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Ebola Virus

Ebola Virus

BRIAN D. HOYLE

The Ebola virus is one of two members of a family of viruses that is designated as the Filoviridae. The name of the virus comes from a river located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the virus was discovered. Although naturally occurring, some public health experts worry that the lethality of the virus makes it an attractive potential bioterrorism agent. Under natural circumstances Ebola induced hemorrhagic fever carriers have such high death rates that their rapid death actually acts to limit the spread of the virus. Deliberate spread of the virus would counteract this natural limiting factor.

The species of Ebola virus are among a number of viruses that cause a disease, hemorrhagic fever, that is typified by copious internal bleeding and bleeding from various orifices of the body, including the eyes. The disease can be swiftly devastating and results in death in over 90 per cent of cases.

To date, four species of Ebola virus have been identified, based on differences in their genetic sequences and in the immune reaction they elicit in infected individuals. Three of the species cause disease in humans. These are Ebola-Zaire (isolated in 1976), Ebola-Sudan (also isolated in 1976), and Ebola-Ivory Coast (isolated in 1994). The fourth species, called Ebola-Reston, causes disease in primates. The latter species is capable of infecting humans but so far has not caused disease in humans. Ebola-Reston is named for the United States military primate research facility where the virus was isolated, during a 1989 outbreak of the disease caused by infected monkeys that had been imported from the Philippines. Until the non-human involvement of the disease was proven, the outbreak was thought to be the first outside of Africa.

The appearance of the Ebola virus only dates back to 1976. The explosive onset of the illness and the underdeveloped and wild nature of the African region of the virus's appearance have complicated the definitive determinations of the origin and natural habitat of Ebola. The source of the Ebola virus is still unknown. However, given that filovirus, which produce similar effects, establish a latent infection in African monkeys, macaques, and chimpanzees, scientists consider the possibility that the Ebola virus likewise normally resides in an animal that lives in Africa. A search for Ebola virus in such primates has so far not revealed evidence of the virus.

Almost all confirmed cases of Ebola from 1976 to 2002 have been in Africa. In the latest outbreak, which has been ongoing since late in 2001, 54 people have died in the Gabon as of February of 2002. In the past, one individual in Liberia presented immunological evidence of exposure to Ebola, but had no symptoms. As well, a laboratory worker in England developed Ebola fever as a result of a laboratory accident in which the worker was punctured by an Ebola-containing needle.

The Ebola virus produces a high fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, tiredness and diarrhea within a few days after infecting a person. Some people will also display bloody diarrhea and vomit blood. At this stage of the disease some people recover. But, for most of those who are infected, the disease progresses within days to produce copious internal bleeding, shock and death.

Outbreaks of infection with the Ebola virus appear sporadically and suddenly. The outbreak rapidly moves through the local population and often just as quickly ends. The initial infection is presumable by contact between the person and the animal that harbors the virus. Subsequent person-to-person spread likely occurs by contamination with the infected blood or body tissues of an infected person in the home or hospital setting, or via contaminated needles. The fact that infected people tend to be in more under-developed regions, where even the health care facilities are not as likely to be equipped with isolation wards, furthers the risk of spread. The person-to-person passage is immediate; unlike the animal host, people do not harbor the virus for lengthy periods of time.

The possibility of air-borne transmission of the virus is debatable. Ebola-Reston may well have been transmitted from monkey to monkey in the Reston military facility via the air distribution system, since some of the monkeys that were infected were never in physical contact with the other infected monkeys. However, if the other species of the virus are capable of similar transmission, this has not yet been documented. Laboratory studies have shown that Ebola virus can remain infectious when aerosolized. But the current consensus is that airborne transmission is possible but plays a minor role in the spread of the virus.

In the intervening years between the sporadic outbreaks, the Ebola virus probably is resident in the natural reservoir.

Currently there is no cure for the infection caused by the Ebola virus. However, near the end of an outbreak of the virus in 1995 in Kikwit, Africa, blood products from survivors of the infection were transfused into those actively experiencing the disease. Of those eight people who received the blood, only one person died. Whether or not the transfused blood conveyed protective factor was not ascertained. A detailed examination of this possibility awaits another outbreak.

