
the Mongola river
First known emergence of Ebola Zaire occurred in September 1976 killed
nine out of ten people it infected
related to certain pneumonia viruses
to the parainfluenza virus
respiratory syncytial virus
Ebola virus particle contains only seven different proteins - seven
large molecules targets the immune system like HIV
aRMY rESEARCHERS BELIEVED THAT Ebola virus TRAVELLED THROUGH DIRECT
CONTACT WITH BLOOD AND BODILY FLUIDS
uncoagulated blood and slimes that come out of the dead body
The Mayinga strain of Ebola Zaire Young Woman who died 19 October 1976
She had taken care of a Roman Catholic nun who died of Ebola
Nun had bled to death all over Nurse Mayinga
Nurse Mayinga's blood serum had ended up in the US
The classic Ebola face made the monkeys look as if they had seen
something beyond comprehension It was not a vision of heaven
A bite by an Ebola infected monkey would almost certainly be fatal
A virus is a small capsule made of membranes and proteins
The Capsule contains one or more strands of DNA or RNA
each of which are long molecules that contain the software program for
making a copy of the virus
Some Biologists classify viruses as ''life forms'' because they are
not strictly known to be alive
Viruses are ambiguously alive, neither alive nor dead.
exist in the borderlands between life and non-life
Viruses that are outside cells merely sit there nothing happens. They
are dead.They can even form crystals. Virus particles that lie around
in blood or mucus may seem dead, but the particles are waiting for
something to come along. They have a sticky surface. If a cell comes
along and touches the virus and the stickiness of the virus is just te
right kind of stickiness then the virus clings to the cell.
The cell feels the virus sticking to it and enfolds te virus and drags
Once the virus enters the cell, it becomes a Trojan horse. It switches
on and begins to replicate.
a virus is a parasite.
It can make copies of itself only inside a cell.
a virus must have a cell in which to multiply or it will die. it makes
copies of itself inside a cell until eventually the cell gets pigged
with virus and pops and the viruses spill out of the broken cell.
The genetic code inside Ebola is a single strand of RNA
oldest and most ''primitive'' coding mechanism for life
The prime directive is to replicate
Ebola can travel trough the air. probably travelled through the air in
Agent spread from person to person trough touching and sexual contact.
as many as sixteen generations of infections
it hit the hospital like a bomb
Sudan strain case fatality rate was 50% same as Black Plague
Virus was not airborne
Ebola Zaire strain Bumba zone 500 miles to the West September 1976
First human case of Ebola Zaire has never been identified.
The Portal into the human race blood to blood contact in the rain forest
Yambuku mission Hospital
Shot to shot without rinsing the needle
as few as 5 or 10 particles of the virus in a blood borne contact can
start an extreme amplification
Small blood clots begin to appear in the bloodstream blood thickens and slows -
mOBUTU SEALED bUMBA ZONE WITH ROADBLOCKS.
Marburg is transmitted by the aerosol route.
The Ebola River  also commonly known by its indigenous name Legbala, is the headstream of the Mongala River, a tributary of the Congo River, in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is roughly 250 kilometers (
The name Ebola is a French corruption of Legbala, its name in Ngbandi
which means 'white water'. During the Belgian administration these
names were interchangeable along with the French names Eau Blanche
and rarely L'Ébola.
In 1976, Ebola virus (EBOV) was first identified in Yambuku, 111
kilometers (69 mi) from the Ebola River, but Peter Piot decided to
name it after the river so that the town would not be associated with
the disease's stigma. Thus, the river is eponymous to the terms
Ebola virus, Ebolavirus, and Ebola virus disease (usually referred to
as simply "Ebola").
@realDonaldTrump Aide Accuses China of Using Air Travelers to ‘Seed’ Virus @bpolitics
Law & Politics
The Trump administration stepped up its campaign of blaming China for
the deadly coronavirus pandemic, with a top aide suggesting Beijing
sent airline passengers to spread the infection worldwide.
