Friday, September 30

China's Ebola virus reports: finally, a break in the case

On September 24, after more than a month of reasonably patient waiting (and with a little prodding) I met with success. An Epoch Times employee sent an English translation of their Chinese-language March 25 report about an Ebola outbreak in Shenzen, in China's Guangdong Province.

Readers who slogged through the August Pundita essays on the Mystery Illness/Pig Disease outbreak in China would not require explanation about why I considered the March 25 article a key piece of the puzzle. Without further introduction here is the translation; I invite new readers to follow along as best they can. (Paragraph numbering is my addition.)

"Ebola Emerged in China, the Authority Tightly Blockaded the Flow of Information
March 25, 2005
The Epoch Times
[Translated from original text found at: ]

1. According to an insider from China's customhouse in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, Ebola virus (African hemorrhagic fever) caused several people's deaths. The authority tried very hard to blockade the flow of information.

2. According to this insider, in early January 2005, when conducting a suppressing smuggling campaign in Daya Bay, custom officials of Shenzhen City encountered a ship with unknown nationality.

3. The officials boarded the ship to investigate and the black sailors on the ship physically assaulted the Chinese officials, injuring two of them. One of the injured officials, Mr. Yang, died mysteriously in late February; his wife and son were put under quarantine immediately after his death. To date, their whereabouts are still unknown.

4. The other injured official, Mr. Jiang, is also missing after being forcibly taken away from Tianmian Garden located in the center of Shenzhen City.

5. It was revealed that the reason for their quarantine was that Mr. Yang's inamorata [*] vomited and had stomachache among with other symptoms in her residence in Buji district in early February. Two weeks after she was sent to a hospital in Buji district for treatment, she died mysteriously inside the hospital. Upon death, she had large area hemorrhage inside her body.

6. Two doctors involved in resuing [sic] her later developed same symptoms and died afterwards. Shenzhen authority immediately sealed off the hospital and took measures to prevent the outside world as well as customhouse related departments from knowing the truth.

7. According to an insider from the hospital, as a doctor with many years' experience, he had never seen such diseases [sic] before. When the patient developed this disease, her body was just like being dissolved. It was very similar to Ebola disease which recently emerged in Africa. Moreover, the route of infection is mostly through blood contact. The two doctors who died after treating the patient had had blood contacts with the patient.

8. As far as the insider knows, the other officials involved in that specific suppressing smuggling campaign don't have any symptoms yet, but they are forcibly put under quarantine.

9. Shenzhen authority had conducted a disinfection for Mr. Jiang's residence and forcibly taken away several people who had close connections with Mr. Jiang. Police had arrested and detained several inamoratas of Mr. Jiang, which might be only a partial list of his fancy women.

10. To date, several death cases have emerged and numerous people are missing as a result of this disease. Authority in Shenzhen City has issued orders to seal off the flow of information about this disease and demanded that when being asked, it should be described as AIDS. However, the authority did an investigation on epidemic prevention in several districts such as Buji, Tianmian, Gangxia, Shabutou, Xiabumiao and Badengjie. Patients who show abnormal symptoms are strictly monitored.

11. During this round of infection, the route of infection is completely via blood contacts. No cases have been seen as a result of infection via respiratory tract. However, because of the complexity of Shenzhen region and the mutability of viruses, once a variety of virus appears as contagious via respiratory tract, an outbreak of Ebola is very likely to occur.

12. A public health expert said the irresponsible approach adopted by the authority may well cause the outbreak of Ebola just like the outbreak of SARS in 2003; however, the harm brought by Ebola can be much more detrimental."

* From the report's second reference to "inamorata" it seems the translator is referring to Yang's mistress.
* * * * * * * * *
So we have another bunch of anecdotal reports related by unnamed sources to add to the pile. Is there anything of substance we can glean from the article? Yes, there is, if we study a detailed medical discussion about human symptoms of Ebola virus infection found in the Ebola article at

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Philippe Calain, MD, Chief Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Special Pathogens Branch, Kikwit 1995:

"At the end of the [Ebola virus] disease the patient does not look, from the outside, as horrible as you can read in some books. They are not melting. They are not full of blood. They're in shock, muscular shock.

"They are not unconscious, but you would say 'obtunded', dull, quiet, very tired. Very few were hemorrhaging. Hemorrhage is not the main symptom. Less than half of the patients had some kind of hemorrhage. But the ones that bled, died."

Now let's return to Paragraph 7 of the March 25 article (emphasis mine):

7. "According to an insider from the hospital, as a doctor with many years' experience, he had never seen such diseases [sic] before. When the patient developed this disease, her body was just like being dissolved. It was very similar to Ebola disease which recently emerged in Africa. [...]"

So we arrive at a glaring discrepancy. According to a MD who is very knowledgeable about Ebola virus symptoms, there is no melting of the patient's body -- "melting" a term that can be used interchangeably with "dissolving."

According to a MD "with many years' experience," his reported eyewitness account is that a patient's body was "just like being dissolved" in a fashion "very similar to Ebola disease..."

According to Dr. Calain's medical opinion, the Chinese doctor could not have witnessed a symptom in the patient that was akin to Ebola virus infection.

It's possible there is an illness that causes clearly perceivable melting or dissolution of the victim's body, but this would not be Ebola. Yet why would a learned doctor deliver a misdiagnosis? For insights we return to

The Ebola virus was first popularized by novelist Richard Preston in his medical thriller, The Hot Zone, an exciting novel based on the Ebola outbreaks in Reston, Virginia and Central Africa.

The novel is significant because it is very dramatic and yet attempts to portray itself as a factual account of events, which has led to much misunderstanding about this virus from the general public and popular press.

It is important to note that ... Preston's novel was placed in the non-fiction section at many bookstores. [...]

Unfortunately, due to exaggerations in The Hot Zone and probably Hollywood films like Outbreak, it can be difficult for non-virologists to separate fact from fiction. Especially when the popular press compounds the problem by treating a highly dramatized story as if it were real.

Among certain biologists/virologists Mr. Preston is not highly regarded. A fifth strain of Ebola known as 'Ebola Preston' has been reported, "which attacks via print and visual media" (Ed Regis), and where "Bricks of bad information and fear-mongering set up a highly-efficient, deadly cycle of hysteria replication in the populace. The public hemorrhages, spilling hysteria to the next unwitting victim. Fear gushes from every media orifice. No one is safe from the hype." (Brian Hjelle)"

From all the above, we're left to puzzle over the Chinese doctor's account, which is not actually a description of Ebola virus symptoms. So, what type of disease presents with a symptom of a "dissolving" body along with symptoms that include vomiting, stomachache (and after death) a "large area hemorrhage inside the body?" (Para. 5) A blood-borne disease so highly infectious and lethal that within short order it killed two doctors who were exposed to the patient's blood? (Para. 7)

We also have to wonder about the sailors on the smuggler's ship -- a ship of unknown embarkation point, but manned by sailors of seemingly African origin; men who were hale enough to put up a fight with Chinese officials who boarded the ship. We don't know how long the ship was at sea before the officials boarded. Yet given the 2-21 day incubation period of Ebola, it's within the realm of possibility that a sailor in the early stage of Ebola virus infection would have enough energy to put up a vigorous fight.

However, my credulity is finally strained to the limit with a review of Dr. Wang's account. He said with certainty that the virus samples from Sichuan he analyzed in early June evidenced an Ebola strain.

So here we have an extremely rare African disease (just how rare, see the article) but reportedly it appears in China -- first in Guangdong then in short order in Sichuan province.

One can see how those who look for biowar lab explanations for unusual disease outbreaks would seize on the Ebola virus story. But it does not seem there was an Ebola virus outbreak in Guangdong province. It seems there was an outbreak of Preston virus.

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