Ebola discoverer says would sit next to victim
New Vision (Uganda)
LONDON - The scientist who helped discover the Ebola virus said the outbreak in west
The Belgian scientist, now based in
Since March, there have been 1,201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths in
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned that the crisis is set to get worse and that there is no overarching strategy to handle the crisis.
Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus as a 27-year-old researcher in 1976.
He is now director of the prestigious
Even if someone carrying Ebola were to fly to
"Spreading in the population here, I'm not that worried about it," he said.
"I wouldn't be worried to sit next to someone with Ebola virus on the Tube as long as they don't vomit on you or something. This is an infection that requires very close contact."
I was scared
His insights are born of deep experience in the field, highlighted by his impressive CV and the mementos from around the world that dot his office in
Piot helped identify Ebola when the laboratory where he was working in
From the blood, they isolated a new virus which was later confirmed to be Ebola.
He later went to Yambuku, a village in
"People were devastated because in some villages, one in 10, one in eight people could die from Ebola," he said.
"I was scared but I was 27 so you think you are invincible."
Researchers noticed most of the infections were among women aged between 20 and 30 and clustered around a clinic where they went for pre-natal consultations.
It turned out that the virus was being transmitted through a handful of needles which were being reused to give injections to pregnant women.
There were also a string of outbreaks linked to funerals.
"Like in any culture, someone who dies is washed, the body is laid out but you do this with bare hands, without gloves. Someone who died from Ebola, that person is covered with virus because of vomitus, diarrhoea, blood," he said.
"That's how then you get new outbreaks and the same thing is happening now in west
Fear a driving force
He said recent history in
"Let's not forget that these countries are coming out of decades of civil war," he said.
Staff are also often poorly equipped with no protective gear or gloves, he added.
While there are a couple of experimental Ebola vaccines and treatments which have shown promising results in animals, these need to be tested on people, he added.
"I think that the time is now, at least in capitals, to offer this kind of treatment for compassionate use but also to find out if it works so that for the next epidemic, we are ready," he said.
"It is quite clear that new viruses will emerge all the time and Ebola will come again -- hopefully not to this extent."
Ugandan doctor dies of Ebola in
No Ebola in