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Weaponized Ebola? Facts & Fiction

Unity One Inc. Investigations

Criminal Intelligence Report

October 11, 2014

ATTENTION: Nevada Citizens

COUNTER-TERRORISM REPORT: WEAPONIZED EBOLA? FACTS & FICTION

By John P. Kelleher

            The Israeli News Agency, citing a study conducted by Israeli Security, reported this week that the Ebola virus may be spreading among ISIS members in war torn Syria.  According to the Israeli Security Forces report, dozens of ISIS terrorists have come down with symptoms identical to the killer virus.”  The report states that the ISIS fighters are most likely contracting the virus while training in camps in Africa.

Terrorism expert Walid Shoebat recently raised the issue of whether ISIS could potentially weaponize the Ebola virus for use against the United States and its allies.  According to Shoebat, ISIS has threatened to spread the Ebola virus within the U.S. and other countries if they continue the current bombing campaigns in Syria.  The statement from ISIS purportedly stated:

            “Followers and soldiers of the Islamic State are mostly suicide bombers and all of them are ready not only to carry Ebola, but to drink Ebola if they were asked to carry and spread it in the United States.”

Ebola is easily transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, as well as contact with objects such as clothing, needles, bedding and eating utensils that have been used by an infected person.  Contact with a corpse is also a common method of contamination.  The World Health Organization reports that the number of deaths recorded in the current Ebola outbreak in Africa has risen to 4,033 people.  All but nine of them were from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  There has also been one reported death in the United States and one in Spain.

The ISIS statement went on to say:

            “the process of cultivating bacteria can be done by any student in the Faculty of Science or Department of Biology.  They do not need complex laboratories and even a makeshift laboratory can be made in a small apartment in which we can farm millions of germs and viruses.”

Last month, I reported in our September 2014 Unity One Counter-Terrorism report, that a lap top computer was captured from ISIS terrorists in Syria, which contained detailed plans for weaponizing bubonic plague and other deadly diseases and deploying them via small, hand-grenade sized bombs near air conditioning ducts in public places. 

            Many health care experts downplay the likelihood that a terrorist could successfully deploy a large scale, weaponized Ebola attack within the U.S.  Infectious disease experts cite the obstacles to a bio-terrorist group would include obtaining and growing a massive supply of the virus, which is extremely difficult and costly.  Ebola would also be hard to handle and control and a large supply in the hands of a terrorist group would most likely kill the terrorists before they are able to deploy their attack on a large sector of the community.   

More frightening and potentially more feasible however, is a small scale attack.  While a suicidal “self- infection” attack by a terrorist is believed to be unlikely by many experts due to the belief that by the time the infected terrorist arrived in the United States, the symptoms of Ebola would already be present and the person would not be able to get past customs, the facts and recent events say otherwise.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola virus on American soil, contracted the virus in Liberia.  At the time he left Africa for the U.S., he was not exhibiting any symptoms and successfully entered the United States in Dallas, Texas, where he was able to easily pass through customs.  A few days later, when he became symptomatic, he reported to the hospital.  While he did inform hospital staff that he had recently been in Africa and was complaining of Ebola-like symptoms including abdominal pain, a 103 degree fever, headache, dizziness and decreased urination, the hospital ran some tests, prescribed antibiotics and Tylenol and released him.  Mr. Duncan then returned to the apartment where he was staying with four other people.  Duncan returned to the hospital after his symptoms worsened and died from the virus. 

The World Health Organization reports 8,033 cases of suspected or confirmed Ebola in West Africa and 4,033 deaths to date.  The Thomas Duncan event in Texas, calls into serious doubt the experts belief that anyone infected with Ebola would reliably be caught and detained at airport customs before gaining entry into the U.S.  

Ebola is classified as a level 4 biological hazard and is one of the deadliest illnesses in existence.  Currently, there is no cure, no vaccine and no reliably effective treatment. The incubation period for Ebola ranges from seven (7) to twenty one (21) days, which is more than ample time for a single or group of would-be suicidal terrorists to infect themselves, enter the United States and potentially spread the virus. 

A recent September 25, 2014 article by Scientific American’s Dina Fine Maron, cites an interview with Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as other infection and security experts which states that,

“Ebola could be weaponized by taking large quantities of it and inserting them into a small ‘bomblet’ that, once detonated, would spray the virus perhaps 30 feet—potentially infecting people as it landed on their faces, on cuts or on hands that they might then touch their eyes with. ‘That would be like a hundred people simultaneously touching an Ebola-infected person,’ says Fauci.  Ebola would not need to be altered in any way to make such a plot work.  The virus is already so capable of spreading from person to person via contact with bodily fluids that in its natural state it could do some serious damage. ‘Ebola is a very lethal pathogenic virus,’ says virologist Robert Garry of Tulane University, ‘It’s basically weaponizing itself.”

