Infection Control Today - 10/2002: Microbe of the Month

Microbe of the Month
By Roger P. Freeman, DDS

They don't call me a special pathogen for nothing, folks. I figure if they had a prison for pathogens, I'd be the really ugly one in solitary ... indeedy, the one who put the capital "D" in deadly. These days I'm being called an "emerging" pathogen, like I'm some kind of newbie, a mere RNA rookie. Someday they'll probably discover I've been snoozing and scorching for millenniums, just a little crowd-aversive. Who invited you tourists to the rain forest, anyway?

Since Dr. Murphy's pic immortalized my first close-up in 1976, my "crook"-ed body has come to symbolize the ultimate biohazard. You want high profile terror, you get me. But nyah nyah, you still can't ID who or what provides my Web hosting in spite of the usual bat-advocates, rodent reservoirians and bird buglers.

I'm a tough one to get your arms around, breaking-out unannounced, forgoing incubation, moving about via body fluids and nasty needles, crashing the locals and especially their healthcare workers. Some of us can do the aerosol thing, too. WHO (not who) figures I've killed about 1K to date, but there you go ... I'm so bad I seem to burn myself out before I can get too far, so far.

I don't get much love, always being handled by big bullies wearing puffy "containment" leisure suits in some BSL 4 basement. Definitely a mother-in-law room, upgrades requested. I was a cause celebre in '94 thanks to the best seller, The Hot Zone, a colorful account of my talents, especially if you're into bleed-outs and orificio multiplexium. HZ described my little tete-a-tete with the folks in Reston, Va., USAMRIID and Ft. Detrick, Md. Did I hear some lab monkeys asking for the ventilation and A/C to be turned down? My handlers got tad testy about the what-ifs, i.e., what-if the Reston strain had been able to jump species, or, what-if the Zaire strain could be spread by aerosol. Not to mention those annoying reports of "weaponizing" in the former Soviet Union ...

Name my "emerging" filoviral self and decipher for me the world's most confusing acronym, USAMRIID.

Roger P. Freeman, DDS, is a dental infection control consultant and president of Infectious Awareables, at

E-mail your answers to, including your name, title and the name and location of your healthcare facility. The answers to last month's mystery microbe are rhinovirus and the common cold. For archived Microbe of the Month columns, log on to:

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