Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holy Shit, Reston Virus!

Reston, VA

Our story begins as many unhappy stories begin: in an animal testing facility in 1989. This particular facility is located in Reston, Virginia, which is within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. A group of Crab-eating Macaques decided to take their own way out and, rather than suffering at the hands of horrific drug testing...uh, suffered at the hands of a horrific hemorrhagic fever.

It was rough, and many monkeys died. Too many. It was starting to get suspicious. While locking down the source of the disease, a researcher from USAMRIID, who had been dispatched to investigate the infection, noticed a new filovirus in some of the samples he observed. Being somewhat knowledgeable in microscopic terrors, the shape of the new virus scared the ever-loving piss out of our friend the researcher. Because it looked like this:
Reston virus
That doesn't look too scary...

Which kind of looks like this:

Yeah, but it's just a couple of lines...

Which is fucking Ebola.

As of this writing, Ebola is kind of a big deal. There's an outbreak underway in parts of Africa that has many of the more paranoid among us donning their brown pants. Imagine how brown their pants would be if they saw the above under a microscope in a lab where almost 200 people had potentially been exposed to it.

The lab was locked down, and everyone who had been in contact with the Macaques was immediately tested for the new virus. These are people who had been out in the general public after handling infected monkeys. The general public of Washington, D.C. As it turns out, six of them were definitely infected.
Fallout 3 Washington Monument
I guess that's it, then. Pack it in, America. We had a good run.

By the time this was discovered, the monkeys were dying at a rate of about one or two per day. One third of the lab's population died by the end. Apply that to Washington D.C. and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster - albeit one that would rid us of a number of unpleasant politicians. But by a stroke of unimaginable luck, whatever mutations the virus had undergone between plain old Ebola and Reston Ebola rendered it almost completely harmless to humans. When this was determined, the quarantine was broken.

Before you feel too much better, know this: evolution happens over many, may generations, but viruses live out many generations in a short period of time. Reston virus has already evolved in the time between when it was discovered and today. It can now transmit from pigs to humans. All it would take is a small variation for it to suddenly become as deadly as any other strain of Ebola.

And as far as we know, there are people in America -- people even in our nation's capital -- who already carry it.
That kid from Jurassic Park
So try to show a little respect.

Holy shit.

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