            Placing Ebola inside a hand grenade type weapon is exactly the type and method of attack for which ISIS has been planning according to the information obtained from the captured ISIS lap top found in Syria.

            Another very real threat is the possibility of Ebola entering the United States over land, through our porous borders.  Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command responsible for all U.S. military activities in South and Central America and the Caribbean, recently stated:

“The immediate thing that keeps me up awake at night, I tell you, it’s the Ebola Issue.”

While speaking at the National Defense university on Tuesday, General Kelly said that many countries in the Western Hemisphere have “no ability” to deal with an outbreak of Ebola and the disease “would rage for some period of time.”

            If an Ebola outbreak were to occur in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, the Honduras or Haiti, General Kelly said thousands would flee.  “These populations will either run away from Ebola or, in the fear of having been infected, try to get to the United States, where it would be taken care of,” according to the General.

General Kelly also stated that airport screenings are dismally ineffective at stopping the thriving sex and human trafficking trade operating through Latin America and into the U.S., where tons of drugs, money, weapons and people regularly enter the United States from South and Central America using criminal networks.  According to the General, a large percentage of West Africans move within the sex trade network based on percentages of people captured along the U.S. southern border.

Based on this information, it is not far-fetched to conceive of a terrorist group using such networks to also enter the U.S. carrying Ebola.  With a potential incubation period of up to twenty one (21) days before becoming symptomatic, this creates a frighteningly longer than comfort level window within which potential terrorists could operate.  Ebola can also be transported in animals.  Bats are known carriers, however, dogs can also carry Ebola antibodies in their blood without exhibiting symptoms, creating another potential transport mechanism for bio-terrorists.

In spite of these potential threats however, the likelihood of such scenarios currently lie more within the range of possibility than probability.  The best tool for combating the spread of Ebola is education, preparation, training and funding to adequately and quickly research a reliable vaccine.  Dr. David Nabarro, the senior United Nations coordinator for the international response to Ebola recently told Reuters,

“If we can reduce the number of people who are passing on their infection to others by 70 percent, then the outbreak will come to an end.”

Containment still remains the most effective way to battle Ebola.  Fatu Kekula, a 22 year old nursing student in West Africa, successfully treated her father, mother, sister and cousin, all infected with Ebola, out of their home by religiously adhering to a strict procedure of placing trash bags over her socks and legs, rubber boots, trash bags over the boots, and wrapping her hair in a pair of stocking covered by another trash bag.  She then put on a raincoat, four pairs of gloves on each hand and a mask. Three out of her four patients survived and Fatu never contracted the disease.  She was forced to treat her family at their home after their local hospital was forced to shut down because nurses started dying of Ebola.  Her “trash bag” method of protection was successful in large part because Ms. Kekula was so disciplined in her protection methods.  This small victory does show however, that the spread of Ebola can be contained if proper protocols for containment and protection are followed, even if someone does not have access to a modern medical facility.

By far, the biggest problem with the rapid spread of Ebola is the simple math of exponential growth.  Teresa Romero Ramos, the Spanish nurse who is the first known person outside of West Africa to contract Ebola is believed to have contracted the disease by possibly touching her face with the glove of her protective suit after treating a priest infected with the disease.  Following her infection, seven other people she had come in contact with were placed in quarantine and another eighty or so were placed under observation.  As evidenced by the initial treatment of Thomas Duncan in Texas, many health care providers are ill prepared to recognize and isolate a potential Ebola infected patient who presents with symptoms that could result from a wide variety of other non-lethal illnesses.  If an infected patient is mistakenly released, the potential for that person to infect others rises dramatically. 

Following Mr. Duncan’s hospitalization in Texas, Sgt. Michael Manning, a deputy who accompanied health officials into the apartment where Thomas Duncan was staying was allegedly ordered to enter the apartment with other officials to get a quarantine order signed.  None of the officials who entered Mr. Duncan’s apartment wore protective gear.  Sgt. Manning later reported to the hospital complaining of some symptoms consistent with Ebola.