“The virus was spawned in Wuhan province, patient zero was in
November,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on ABC’s “This
“The Chinese, behind the shield of the World Health Organization, for
two months hid the virus from the world and then sent hundreds of
thousands of Chinese on aircraft to Milan, New York and around the
world to seed that.”
Milan and New York went on to become hotspots for the pandemic.
Navarro’s comments add to the almost daily barrage of U.S. attacks on
China, including suggestions that the virus escaped from a laboratory
in the central city of Wuhan.
As recently as last week, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo ratcheted
up his criticism, asserting China covered up the origins of the virus.
“They could have kept it in Wuhan,” Navarro said. “Instead, it became
a pandemic. That’s why I say the Chinese did that to Americans and
they are responsible.”
On Thursday, Trump said that while he still suspects the outbreak may
be connected to the Wuhan virology lab, he said it was unlikely the
Chinese deliberately unleashed the pathogen. “I think more likely it
got out of control,” he said.
Navarro also dismissed complaints offered by whistle-blower Rick
Bright, who had served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced
Research and Development Authority until the end of last month.
“I don’t mourn the loss of people when they leave this bureaucracy,”
Navarro said. “There’s always going to be somebody better to replace
them, somebody more loyal, not to the president necessarily, but to
the Trump agenda. That’s what’s important.”
27-MAY-2019 :: In one fell swoop, President Xi Jinping was President for Life. President Xi is on a Pedestal
Law & Politics
In China, however, there is only one decider who was pronounced as
much by Xinhua in a historical announcement in March 2018.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China “propo- sed to
remove the expression that ‘the president and vice-president of the
people’s republic of China shall serve no more than two consecutive
terms’ from the country’s constitution.”
In one fell swoop, President Xi Jin- ping was president for life.
President Jinping is on a Pedestal and is faced with the Strong Man
Conundrum. The Political Brand will not permit a retreat let alone a
Here’s the opening, I guess the equivalent of swearing the oath:
Here's the opening, I guess the equivalent of swearing the oath: I
will, as always, faithfully perform the duties entrusted by the
Constitution, be loyal to the motherland and the people, perform my
duties, do my utmost, work hard, be dedicated, be a clerk of the
people, and accept the supervision of the people, Never let down the
trust and trust of delegates and people of all nationalities!
translation to follow
10-MAY-2020 :: #COVID19 and the Spillover Moment
Law & Politics
''They fancied themselves free'' wrote Camus, ―''and no one will ever
be free so long as there are pestilences''
―In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up
in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved
A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell
ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that
will pass away.
But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it
is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they
have taken no precautions
Brazil > Italy >15%: Tajikistan⁹³ >10%: Sudan⁷⁶ DRC⁹⁰ >5%: Brazil⁵
India¹¹ Saudi Arabia¹⁶ Mexico¹⁷ South Africa³⁹ Afghanistan⁵⁶ Oman⁶²
Bolivia⁶⁵ Guinea⁷³ Honduras⁷⁴ Guatemala⁸⁵ Somalia⁹¹ Gabon⁹⁴ Mayotte⁹⁵
Brazil > Italy >15%: Tajikistan⁹³ >10%: Sudan⁷⁶ DRC⁹⁰ >5%: Brazil⁵
India¹¹ Saudi Arabia¹⁶ Mexico¹⁷ South Africa³⁹ Kuwait⁴⁰ Afghanistan⁵⁶
Oman⁶² Armenia⁶³ Bolivia⁶⁵ Azerbaijan⁶⁸ Guinea⁷³ Honduras⁷⁴
Guatemala⁸⁵ Somalia⁹¹ Gabon⁹⁴ Mayotte⁹⁵
Rwanda genocide suspect Kabuga arrested in France after decades on the run @Reuters
Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga, who is accused of funding
militias that massacred about 800,000 people, was arrested on Saturday
near Paris after 26 years on the run, the French justice ministry
The 84-year-old, who is Rwanda’s most-wanted man and had a $5 million
U.S. bounty on his head, was living under a false identity in a flat
in Asnieres-Sur-Seine, according to the ministry.
French gendarmes arrested him at 0530 GMT on Saturday, the ministry said.
