Currently, the virus can currently only be transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, including blood, of an infected patient.
It means the virus that first broke out in Guinea in February may be very different to the one now terrorizing West Africa.
Pointing to the example of the H1N1 influenza virus that saw bird flu sweep the globe in 2009, Dr Osterholm said: ‘If certain mutations occurred, it would mean that just breathing would put one at risk of contracting Ebola.’
In 2012, Canadian researchers found the virus could be passed via the respiratory system between pigs and monkeys – both of which have similar lungs to humans.
It was the same virus as that which is responsible for the current death toll in West Africa.
WILL POOLEY: ‘I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IF DEATHS ARE REPEATED 1 MILLION TIMES AND SO I SAY, AT ALL COSTS WE CAN’T LET THAT HAPPEN‘
Visibly upset and consumed by his emotions, Mr Pooley retold the case of a brother and sister, aged four and two, who he cared for in Sierra Leone.
He said ‘at all costs’ the international community must not allow what happened to them, be repeated one million times.
He said: ‘They were on a specific ward alone, their mother and father had probably died.
‘The blood results came back and they were both positive for Ebola, so I took them both by the hand and led them down the muddy track on to the confirmed ward.
‘They were both quite weak and they struggled their way through the puddles and the mud on to the ward, squalid ward B in Kenema.
‘I popped them up on to a bed, they shared. The boy had diarrhoea and he was very weak, too weak to get up so he soiled himself.
‘I cleaned him up as best I could with the limited materials available and removed his dirty clothes.
‘Thereafter he lay naked on the bed, there was nothing to change him into or cover him with, the diarrhoea trickling out of him.
‘His sister looked on and I encouraged her to help him take fluids regularly, she was also very weak and she tried her best.
‘The next morning I came in and saw him lying as I had left him, on the bed.
‘He wasn’t breathing. I remember going up to him and looking at his face, his lips were drawn back in a grimace, and his eyes were vacant, lying in a pool of his own diarrhoea.
‘I lifted his hand to try, just to confirm things and his whole body turned rigid and cold.
‘I put him in a body bag as his sister looked on.
‘She seemed more baffled than anything, not really understanding what was happening. I carried his corpse outside with the others.
‘The little girl, she deteriorated the next day. Overnight, the following night she had intravenous fluids and the line came out and she bled.
‘I came in the following morning and she was covered in blood. She still had a very puzzled expression on her face and she wasn’t breathing.
‘So I put her in a bag and left her next to her brother. She was a beautiful little girl.’
Fighting back tears, Mr Pooley added: ‘So my specific fear is that the horror and the misery of these deaths really fill a hole in my despair.
‘And I just don’t know what happens if that is repeated one million times and so I say, at all costs we can’t let that happen.’