Full Blown Ebola Epidemic Unlikely In U.S., Says Specialist

Published: Oct 20, 2014

Full Blow Ebola Epidemic Unlikely In U.S., Says Specialist

October 20, 2014

By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

An Ebola epidemic in the United States is unlikely and the government is beginning to take sufficient steps to protect the population, although the number of people dead from the virus is likely underreported, a specialist in the disease told biotech analysts this week.

Analyst Joshua Schimmer of Piper Jaffray said that on a call this week, the biotech team at his firm heard positive indications that although Ebola is high contagious, it is unlikely to reach the crisis levels of contagion currently seen in West Africa.

“Based on its trajectory, it's unlikely that the virus will propagate substantially in the U.S.; that said, 'outbreak-ology' is an imprecise science and the situation is evolving,” wrote Schimmer in a note to investors.

Additionally a “promising” Ebola vaccine from the National Institutes of Health has entered clinical testing (as has a Canadian one) but by the time such countermeasures are ready for widespread distribution, the current outbreak is “likely to have been contained by rapid” government intervention.

“For investors, Ebola news should persist for a few weeks, but a U.S. epidemic is unlikely. After this outbreak abates, countermeasure procurement could still benefit some companies over the long term,” he said. So far, American regulators appear to be on track for putting in place safeguards for the larger populace.

“The consultant felt that given the current situation, the government was mobilizing resources rapidly and appropriately to contain the virus in the U.S. and abroad. He expects the outbreak to be contained in the U.S. in the next 1-3 months, but it would take up to a year to gain control of it in Africa,” said Schimmer.

“He did not advocate for closing borders or air traffic since that may lose control of the cases by forcing them underground,” said Schimmer. There has been some dialogue of putting the military in control of air transit in/out of Africa but the military capabilities are already stretched, he added, making the current controls adequate for now.

Ebola outbreaks have occurred in Africa before but were contained because the patient would be isolated in a hut until death and then the hut would be burned down. Now with greater mobility in Africa and Ebola penetration into a West African tribe which bathe the dead instead of incinerating them, the virus has spread via person-to-person contact, said Schimmer.

“With likely under-reporting, perhaps 20,000 cases have occurred versus the 9-10,000 announced, with a high mortality rate,” said Schimmer. “With a small number of cases in the U.S. to date, there could be more sporadic episodes as pre-symptomatic people travel from Africa and develop symptoms after arrival, so the national Ebola news may persist for a number of weeks before quelling.”.

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