Marburg, Ebola … and Hillcrest

[100% true story.]

A local artist named Amy Edgington (whose work you can find in places like Hillcrest’s Gallery 26) once overheard a conversation wherein I was ranting about horrible infectious hot-agent level-4 hemorrhagic fevers. (I do that a lot). She listened quietly from across the room, but when I mentioned the deadly Marburg Virus, she interrupted “Marburg! I was in Marburg when that happened in 67!”

Marburg is the city in Germany after which the disease was named and where the disease escaped from a monkey disease research laboratory and killed a bunch of people and terrified the whole city. Google it, if you think I’m kidding.

I have no idea why my favorite collage artist was in Marburg during that deadly outbreak four decades ago, but I never know what she’s doing.

I continued with my ravings about how the Marburg virus makes you look like a zombie and then you bleed from your eyes and wretch up a gallon of red and black fluid called ‘vomito negro’ then you die in an flailing explosion of blood.

Well … some DO get better. But either way, they miss a lot of work.

Richard Preston’s book “The Hot Zone” deals with the Marburg Virus and other Filoviruses. I reworked one of its passages below:

The emergence of HIV, Ebola and the other infectious agents appears to be a consequence of the ruin of the massive, remote forests in which they were spawned. When new viruses emerge from these ecosystems they escape in waves through the human population, echoes from a dying biosphere.

These echoes are called:

  • Monkey Pox
  • Lassa
  • Rift Valley
  • Haunta Virus
  • Rocio
  • Guanarito
  • Dengue
  • Machupo
  • Junin
  • The Kyasanur Forest Brain Virus
  • LeDantec
  • Crimean-Congo
  • Sindbis
  • Nameless San Paulo
  • The Semliki Forest Agent
  • Marburg
  • Ebola Sudan
  • Ebola Zaire
  • Ebola Reston

Incidentally, Reston (of Ebola Reston) is a suburb of Washington D.C. where a strain of Ebola escaped from another monkey laboratory in 1989, but was quietly contained by the army. It didn’t make the news. It was handled brilliantly by a 2-star general who left his boss out of the loop and negotiated directly with the building’s landlord, sans lawyers, sans media. The truth came out years later. The building with the monkey laboratory remained unrented and vacant for years until it was torn down in 1995 and replaced with a day care center.

I don’t usually talk about travel here, but I’m compelled to offer the following unsolicited advice. STAY THE HELL OUT OF AFRICA!

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