Kabuga was indicted in 1997 on seven criminal counts including
genocide, complicity in genocide and incitement to commit genocide,
all in relation to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, according to the
UN-established International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals
Rwanda’s two main ethnic groups are the Hutus and Tutsis, who have
historically had an antagonistic relationship and fought a civil war
in the early 1990s.
A Hutu businessman, Kabuga is accused of funding the militias that
massacred some 800,000 Tutsis and their moderate Hutu allies over a
span of 100 days in 1994.
“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, known to have been the financier of
Rwanda genocide, had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium,
Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” the French ministry statement
His arrest paves the way for the fugitive to come before the Paris
Appeal Court and later be transferred to the custody of the
international court, which is based in the Hague, Netherlands and
He would then be brought before UN judges, an IRMCT spokesman said.
Two other Rwandan genocide suspects, Augustin Bizimana and Protais
Mpiranya, are still being pursued by international justice.
“The arrest of Félicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those
responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even twenty-six
years after their crimes,” the IRMCT’s Chief Prosecutor Serge
Brammertz said in a statement.
He added the arrest was the result of cooperation between law
enforcement agencies in France and other countries including the
United States, Rwanda, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, the
Netherlands and others.
Rwanda’s justice minister, Johnston Busingye, told Reuters that a
statement on the arrest would be issued but did not specify when.
Kabuga, who controlled many of Rwanda’s tea and coffee plantations and
factories, was part-owner of Radio Television Milles Collines which
ran a radio station that fanned ethnic hatred against Rwanda’s Tutsis,
told Hutus where Tutsis were to be found and offered advice on how to
He is accused of being a main financier of the genocide, paying for
the militias that carried out the massacres.
His arrest “is an important step towards justice for hundreds of
thousands of genocide victims...survivors can hope to see justice and
suspects cannot expect to escape accountability,” Mausi Segun, Africa
director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
Lockdown Fatigue Spreads Quicker Than the Coronavirus in Africa @bpolitics
Two months after most African nations closed their borders and imposed
lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus, they’re deciding
it’s not worth the economic cost.
Countries began shutting their economies soon after the first case was
detected in Nigeria in February and before the disease started to take
hold on the continent.
That helped keep Africa’s reported case count well below 80,000 out of
a population of some 1.2 billion people.
But as the pandemic risks dragging them into the worst economic
recession on record, governments from Ghana in the west to Rwanda in
the east have started to ease restrictions.
Faced with an impossible dilemma -- starvation and deepening poverty
or a wider outbreak -- many leaders are opting to save people’s
“Africa is now victim of its success,” said Nana Poku, a political
economist and vice chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in
“Thanks to a strong public-health response, we have kept the number of
infections and deaths relatively low. Compared to those numbers, the
economic cost of Covid-19 in terms of lost output and increased
poverty seems very large.”
The first country in sub-Saharan Africa to ban travelers from
high-risk countries, Ghana also led the way in easing curbs when it
lifted its 21-day lockdown on April 20.
Even though the number of confirmed cases subsequently increased
five-fold after the easing, the situation had become financially
untenable in a country where the informal economy accounts for 90% of
employment, the government said.
“We can’t stop economic activity in our country, our social lives, our
children’s education, so we need to do something that will enable us
to live our normal lives,” Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said May
“We should begin to accept the fact that the disease will be with us
for a while.”
Ghana’s neighbors are following suit. Ivory Coast on Friday began
lifting a curfew in its biggest city, Abidjan, allowing restaurants
and bars that play an outsized cultural role, similar to those in
France, to reopen immediately.
Mosques and churches are being allowed to receive worshipers again
from this weekend in Burkina Faso, where many people see Covid-19 as a
flu that mainly affects the rich and adherence to restrictions is low.
In Nigeria, a five-week lockdown of the two main cities was only
half-heartedly observed, with traffic jams and crowded streets
Exasperated by dense queues at banks and residents venturing outside
without face masks, the governor of Lagos warned this week that a new
lockdown may be imposed if people continue to flout public-health
As many as 190,000 people could die of Covid-19 and 44 million could
be infected in Africa in the first year of the pandemic if containment
measures fail, according to the World Health Organization.
