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

They don't call me a special pathogen for nothing, folks. I figure if theyhad 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 calledan "emerging" pathogen, like I'm some kind of newbie, a mere RNArookie. Someday they'll probably discover I've been snoozing and scorching formillenniums, just a little crowd-aversive. Who invited you tourists to the rainforest, 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 wanthigh profile terror, you get me. But nyah nyah, you still can't ID who or whatprovides my Web hosting in spite of the usual bat-advocates, rodentreservoirians and bird buglers.

I'm a tough one to get your arms around, breaking-out unannounced, forgoingincubation, moving about via body fluids and nasty needles, crashing the localsand 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 amother-in-law room, upgrades requested. I was a cause celebre in '94 thanks tothe best seller, The Hot Zone, a colorful account of my talents, especially ifyou're into bleed-outs and orificio multiplexium. HZ described my littletete-a-tete with the folks in Reston, Va., USAMRIID and Ft. Detrick, Md. Did Ihear some lab monkeys asking for the ventilation and A/C to be turned down? Myhandlers got tad testy about the what-ifs, i.e., what-if the Reston strain hadbeen able to jump species, or, what-if the Zaire strain could be spread byaerosol. Not to mention those annoying reports of "weaponizing" in theformer Soviet Union ...

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

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

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