The molecular basis for the establishment of an infection by the Ebola virus is still also more in the realm of proposal than fact. One clue has been the finding of a glycoprotein that is a shortened version of the viral constituent in the in the circulating fluid of humans and monkeys. This protein has been suggested to function as a decoy for the immune system, diverting the immune defenses from the actual site of viral infection. Another immunosuppressive mechanism may be the selective invasion and damage of the spleen and the lymph nodes, which are vital in the functioning of the immune system.

The devastating infection caused by the Ebola virus is all the more remarkable given the very small size of the viral genome, or complement of genetic material. Fewer than a dozen genes have been detected. How the virus establishes an infection and evades the host immune system with only the capacity to code for less than twelve proteins is unknown.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Cormican, M. G. and M. A. Pfaller. "Molecular Pathology of Infectious Diseases," in Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods, 20th ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 2001.

PERIODICALS:

Peters, C. J., and J. W. LeDuc. "An Introduction to Ebola: The Virus and the Disease." The Journal of Infectious Diseases no. 179 (Supplement 1, February 1999): ixxvi.

ELECTRONIC:

Centers for Disease Control. "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever." 2001. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/ebola.htm> (March 12, 2003).

. "Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers." 2000. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/vhf.htm> (March 12, 2003).

SEE ALSO

Biological Warfare
Biological Weapons, Genetic Identification
Bioshield Project
Bioterrorism
CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Hemorrhagic Fevers and Diseases
Viral Biology

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Ebola Virus

Ebola Virus

Since the mid-1970s, scientists from organizations that include the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) have periodically been pressed into action to help quell disease outbreaks caused by the Ebola virus. One facet of their responsibilities has been forensic investigations that involve determining the origins of the outbreaks.

Although naturally occurring, the swift and high lethality of the Ebola virus makes it an attractive potential bioterrorism agent. This high lethality characteristic can actually work against a large outbreak, as it limits the natural spread of the virus. Deliberate spread of the virus in multiple population areas could counteract the natural limiting factor.

The Ebola virus is one of two members of a family of viruses that is designated as the Filoviridae. The name of the virus comes from a river located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was near this river that the virus was discovered.

The species of Ebola virus are among a number of viruses that cause hemorrhagic fever, which is typified by copious internal bleeding and bleeding from various orifices of the body, including the eyes. The disease can be swift and devastating, resulting in death in up to 90% of cases.

To date, four species of Ebola virus have been identified, based on differences in their genetic sequences and in the immune reaction they elicit in infected individuals. Three of the species cause disease in humans. These are Ebola-Zaire (isolated in 1976), Ebola-Sudan (also isolated in 1976), and Ebola-Ivory Coast (isolated in 1994). The fourth species, called Ebola-Reston, causes disease in primates. The latter species is capable of infecting humans but so far has not caused disease in humans. Ebola-Reston is named for the United States military primate research facility where the virus was isolated during a 1989 outbreak of the disease caused by infected monkeys that had been imported from the Philippines. Until the non-human involvement of the disease was proven, the outbreak was thought to be the first outside of Africa.

The explosive onset of the illness and the under-developed and wild nature of the African region of the virus's appearance has complicated forensic investigations into the origin and natural habitat of Ebola. The source of the Ebola virus is still unknown. However, given that filovirus, which produces similar effects, can establish a latent infection in African monkeys, macaques, and chimpanzees, it seems reasonable that the Ebola virus could reside normally in a similar host. However, direct evidence is so far lacking.

Almost all confirmed cases of Ebola from 1976 to 2003 have been in Africa. In the latest outbreaks, which persisted in Gabon through 2003, 122 people were known to have been infected and 96 died, according to data from the CDC. A smaller outbreak killed 7 of 17 infected people in 2004 in Sudan. In the past, one individual in Liberia presented immunological evidence of exposure to Ebola, but had no symptoms. As well, in 1976 a laboratory worker in England developed Ebola fever as a result of a laboratory accident in which the worker was punctured by an Ebola-containing needle.

