The New York Times recently published an op-ed on the Ebola situation in western Africa. One of the things discussed by Michael Osterholmn in that essay is the possibility that "an Ebola virus could mutate to become transmissible through the air." I think this is an interesting idea; if the currently circulating virus were to become dramatically more transmissible, it would make an already desperate situation dire.
The issue of mutation and selection is complex, as described in an excellent post by Jamie Jones. What selective pressures are acting upon Ebola viruses circulating in western Africa currently, and how those might alter the clinical epidemiology of the disease, are interesting and relevant questions.
Many have reacted to the question of how real the risk described by Osterholm is. I think positing such possibilities, and the ensuing discussion, is helpful. Even if the possibility is a false alarm, having people think through the issue, likelihood, and potential impact has value. It should not, however, distract us from important and desperately needed public health operations on the ground, or advocacy efforts to increase the resources for those operations.
(image source: Wikipedia)