Thursday, October 30, 2014
Doctor's Perspective
Ebola is not likely to mutate to airborne

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
The current Ebola virus scare has led to much misinformation, some of which was included in a letter to the Seaford Star. The letter implied that Ebola virus would mutate and become airborne. We need to think about this in terms of history. Many infections are transmitted by bodily secretions. They include the HIV virus, Hepatitis viruses and sexually transmitted diseases. The list goes on and on. Most of these illnesses have been around a lot longer than Ebola virus. They have not mutated. HIV mutates very quickly compared to other viruses. It has not mutated and there are many individuals who are infected with this deadly virus. Having HIV mutate to an airborne virus is a much greater threat, however, it has not occurred since its discovery. Ebola virus was first identified in 1976 and there has been no evidence of a mutation of that type since that time. From a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint, there is no advantage to the virus to mutate. It is deadly in its current form. An airborne mutation would not make it any more deadly. As a matter of fact, there is a much more logical mutation. A virus this deadly cannot spread that well. When a victim dies, it has little time to find a new host. However, if it were less deadly, it could find more hosts. Thus, a mutation to a less deadly form is much more likely than to an airborne form. In addition, mutations are very small changes in DNA patterns. In order for something like Ebola to become airborne, it would have to rapidly undergo a great many mutations. The evidence for previous airborne transmission was in a laboratory of monkeys that were kept in cages. The logic was that since they were separated there had to have been another form of transmission. However, that means that the individuals who cleaned the cages were so meticulous that they did not carry anything from one cage to another. When we see how vulnerable health care workers are to the virus, we would expect that the animal handlers could not be that meticulous. While any form of mutation is theoretically possible, some are more logical than others. At this point in time, having the Ebola virus mutate to an airborne form is a lot more theory than actual likelihood. If you have comments about this column or suggestions for other topics, send an email to Dr. Anthony Policastro at

Annual Early Black Friday Sale The Look-In Glass Shoppe at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold their Annual Early Black Friday Sale from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7, in the hospital lobby. Shoppers will receive a mystery discount of up to 50% off holiday merchandise. All proceeds at the Look-In Glass Shoppe go to Nanticoke Health Services to support patient care services.

Hospice plans Grief Workshop Delaware Hospice, the Milton Wellness Center and the Delaware Grief Awareness Consortium will present "A Grief Workshop and Labyrinth Walk," on Saturday, Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Milford Public Library. The Grief Workshop and Labyrinth Walk have been organized to commemorate Grief Awareness Week. Anyone coping with a loss or supporting a grieving family member or friend is welcome to attend this free event. Found in numerous cultures around the world for thousands of years, the labyrinth is a symbol for life's journey. This workshop will use the labyrinth as a gentle but powerful method to move us along in our journey of grief. For registration or more information, contact Midge DiNatale, Delaware Hospice bereavement counselor, at 302-300-2179 or

DHIN offers support services Recognizing the burden that back-office tasks place on medical practices, Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN) is pleased to offer DHIN Business Solutions – technical, education and support services for physician groups and medical offices. To help bridge the gap between a practice's clinical needs and system capabilities, DHIN offers a wide range of solutions, including security, project management, workflow improvement, "Meaningful Use" support and training.

DHIN Business Solutions are offered in partnership with Best Practice Partners (BPP), a leader in health IT optimization.For details or to request a quote, call 302-678-0220 or visit

Grief and the holidays "Grief and Coping with the Holidays," will be presented by Delaware Hospice's Midge DiNatale, GC-C, bereavement counselor, on Wednesday, Nov. 26 from noon to 12:45 p.m. at the Ocean View CHEER Center. Participants will learn strategies to help cope with the universal challenges presented by the holiday season. Discussion will include topics such as: anticipations and expectations of family and friends; dealing with the multitude of emotions; the impact of death on the entire family unit; dealing with special occasions; honoring your loved one during the holidays; and giving yourself permission to participate or not to take part in special events. There is no fee for this presentation. For questions, contact Yolanda Gallego at or 302-539-2671.

'Boomers R Us' lecture "Boomers R Us: Characteristics and Challenges Unique to Baby Boomers" will be the topic of Delaware Hospice's Lunch Bunch Lecture on Friday, Nov. 7, with Dr. Judy Pierson, clinical psychologist. The Lunch Bunch Lecture will be held at the Delaware Hospice Center, Milford, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Born between the years 1946 to 1964, Baby Boomers make up almost 25% of the population. They control over 80% of personal financial assets and contribute to over 50% of consumer spending, which ensures they will remain a powerful force in our society. As they retire, they will start yet another sweeping social change. Approximately three million Baby Boomers will reach retirement every year for the next 20 years. This will create a strain on the health care system that will require innovative approaches to elder care. Join us to learn about what makes Boomers unique and ready to change the face of aging. Registration is required as seating capacity is limited, and the cost of lunch is $5 per person. Register by Wednesday, Nov. 5, by contacting Michele August at 856-7717 or 478-5707 or email

New Hope Program fundraiser Children and teens who have lost a loved one need special care. Delaware Hospice recognized that need and established its New Hope Program in 1990 for that purpose. On Saturday, Nov. 8, Xi Sigma Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi will hold a Chinese Auction fundraiser to benefit Delaware Hospice's New Hope Program. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the auction begins at 7, at Lewes Presbyterian Church, 133 Kings Hwy., Lewes. Admission is $15 per person, and additional envelopes can be purchased for $5. This event is restricted to adults over the age of 18. For more information, call Dee at 302-231-8015 or Carol at 302-226-2908.

Children's grief workshop Any child or teen who has experienced the loss of a loved one will benefit from "Art for the Grieving Heart," an art workshop that will be held on Saturday, Nov. 8, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Delaware Hospice Center, Milford. This workshop will allow children between 6 and 17 years of age to express their feelings of grief through creative art mediums. There will be a brief discussion on the grief journey and healthy coping skills. An art teacher will demonstrate painting techniques. Parents are welcome to attend a simultaneous mini-workshop to learn more about how children grieve and to gather tips and resources on ways to best support their children during a difficult family time. There is no fee to attend and all materials will be supplied. Space is limited; please RSVP by Nov. 3 to Robin Murphy at 302-678-4444 or