, LONDON, July 31 – The scientist who helped discover the Ebola virus said the outbreak in west Africa was unlikely to trigger a major epidemic outside the region, adding he would happily sit next to an infected person on a train.
But Professor Peter Piot told AFP that a “really bad” sense of panic and lack of trust in the authorities in west Africa had contributed to the world’s largest-ever outbreak.
The Belgian scientist, now based in Britain, urged officials to test experimental vaccines on people with the virus so that when it inevitably returns, the world is prepared.
Since March, there have been 1,201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned that the crisis is set to get worse and that there is no overarching strategy to handle the crisis.
Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus as a 27-year-old researcher in 1976. READ: EU offers extra 2mn euros to fight WAfrica Ebola crisis.
He is now director of the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was previously executive director of the United Nations’ HIV/AIDS programme UNAIDS.
Even if someone carrying Ebola were to fly to Europe, the United States or another part of Africa, “I don’t think that will give rise to a major epidemic,” he told AFP in an interview on Wednesday.
“Spreading in the population here, I’m not that worried about it,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be worried to sit next to someone with Ebola virus on the Tube as long as they don’t vomit on you or something. This is an infection that requires very close contact.”