Texas researchers warn public of Ebola's sister virus

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Texas researchers warn public of Ebola's sister virus
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Scientists say there will be another outbreak, but how prepared the public is will make all the difference

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A month ago, few Americans feared Ebola, and most didn't know much about the deadly virus. A flight from Africa changed all that.

Now, Texas scientist are using what they've learned from the deadly outbreak to prevent the next potential epidemic form Ebola's sister virus - Marburg.

"It's on our shore now, it's come to our shores and people started to pay attention," said University of Texas Medical Branch professor Thomas Geisbert.

Geisbert says that since we live in a more connected world, there will be more transmission of once-remote diseases like Marburg.

The virus known to researchers as Ebola's twin sister is considered just as deadly, and it first appeared in 1967 in central Africa.

"It's spread just like Ebola, very close contact with body fluids," Geisbert said.

The last person in America with the Marburg virus stayed in an ICU unit in Colorado. Only after that person recovered did doctors realize the diagnosis. Despite that, no one else contracted the virus.

Inside UTMB's biosafety lab, they're working on medical counter measures for Marburg, such as post exposure vaccines and experimental drugs. Geisbert stresses that preparation is key when dealing with Marburg and other pathogens.

"I think one of the lessons learned here is it would be great to have licensed vaccines that if someone were to come to the U.S. with the virus, you could quickly vaccinate anybody who was potentially exposed," Geisbert said.

Others on the front lines of infectious disease agree. As those in the lab warn, nature is always going to be unpredictable so the public should be ready to learn quickly.

"There will be another Ebola outbreak. There will be another Marburg outbreak. I think we're a lot better prepared and we will be in the future than we were this time," Geisbert said.