In December 2013, Zaire Ebola hemorrhagic fever broke out in Guinea and over the next three years spread across West Africa, ultimately killing 11,323 people.1 While Ebola epidemics occur on a near-annual basis, this was the largest and deadliest in history.2
Of the five Ebola viruses known to cause disease in humans, Zaire Ebolavirus, first identified in Zaire in 1976, is the most dangerous, with a fatality rate ranging between 53% and 88%,3 depending on the variant.
The virus leads to severe immunosuppression, but most deaths are attributed to dehydration caused by gastric problems. Early signs of infection include nonspecific flu-like symptoms and sudden onset of fever, diarrhea, headache, muscle pain, vomiting and abdominal pains. Other less common symptoms include sore throat, rashes and internal/external bleeding.
As the infection sets in, shock, cerebral edema (fluid on the brain), coagulation disorders and secondary bacterial infections may occur. Hemorrhaging tends to begin four to five days after onset of the initial symptoms, which includes bleeding in the throat, gums, lips and vagina. Vomiting blood, excreting tar-like feces indicative of gastrointestinal bleeding, and liver- and/or multi-organ failure can also occur.
The Virus Hunter That Assigned Zoonotic Origin
According to a paper4 published at the end of December 2014, the Ebola epidemic was traced back to a 2-year-old boy in Meliandou, Guinea, named Emile Ouamouno. Supposedly, the boy had come in contact with an infected fruit bat in a hollowed-out tree.
This, even though no Ebolavirus RNA was ever detected in any of the bat samples collected from the area. Interestingly enough, the senior author on that paper was Fabian Leendertz, a renowned virus hunter with the Robert Koch Institute in Germany.
Leendertz was also a member of the World Health Organization team that investigated the origin of COVID-19.5 As you may recall, they also concluded, without evidence, that SARS-CoV-2 was most likely of zoonotic origin and dismissed the lab leak theory as not worthy of further consideration.
Lab Leak Suspected From the Start
However, just as with SARS-CoV-2, suspicions and rumors that the Ebola outbreak was the result of a lab leak were present from the start. Some scientists even suspected the virus might be a weaponized form of Ebola. As noted in a 2014 paper in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry:6
“Another subject that may cause a plethora of arguments is that this virus may be a laboratory generated virus … There is a conjecture that the virus is transmitted to people from wild animals. However, by reason of the high mortality among them, it is impossible that these animals are the reservoir host of EVD.”…