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by Sharon Rondeau

CIDRAP functions as part of the University of Minnesota, which offers numerous training curricula in the field of health care

(Oct. 17, 2014) — A Breitbart article dated October 14 claimed that according to CIDRAP, an infectious disease research company, the Ebola virus is “transmittable by air” but has been refuted by CIDRAP itself.

In its report, Breitbart referenced CIDRAP article titled “COMMENTARY: Health workers need optimal respiratory protection for Ebola.”  However, that article begins with an editor’s note stating, “See the statement released today by CIDRAP related to this commentary,” whose link leads to a refutation of the claim that Ebola is “transmittable by air.”

Founded in 2001, CIDRAP describes itself as “a global leader in addressing public health preparedness and emerging infectious disease response. Founded in 2001, CIDRAP is part of the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota.”  Its director,  Michael Osterholm, Ph.D. and MPH, has had articles published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico, among other major publications.

Prior to his position at CIDRAP, Osterholm worked for the Minnesota Department of Public Health, where he was involved in AIDS research.

Working within the University of Minnesota, CIDRAP’s stated mission is “prevent illness and death from targeted infectious disease threats through research and the translation of scientific information into real-world, practical applications, policies, and solutions.”

CIDRAP produces a daily news summary on current health topics by its own writers.  On Thursday, during testimony to Congress, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said that imposing a travel ban from the three West African countries most affected by Ebola “would hamper response activities in West Africa and make it harder to track people coming into the countries, given complex travel patterns and other ways they could enter.”

In some of its coverage of Enterovirus EDV-68, which has killed six American children over the last several weeks, CIDRAP references statistics compiled by the CDC.  Infectious diseases discussed by CIDRAP include “biosecurity issues,” flu vaccines, bioterrorism, and MRSA.  It has participated in publicizing “an early-warning network of sensors to detect a biological attack.”

According to Wikipedia, Ebola could be used in a bioterrorism attack.

Financial support for CIDRAP is received from such companies as the Bentson Foundation, 3M, United Health Foundation, and Gilead.

On Friday afternoon at approximately 12:36 p.m. EDT, The Post & Email contacted CIDRAP by phone for comment and to verify that the response article was, in fact, published by CIDRAP.  We spoke with media representative Carolyn, who verified that CIDRAP issued the clarification and that both Breitbart and the Inquisitr website have been contacted regarding the erroneous information.  As of this writing, Breitbart has not issued a retraction or correction, while Inquisitr has issued a correction to its original article regarding CIDRAP.

The referenced CIDRAP article misinterpreted by Breitbart contains a paragraph which states, “We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.1

In its clarification article, CIDRAP states:

Nearly one month after publication of the commentary, the websites Brietbart and The Inquisitr News published incorrect information concerning it. In an effort to correct misinformation, we want to state clearly that:

  • CIDRAP has not made claims that “Ebola is Airbone” or that “Ebola [is] Transmittable by Air.”
  • The guest commentary cited by Brietbart and The Inquisitr News was authored by two leading researchers with the University of Illinois at Chicago (not the University of Minnesota as wrongly reported).
  • The Twitter account @UnivMinnNews, which tweeted the article published by The Inquisitr News, is not managed or authorized by the University of Minnesota.

Transmission of Ebola must be considered in both the context of healthcare settings and within the general community. This commentary in question specifically addressed transmission risk within a healthcare setting and does not address community transmission.

CIDRAP’s spokeswoman told The Post & Email that Ebola’s recent headlines have driven “a lot of traffic to the (CIDRAP’s) website.”  In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this year’s Ebola outbreak, which began in March, a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”
Just prior to publication, The Post & Email checked the Breitbart article to verify whether or not it had been updated, and it had not.

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  1. First, there is a difference between “airborne” and “droplet-borne.” Even if Ebola is not airborne, it is certainly droplet-borne.

    Also, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy published an article arguing that the current Ebola has “unclear modes of transmission” and “there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks. …And even if this Ebola isn’t airborne right now, it might become so in the future. Viruses mutate and evolve in the wild, and the population of infected Ebola carriers is now bigger than it has been at any point in history—meaning that the pool for potential mutations is larger than it has ever been.”

  2. A researcher who has been examining Ebola since 2003 was on Fox a few days ago and he said HIS findings indicated a possible airborne pathway and that one could be infectious even if asymptomatic.

  3. NIH study in 1995 proved airborne ebola is as deadly as fluid dynamics. Google NIH 1995 ebola aerosol study with rhesus monkeys. They were dead in 4 days after contacting aerosol ebola.

  4. It is not inaccurate that ANY Virus can be weaponized and introduced in the air by aerosol and that some viruses which are normally contracted by contact with contaminated surfaces and fluids can either evolve to become less dangerous or more dangerous and can become airborne. Contact viruses are heavier than airborne viruses. Thus the lighter viruses are stirred up into the air. Heavier viruses can become airborne simply by being stirred up by the wind from an open window.