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western african ebola outbreak •

A genetics study published Thursday in the Science journal claims that the current version of the deadly Ebola virus has very low chance of mutating into a more dangerous version, possibly transmissible by air or immune to current vaccines.

The researchers reached this conclusion by comparing Ebola mutations since the late 2013 outbreak in Western Africa with smaller past outbreaks, observing that the virus is transforming itself at the same rate as in those past cases. While the study acknowledges some degree of genetic difference, it isn’t considered significant enough to warrant more dangerous mutations of the disease anytime soon.

The study was comprised by a mixed team of researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a number of universities, research centers and World Health Organization branches from Mali and Burkina Faso. If confirmed, it effectively ends fears that its current iteration is a super-virus that could become impossible to contain given enough time.

Many feared that the disease – responsible for more than 10,000 deaths from nearly 25,000 cases since the epidemic started in December 2013 – could evolve to be transmissible by air, which would have catastrophic effects on the poorly prepared African countries, and might even make it spread outside of the area. Currently, the virus can only be caught after having contact with someone already infected.

Meanwhile, batches of a Canadian experimental vaccine have been delivered to Guinea – one of the three Western African countries where the outbreak is still ongoing, alongside Liberia and Sierra Leone – with it being expected to slow the spread of the disease, which killed more than 2,200 people throughout the country. 95 new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Guinea this week alone.

Also, the unknown US volunteer health-care worker infected with the virus in Sierra Leone, who was flown to Washington two weeks ago, has seen his condition lowered from critical to serious.

Image Source: Post News Group

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