The body has urged a gradual easing of lockdowns to avoid a surge in infections.
“Containment measures, which include contact tracing, isolation,
improved personal hygiene practices and physical distancing aim to
slow down the transmission of the virus so its effects happen at a
rate manageable by the health system,” the WHO said May 7.
“Physical distancing is not about the confinement of people, but
rather avoiding unnecessary contacts as people live, work and
socialize as a means to interrupt transmission.”
In South Africa, which has the continent’s highest number of confirmed
infections, the government is taking the gradual approach -- on May 1
it began relaxing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in place
since March 27.
But with thousands of small businesses at risk of collapse and the
central bank expecting the economy to shrink 6.1% this year, business
leaders and mining companies are asking the government to reconsider
its rules and accelerate the easing of restrictions.
The country’s largest platinum miner, Sibanye Stillwater Ltd., urged
President Cyril Ramaphosa this week to let mines run at full capacity
in order to avoid a complete shut-down.
Even though miners have been allowed to restart operations with half
their normal workers, that isn’t sufficient, Chief Executive Officer
Neal Froneman said.
“We are causing more harm by constraining the economy than we are
impacting positively on Covid-19,” he said. “We have gone too far now,
we now need to get the economy to start up.”
The real emergency may not be the virus, but the fallout from the
pandemic, said Leena Koni Hoffmann, associate fellow of the Africa
program at Chatham House in the U.K.
“Tens of millions of people across the continent were already in
vulnerable situations before this,” she said. “The cure for the
pandemic, especially in African economies, is worse than the virus
Covid-19 Outbreak in Nigeria Is Just One of Africa’s Alarming Hot Spots @nytimes
Dozens of doctors are infected and gravediggers are overwhelmed in
Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, where inaction led to an
unchecked outbreak. Across Africa, other hot spots are emerging.
In the northern Nigerian city of Kano, some people say they now get
four or five death notices on their phones each day: A colleague has
died. A friend’s aunt. A former classmate.
The gravediggers of the city, one of the biggest in West Africa, say
they are working overtime.
And so many doctors and nurses have been infected with the coronavirus
that few hospitals are now accepting patients.
Officially, Kano has reported 753 cases and 33 deaths attributed to the virus.
But in reality, the metropolis is experiencing a major, unchecked
outbreak, according to doctors and public health experts. It could be
one of the continent’s worst.
The coronavirus has been slower to take hold in Africa than on other
continents, according to the numbers released daily by the World
But blazing hot spots are beginning to emerge. Kano is only one of
several places in Africa where a relatively low official case count
bears no resemblance to what health workers and residents say they are
seeing on the ground.
In Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, officials say that burials have tripled.
In Tanzania, after cases suddenly rose and the United States Embassy
issued a health alert, the Tanzanian government abruptly stopped
releasing its data.
Though they have now acknowledged they have a problem with Covid-19,
the disease caused by the coronavirus, the authorities in Kano spent
precious weeks denying it, despite the surge in what Abdullahi Umar
Ganduje, the state governor, called “mysterious deaths.”
“So far, there’s been nothing to suggest that they are linked with
Covid-19,” Mr. Ganduje posted on Twitter on April 27, when, according
to doctors in Kano’s hospitals, the city was already firmly in the
grip of a serious coronavirus outbreak.
There was nothing mysterious about what doctors said they were seeing
at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, the city’s main public hospital.
Starting well before Kano’s first case was reported on April 11, the
hospital saw a steady stream of older patients with fevers, coughs,
difficulty breathing and low oxygen saturation levels, many of them
with underlying health conditions.
Doctors at the hospital called the government’s response team.
Sometimes it took 24 hours to get a call back.
Sometimes, the team refused to test or isolate patients, saying they
did not qualify because they had not traveled recently.
About 60 to 70 percent of the elderly patients who went to the
hospital and later died had arrived with full symptoms of Covid-19,
said a doctor in the medical department, who, along with another
doctor, spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared
One doctor said the department’s death registers for April showed far
more patients had died than normal.
