The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, according to the CDC. It has killed thousands of people in West Africa, and the death toll continues to grow.
While Ebola remains in the headlines, it is just one of several viruses with similar symptoms and potential outcomes. Marburg virus, for example, can also cause hemorrhagic fever, meaning dysfunction in the body's network of blood vessels that can cause bleeding. Marburg is also spread when a person comes into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
Ebola, Marburg and related other viral diseases are considered to be high-priority bio-agents. Brauner and her team explain that these bio-agents "can be defined as being easily disseminated or transmitted from person to person with high morbidity and mortality rates, difficult diagnosis, creation of public panic and social disruption as well as major public health impact potential. Compared to conventional weapons, relatively small amounts of biological agents may cause high numbers of casualties."
Experts, however, continue to debate how viable the Ebola virus and related ones could be as bioweapons. Some bioterrorism experts, like biological anthropologist Peter Walsh of Cambridge University, believe that the Ebola virus could pose a significant bioterrorist threat. Others, such as New York physician Robert Leggiadro and SecureBio's Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, think that Ebola will not be used as a bioterrorism agent any time soon because they say it is difficult to work with and "weaponize."