Though the CDC’s Atlanta main headquarters’ Special Pathogens Branch has yet to trace the 2014 Ebola outbreak’s “Patient Zero”, is there a possibility that the recent outbreak came from an illegal wildlife poacher?
By: Ringo Bones
During the 1995 Ebola outbreak, Anthony Sanchez, the then head epidemiologist of the Centers for Disease Control’s Special Pathogens Branch had managed to trace the 1995 Zaire Ebola outbreak back past the unfortunate lab technician to an earlier patient at Kikwit’s hospital – an illegal charcoal maker who probably picked up the disease in the jungle where he worked. Yet, at the time, Sanchez concedes that this still leaves a wide range of crannies where the Ebola virus might be hiding. A typical illegal charcoal maker in Africa would typically head into the deepest recesses of a government protected jungle wildlife preserve to lessen the chances of being caught by the preserve’s park rangers while cutting down a tall tree to then burn it in a pit he’d dug, making the original source of the Ebola virus anywhere from the top of the forest canopy down to some subterranean animal. Given the various suspected source of the infection, is it possible that the 2014 Ebola outbreak might have started in some “unfortunate” wildlife poacher?
Given the increased demand of illegal African-sourced endangered species products like rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory, etc. in the increasingly affluent middle-class of Mainland China, there’s a good chance that a poacher who frequents into the deepest recesses of Africa’s protected natural wildlife preserves to poach protected species could become infected with Ebola – or a recent unknown strain – and inadvertently spread it once the poacher visits a frontier town to secretly sell his illegally poached wares to some middleman who will later export it to Mainland China and other East Asian markets with a high demand for endangered wildlife products. Health authorities in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast had recently advised their citizens to stay away from bush mean in order to avoid catching Ebola. And given that the recent global economic slowdown probably resulted in the cutbacks of the number of personnel guarding Africa’s various wildlife preserves, it is very likely that the “Patient Zero” of the 2014 Ebola outbreak could be an illegal wildlife poacher?