Most patients were sent home, he said, and the hospital’s staff
members often would hear later that they had died
With no personal protective equipment except surgical masks, the
doctors said they knew the risks they were running in treating these
They said that they begged the hospital management for N-95 masks,
face shields, gloves and aprons, but that none came.
They asked for an isolation center at the hospital, scared that
patients with other ailments would be infected. They wanted the
facilities fumigated. Nothing happened.
And then it was too late. The doctors began to get sick.
“All of us were exposed,” said the other doctor. “Ultimately, what we
feared has happened.”
Twenty of the 91 doctors in the hospital’s medical department tested
positive, the doctors said.
Overall in Kano, 42 doctors and 28 nurses have tested positive, and
one doctor has died, according to Dr. Sanusi Bala, chairman of the
Kano branch of the Nigerian Medical Association.
Laboratory technicians in what was then Kano’s only testing laboratory
got sick too, and it closed for several days. The city’s health
system, already extremely limited, was crippled.
Nigeria, a country of about 200 million people, says it can in theory
do 2,500 tests a day, and Kano up to 500. But it has been conducting
far fewer tests, typically 1,000 to 1,200 daily.
Test results in Kano can take two weeks. Doctors awaiting their test
results cannot go to work. People in quarantine cannot leave.
“If I say thousands of people are dying from Covid, I don’t think I
exaggerated the figure,” said the doctor who begged for P.P.E. “So
many people are dying without being tested, without even going to the
While the government loosened lockdowns on May 4 in the capital,
Abuja, and biggest city, Lagos, it extended the one in Kano.
But few people observe it. The many funerals are well attended, residents said.
Many in the city think the coronavirus is a hoax, perhaps because
public messaging about it is mostly in English, which most Kano
residents do not speak, health experts said.
Others believe that a Covid-19 diagnosis is a death sentence, the
experts said, and do not want their neighbors to think they are
infected. So they avoid being tested, and try to behave as if all is
They go to burials, and shake fellow mourners’ hands because it would
be socially unacceptable not to. They shop, barefaced, in crowded
markets. They hold soccer tournaments — a recent one was called the
While the situation in Kano is grim, the picture varies greatly from
one country in Africa to another.
From the numbers gathered by the World Health Organization and other
groups, Djibouti, in East Africa, looks as if it has the highest
infection rate per capita on the continent, at 1 in 746 people.
But public health officials interviewed there attribute that to
aggressive testing and contact tracing. Anyone who tests positive is
hospitalized, even if no symptoms are apparent.
Tanzania has reported 509 cases, but it stopped releasing data two
weeks ago, and the United States Embassy there said on Wednesday that
the risk of contracting Covid-19 was “extremely high.”
A government spokesman told the BBC that testing had been suspended
while the authorities investigated the many testing kits, but denied
that Tanzania was doing too little to stop the virus’s spread.
@AfricaOil_Corp announces that @TullowOilplc the operating partner on Kenya's Blocks 10BB & 13T, has submitted notice of force majeure @Total
Africa Oil Corp. ("AOI", "Africa Oil" or "the Company") announces that
Tullow Oil Kenya B.V., the operating partner on Blocks 10BB and 13T in
Kenya, has today submitted notices of force majeure to the Kenyan
Ministry of Petroleum and Mining on behalf of the joint venture
partners in these blocks.
These declarations are the result of impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
on the operations, including Kenyan government's restrictions on
domestic and international travel, and recent tax changes that
adversely impact the project economics. These are exacerbated by the
recent unprecedented crash in global crude oil prices.
Declaration of force majeure allows time for an improvement in the
operating environment and for the joint venture partners, to discuss
with the government of Kenya the best way forward for this strategic
Africa Oil Corp. is a Canadian oil and gas company with producing and
development assets in deepwater Nigeria; development assets in Kenya;
and an exploration/appraisal portfolio in Africa and Guyana.
The Company is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and on Nasdaq
Stockholm under the symbol "AOI".
This information is information that Africa Oil Corp. is obliged to
make public pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation.