So what would designating the viruses as emerging diagnoses mean?
"It means that these viruses have lurked as enzootic viruses in the environment and that their 'discovery' was related to the scientific capacity to make the diagnosis rather than their 'emergence,''' McCormick said. "However, it also means that we also now know more about the risks of encountering them and therefore, how to identify those who may be at risk for infection."
He said the designation would aid in the diagnosis. "Now that we understand more about their ecological niches and geographical distribution, we know more about how to avoid them. We also know more about how they cause disease and we may be able to improve treatment and seek vaccines. All of this information will lead to a more proactive approach for detection and prevention," McCormick said. "Antibody tests now allow public health officials to gauge the exposure of the public to these viruses."
With this information, McCormick, the James H. Steele Professor of Epidemiology at the UT School of Public Health, said public health officials could develop strategies for prevention and mitigation of epidemics that have characterized these viruses in the past.
McCormick said that with the ease and rapidity of global transportation, it is also important for caregivers in other parts of the world to familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms. "The symptoms in the early stages are fever, headache and nausea and can easily be misdiagnosed as the flu," said McCormick, adding that physicians need to ask about the travel history of feverish patients.
McCormick is one of the world's foremost authorities on the Ebola and Lassa viruses. He also led the first HIV investigation in Africa and is the investigator who isolated the oldest HIV strain, which is
|Contact: Robert Cahill|
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston