The United Nations’ Ebola response chief has warned that if the right measures aren’t taken quickly, there’s a “nightmare” chance that the virus could mutate and become airborne.
Anthony Banbury, who is the Secretary General’s Special Representative, said this disastrous chain-of-events could occur if aid workers are unable to bring the epidemic under control. If the virus did mutate and reach the skies, then it would also be even more infectious.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Banbury explained, “The longer it moves around in human hosts in the virulent melting pot that is West Africa, the more chances increase that it could mutate. It is a nightmare scenario [that it could become airborne], and unlikely, but it can’t be ruled out.”
Banbury also admitted that the international community’s response had been “a bit late” to the outbreak. However, he was adamant that it wasn’t “too late,” and that it was now up to aid workers to “hit [Ebola] hard” in order to stop the deadly disease from wreaking any more havoc.
Banbury, who has worked in the UN since 1988, also admitted that this was one of the worst disasters he had ever witnessed.
“We have never seen anything like it. In a career working in these kinds of situations, wars, natural disasters – I have never seen anything as serious or dangerous or high risk as this one. I’ve heard other people saying this as well, senior figures who are not being alarmist. Behind closed doors, they are saying they have never seen anything as bad.”
The remarks come just a few days after the first Ebola diagnosis on U.S. soil was made. An unnamed man, who caught the disease in Liberia before flying to Dallas, Texas, is the first case to have been reported outside of Africa, where Ebola has already killed over 3,000 people. Forecasts have even suggested that by January there could be as many as 1.4 million cases of the disease.
However, despite these alarming statistics, Banbury did note that the UN has the “political will” and materials to keep the disease under control. He has even declared that they aim to have the spread of Ebola reined in within 90 days.
“We have the political will. We are getting them [the resources]. They are not quite there but we are getting them. Now is the time to implement, implement, implement. It is all about speed now. There is a limited window of opportunity. We need to hit it and we need to hit it hard. We haven’t done that but we are doing it now. Certainly we are late but the expectation is that we are not too late. We are going to have a very big, fast effort…I have never seen the UN move at this speed or with such coordination. We are seeing the kind of response we need, but yes, it’s a bit late.”
[Image via Business Insider]