The Ebola virus produces a high fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, tiredness, and diarrhea within a few days after infecting a person. Some people will also display bloody diarrhea and vomit blood. At this stage of the disease, some people recover. But for most of those who are infected, the disease progresses within days to produce copious internal bleeding, shock, and death.

Outbreaks of infection with the Ebola virus appear sporadically and suddenly. The outbreak rapidly moves through the local population and often just as quickly ends. The initial infection is presumably by contact between the person and an animal that harbors the virus. Subsequent person-to-person spread likely occurs by contamination with the infected blood or body tissues of an infected person in the home or hospital setting, or via contaminated needles. The fact that infected people tend to be in more under-developed regions, where even the health care facilities are not as likely to be equipped with isolation wards, furthers the risk of spread. The person-to-person passage is immediate; unlike the animal host; people do not harbor the virus for lengthy periods of time.

The possibility of air-borne transmission of the virus is debatable. Ebola-Reston may have been transmitted from monkey to monkey in the Reston military facility via the air distribution system, since some of the monkeys that were infected were never in physical contact with the other infected monkeys. However, if the other species of the virus are capable of similar transmission, this has not yet been documented. Laboratory studies have shown that Ebola virus can remain infectious when aerosolized. But the current consensus is that airborne transmission is possible but plays a minor role in the spread of the virus.

In the intervening years between the sporadic outbreaks, the Ebola virus probably resides in its natural reservoir. Whether that reservoir is an animal or plant, or resides in the soil or other environment is unknown, although scientists suspect the reservoir is a mammal.

Currently there is no cure for the infection caused by the Ebola virus. However, near the end of an outbreak of the virus in 1995 in Kikwit, Africa, blood products from survivors of the infection were transfused into those actively experiencing the disease. Of those eight people who received the blood, only one person died. Whether or not the transfused blood conveyed protective factor was not ascertained. A detailed examination of this possibility awaits another outbreak.

The molecular basis for the establishment of an infection by the Ebola virus is still also more in the realm of proposal than fact. One clue has been the finding of a glycoprotein that is a shortened version of the viral constituent in the circulating fluid of humans and monkeys. This protein has been suggested to function as a decoy for the immune system , diverting the immune defenses from the actual site of viral infection. Another immunosuppressive mechanism may be the selective invasion and damage of the spleen and the lymph nodes, which are vital in the functioning of the immune system.

The devastating infection caused by the Ebola virus is all the more remarkable given the very small size of the viral genome, or complement of genetic material. Fewer than a dozen genes have been detected. How the virus establishes an infection and evades the host immune system with only the capacity to code for less than twelve proteins is unknown.

see also Bioterrorism; Hemorrhagic fevers and diseases.

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Ebola Virus

Ebola virus

The Ebola (pronounced ee-BO-luh) virus is the common name for a severe, often-fatal bleeding or hemorrhagic (pronounced hem-or-RAD-jik) fever that first appeared in 1976. It is caused by a new kind of virus called a filovirus (pronounced FY-low-vye-russ) that kills most of its victims with frightening speed. The source of the virus is unknown and there is no cure.

A deadly disease

As a viral hemorrhagic fever, the Ebola virus infects its host and causes sudden fever, muscle aches, and weakness followed by vomiting, diarrhea, breathing and kidney problems, shock, internal and external bleeding, and usually death. It is one of the most deadly disease-causing agents known, and is classified as a Level 4 pathogen (pronounced PATH-o-jen). For comparison, the disease known as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is only a Level 2 pathogen. This new disease is particularly horrible and has been described by one author as a "molecular shark" that can turn "virtually every part of the body into a digested slime of virus particles." This means that the victim's internal organs break down, with blood oozing eventually from every part of the body.

First outbreak

The first time the new, thread-shaped filovirus was ever seen was in 1967 in Germany and Yugoslavia. In both those countries, research laboratory workers became violently and desperately ill. Seven of thirty-one workers died. All had one thing in common: they had been exposed to the tissues and blood of several African green monkeys. Doctors soon examined the victims's blood and discovered a virus resembling a tangled rope that was unlike any virus they had ever seen. Following this incident, which gave the name Marburg virus to the new microorganism, there were a few cases in the African countries of Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Kenya.

Words to Know

Filovirus: A family of lethal thread-shaped viruses that includes Ebola and Marburg.

Virus: A package of chemicals that are far smaller than the living cells they infect. Viruses are not classified as living organisms, since they cannot grow and reproduce on their own, but rely on a host cell to make copies of themselves.

However, in the summer of 1976, a new version of the filovirus appeared in two major outbreaks that occurred almost at the same time. The first of these emerged in the country of Sudan, and the other in the country of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), some 500 miles (800 kilometers) away. In both places it was as if a deadly biological bomb had gone off, with hundreds of people becoming ill and dying at a terrible rate. These large outbreaks resulted in more than 550 cases and 340 deaths. Examination of the virus showed that it was similar to the Marburg virus, but not the same. In fact, it was even deadlier. It came to be called the Ebola virus, named after the river in Zaire where it was first recognized.

Four sub-types

Since that first outbreak in 1976, four subtypes or versions of the Ebola virus have been identified so far. The first three, called Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, and Ebola-Ivory Coast, are known to have caused disease in humans. The fourth, called Ebola-Reston after the Reston, Virginia, primate laboratory where it was first discovered, seems to only be transmitted by monkeys to monkeys, although it may be the only one of the four viruses that is airborne (meaning it can be spread through particles floating in the air).

Ebola symptoms

People can get the first three Ebola fevers through direct contact with a sick person. This usually happens to hospital workers or family members who are caring for a severely ill victim and who somehow become infected by coming in contact with the victim's blood or other body fluids. In very poor countries, people often are infected when needles are reused instead of thrown away. Within a few days of being infected, most new victims experience a high fever, headache, muscle and stomach pain, fatigue, and diarrhea. Within one week of being infected, most patients experience chest pain, shock, bleeding, and death. Researchers have no explanation for why some people are able to recover from this devastating illness.

Treatment

There is currently no standard treatment for the Ebola virus that results in anything more than making the patient comfortable. The one standard therapy in use is to make sure that patients receive enough proper fluids, as well as maintaining their blood pressure and providing a good supply of oxygen. In hospitals, Ebola patients receive what are called barrier nursing techniques, meaning that they are isolated from other patients and only are tended to by workers who wear protective clothing, masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles. Complete sterilization procedures are also strictly followed.

Although the filovirus family has been known since 1967, scientists still have no idea where the virus lives in nature. So far, every case has been a secondary one, meaning that it was caused by contact from another. Nor do we know the exact mechanism the virus uses to enter the host cell. No drug is known that will work against the virus, nor is there any immunization (pronounced im-mew-nih-ZAY-shun) technique available to protect someone from exposure. No vaccines (pronounced vax-SEENZ) have yet been developed. During the late 1990s and into the new millennium, minor outbreaks had been reported with some regularity in different parts of Africa.

Although there is a great deal to learn about this terrible new disease, we do know that Ebola viruses are found only in Central Africa. Although the source in nature is not yet known, it appears that monkeys are susceptible to infection. The very deadliness of the disease has so far worked against any really massive health disaster because it kills its victims so quickly that they do not have a great chance to infect many others. In some ways, the virus burns itself out before it can spread to a major population center. No case of Ebola fever has ever been reported in the United States.

[See also Disease ]

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Ebola Virus

Ebola virus

The Ebola virus is one of two members of a family of viruses that is designated as the Filoviridae. The name of the virus comes from a river located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the virus was discovered.

The species of Ebola virus are among a number of viruses that cause a disease that is typified by copious internal bleeding and bleeding from various orifices of the body, including the eyes. The disease can be swiftly devastating and results in death in over 90% of cases.