Events like this highlight how ill prepared we are in the West to handle an Ebola outbreak should one occur.  For every infected patient who is mistakenly released without quarantine, the range of potential new infections increases exponentially.  The exponential growth factor of the disease is what makes a potential terrorist attack, even on a small scale, an unacceptable risk.  If one terrorist was able to infect just two other persons, and each of those subsequently infects another two per week, and so on, in just ten weeks, 1424 people could potentially become infected if the disease is not recognized and contained.  If this were done in a largely populated urban area, the numbers could be much larger.

Bruce Aylward, assistant director general of the World Health Organization, recently  stated, that to bring the current epidemic under control, officials would need to ensure that at least seventy (70) percent of infected people are isolated and in treatment, seventy (70) percent of Ebola death victims are buried safely and that all this must be done within sixty (60) days of the outbreak.  Short of that, the virus will stay ahead of efforts to contain it.  It is currently assumed that for every four known Ebola cases, another six more go unreported.  According to some infectious disease experts, the disease could infect up to 1.4 million people by mid-January in Sierra Leone and Liberia alone.  Some experts predict there could be between 77,000 to 277,000 cases of Ebola by the end of 2014.

Ebola was first discovered in 1976.  Since then, there have been just over 20 known outbreaks of Ebola, all of which were confined to isolated parts of Africa.  The current outbreak of Ebola is the largest ever, in large part because this is the first known outbreak in large urban areas.  Additionally, inadequate medical treatment facilities, local fear of western medicine and mistrust of western health care workers causes locals to hide rather than disclose the existence of infected family members. Improper disposal of infected corpses also contributes to the spread of infection.

Because past outbreaks have been restricted to poor countries and isolated villages, there has not been a sufficient financial incentive for western agencies and industries to adequately fund research for a cure.  The current outbreak however may change that.

Until a vaccine is found however, people can help combat Ebola by educating themselves and contributing to medical research funding to help find a cure.  As far as a potential terrorist attack goes, the best weapon is always knowledge.  Learn how to spot a potential terrorist and what to do if you see suspicious activity.  If you see something suspicious, report it immediately to local or federal law enforcement.  Information is one of the best weapons law enforcement has to combat terrorism.  Remember, if you see something, say something.   

Sources:

  • -Warning: ISIS’ New Secret Weapon Against America Could Connect Two Deadly Threats, by Norvell Rose, Western Journalism, October 2, 2014;
  • -ISIS Plans On Sending Muslims Infected With Ebola Into America To Infect And Kill Americans, by Theodore and Walid Shoebat, Shoebat.com, October 1, 2014;
  • -Top U.S. General Says Ebola Outbreak Coming Through Central America Is Real Threat, by Bryan Lienas, Fox News Latina, October 8, 2014;
  • -Weaponized Ebola: Is It Really a Bioterror Threat?, by Dina Fine Maron, Scientific American, September 25, 2014;
  • -Emergency Centers Needed To Contain Ebola in West Africa-U.N., by Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, October 8, 2014;
  • -Ebola: The Discovery By Peter Piot, Belgian Scientist In 1976, DiNgDiNgPaLs, July 29, 2014;
  • -The Ominous Math of the Ebola Epidemic, Washington Post, October 9, 2014
  • -Ebola: Why This Year’s Outbreak Is So Scary, by Emma Reynolds, NEWS.COM.AU, October 9, 2014;
  • -Ebola Patient’s Temperature Spiked to 103 Degrees, by Emily Schmall and Holbrook Mohr and Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press, October 10, 2014;
  • -Madrid Hospital Staff Quit Over Ebola Fears, by Ashifa Kasaam in Madrid, The Guardian, October 10, 2014;
  • -CDC: This Is The “Magic Number” That Could End The Ebola Epidemic Now, Bloomberg News, October 8, 2014;
  • -Spanish Ebola Patient’s Condition Worsens As Seven People Are Quarantined, by Ashifa Kasaam in Madrid, The Guardian, October 9, 2014;
  • -Deputy Admitted To Hospital Over Ebola Concerns, by Marjorie Owens and Jason Whitely, WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth, October 8, 2014;
  • -Woman Saves Three Relatives From Ebola, by Elizabeth Cohen, Senior Medical Correspondent, CNN.com, September 26, 2014;
  • -Ebola: A Modern-Day Plague, by Sr. Steve Elwart, Executive Research Editor, Koinonia Institute, October 2014;
  • -Spain Ebola Nurse May Have Touched Face To Gloves, by FIRSTPOST, October 9, 2014;
  • -WHO:Ebola Death Toll Above 4,000, by Associated Press, October 10 2014 
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