deadEvery virus mutates to adapt to its surroundings. Ebola is no exception. When President Barack Obama announced the deployment of US forces to West Africa he said in an interview on Sunday that immediate intervention was vital. Otherwise, said Obama, Ebola could mutate, making it more easily transmittable, “and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.” The longer a virus circulates, the more it changes its genetic material. “Even a single change in the genome can have huge consequences,” says Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg. He confirms that mutations can increase the contagiousness of a virus. Mutations could also make the illness break out sooner, or alternate the course of the disease – increasing the potential of a patient’s developing encephalitis. The disease could also become airborne. And that would be disastrous: the infection rate would increase exponentially. More