To date, four species of Ebola virus have been identified, based on differences in their genetic sequences and in the immun reaction they elicit in infected individuals. Three of the species cause disease in humans. These are Ebola-Zaire (isolated in 1976), Ebola-Sudan (also isolated in 1976), and EbolaIvory Coast (isolated in 1994). The fourth species, called Ebola-Reston, causes disease in primates. The latter species is capable of infecting humans but so far has not caused disease in humans. Ebola-Reston is named for the United States military primate research facility where the virus was isolated, during a 1989 outbreak of the disease caused by infected monkeys that had been imported from the Philippines. Until the non-human involvement of the disease was proven, the outbreak was thought to be the first outside of Africa.

The appearance of the Ebola virus only dates back to 1976. The explosive onset of the illness and the under-developed and wild nature of the African region of the virus's appearance, has complicated the definitive determinations of the origin and natural habitat of Ebola. The source of the Ebola virus is still unknown. However, given that filovirus, which produce similar effects, establish a latent infection in African monkeys, macaques, and chimpanzees, scientists consider the possibility that the Ebola virus likewise normally resides in an animal that lives in Africa. A search for Ebola virus in such primates has so far not revealed evidence of the virus.

Almost all confirmed cases of Ebola from 1976 to 2002 have been in Africa. In the latest outbreak, which has been ongoing since late in 2001, 54 people have died in the Gabon as of February of 2002. In the past, one individual in Liberia presented immunological evidence of exposure to Ebola, but had no symptoms. As well, a laboratory worker in England developed Ebola fever as a result of a laboratory accident in which the worker was punctured by an Ebola-containing needle.

The Ebola virus produces a high fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, tiredness and diarrhea within a few days after infecting a person. Some people will also display bloody diarrhea and vomit blood. At this stage of the disease some people recover. But, for most of those who are infected, the disease progresses within days to produce copious internal bleeding, shock and death.

Outbreaks of infection with the Ebola virus appear sporadically and suddenly. The outbreak rapidly moves through the local population and often just as quickly ends. The initial infection is presumable by contact between the person and the animal that harbors the virus. Subsequent person-to-person spread likely occurs by contamination with the infected blood or body tissues of an infected person in the home or hospital setting, or via contaminated needles. The fact that infected people tend to be in more under-developed regions, where even the health care facilities are not as likely to be equipped with isolation wards, furthers the risk of spread. The person-to-person passage is immediate; unlike the animal host, people do not harbor the virus for lengthy periods of time.

The possibility of air-borne transmission of the virus is debatable. Ebola-Reston may well have been transmitted from monkey to monkey in the Reston military facility via the air distribution system, since some of the monkeys that were infected were never in physical contact with the other infected monkeys. However, if the other species of the virus are capable of similar transmission, this has not yet been documented. Laboratory studies have shown that Ebola virus can remain infectious when aerosolized. But the current consensus is that airborne transmission is possible but plays a minor role in the spread of the virus.

In the intervening years between the sporadic outbreaks, the Ebola virus probably is resident in the natural reservoir.

Currently there is no cure for the infection caused by the Ebola virus. However, near the end of an outbreak of the virus in 1995 in Kikwit, Africa, blood products from survivors of the infection were transfused into those actively experiencing the disease. Of those eight people who received the blood, only one person died. Whether or not the transfused blood conveyed protective factor was not ascertained. A detailed examination of this possibility awaits another outbreak.

The molecular basis for the establishment of an infection by the Ebola virus is still also more in the realm of proposal than fact. One clue has been the finding of a glycoprotein that is a shortened version of the viral constituent in the in the circulating fluid of humans and monkeys. This protein has been suggested to function as a decoy for the immune system , diverting the immune defenses from the actual site of viral infection. Another immunosuppressive mechanism may be the selective invasion and damage of the spleen and the lymph nodes, which are vital in the functioning of the immune system.

The devastating infection caused by the Ebola virus is all the more remarkable given the very small size of the viral genome, or complement of genetic material. Fewer than a dozen genes have been detected. How the virus establishes an infection and evades the host immune system with only the capacity to code for less than twelve proteins is unknown.

See also Hemorrhagic fevers and diseases; Zoonoses

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Ebola virus

Ebola virus (ēbō´lə), a member of a family (Filovidae) of RNA viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers. The virus, named for the region in Congo (Kinshasa) where it was first identified in 1976, emerged from the rain forest, where it survives in as yet unconfirmed hosts, possibly several species of fruit bats; experimental evidence also suggests that wild and domestic swine may be a reservoir of the disease. The virus can be fatal to chimpanzees and gorillas as well as humans. In 1989 a similar virus was found in monkeys imported to the United States.

Several strains of the virus found in Africa cause hemorrhagic fever; one found in the W Pacific does not. Once a person is infected with the virus, the disease has an incubation period of 2–21 days; however, some infected persons are asymptomatic. Initial symptoms are sudden malaise, headache, and muscle pain, progressing to high fever, vomiting, severe hemorrhaging (internally and out of the eyes and mouth) and in 50%–90% of patients, death, usually within days. The likelihood of death is governed by the virulence of the particular Ebola strain involved. Ebola virus is transmitted in body fluids and secretions; it may possibly also be transmitted through the air by aerosol droplets. There is no vaccine and no cure; a number of treatments for the disease, including a vaccine, are being developed, but they remain experimental.

Outbreaks of Ebola virus in humans have typically occurred in tropical rainforest regions in Central and West Africa. Among the countries affected have been Congo-Kinshasa (then Zaïre) and Sudan (in a region now in South Sudan), where outbreaks occurred in 1976 and 1979; since then other outbreaks have occurred in Gabon, Uganda, and both Congos. The largest and deadliest outbreak began in late 2013 in Guinea and spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, with a few cases in some nearby African nations and in the United States and Europe; some 11,000 people—many more than in any prior outbreak—had died by mid-2015. Outbreaks have been exacerbated by underequipped and understaffed medical facilities, families caring for patients at home, suspicions that medical personnel are spreading the disease, and other factors.

See D. Quammen, Ebola (2014).

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Ebola virus

Ebola virus (i-boh-lă) n. a virus responsible for an acute infection in humans with features similar to those of Marburg disease. Transmission is by contact with infected blood and other body fluids. The mortality rate is 53–88%, but intensive treatment (including rehydration) in the early stages of the disease can halt its rapid and usually irreversible progression to haemorrhaging of internal organs.

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ebola

ebola Virus that causes haemorrhagic fever. Thought to have been long present in animals, the ebola virus was first identified in humans during an outbreak in Congo in 1976. It is acquired through contact with contaminated body fluids. Death rates can be as high as 90%.

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Ebola

Ebolabeguiler, compiler, Delilah, filer, Isla, miler, reviler, smiler, styler, tiler, Tyler •idler •stifler, trifler •recycler • Kreisler • profiler •stockpiler • freestyler • Rottweiler •ayatollah, choler, collar, corolla, dollar, dolour (US dolor), Hezbollah, holler, scholar, squalor, wallah, Waller, white-collar •cobbler, gobbler •Doppler, poplar •ostler •brawler, caller, crawler, drawler, faller, forestaller, hauler, installer, mauler, Paula, stonewaller, trawler •warbler • dawdler • footballer •reed-warbler •fowler, growler, howler, prowler, scowler •Angola, barbola, bipolar, bowler, bronchiolar, canola, carambola, circumpolar, coaler, Coca-Cola, cola, comptroller, consoler, controller, Ebola, eidola, extoller, Finola, Gorgonzola, granola, Hispaniola, kola, Lola, lunisolar, mandola, molar, multipolar, Ndola, patroller, payola, pianola, polar, roller, Savonarola, scagliola, scroller, sola, solar, stroller, tombola, Tortola, troller, Vignola, viola, Zola •ogler •teetotaller (US teetotaler) •potholer • steamroller • logroller •roadroller •boiler, broiler, Euler, oiler, spoiler, toiler •potboiler

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