What the media currently refers to as Ebola is actually one of the five known spices of the Ebola virus, the Zaire Ebola virus or ZEBOV which has been named after the country Zaire, where it had been first discovered.
Formally a disease among bats, fruit bats to be specific, the virus has managed to effect humans and has topped the charts to be no. 2 among the deadliest viruses know to man.
EBOLA: HISTORY AND CURRENT SITUATION
The main symptom of Ebola virus is heavy bleeding, either internally or externally and hence the formal name, Ebola hemorrhagic Fever. It is transmitted from one human to another via exchange of body fluids. So it is very obvious why most Ebola victims are health care workers or family members of the current Ebola sufferer.
Ebola was first reported in 1976 which killed 280 people in Zaire (now the democratic republic of Congo). Since then there have been some sporadic case along with a couple of outbreaks with similar death rates. But recently, march 2014 to be specific, there has occurred an Ebola epidemic that has claimed nearly five thousand lives, with predictions from scientists that the statistic may reach 10,000 in the coming two months.
Currently, the disease is mostly isolated in western Africa, though a couple of U.S citizens have contracted it there and has been flown home for treatment. Scientists are of the concern that it might have potential becoming a worldwide threat. The disease itself doesn’t hold that much capability of creating a pandemic, but if left in an unmanaged health care system, as is the case with West Africa, it can create havoc.
So Ebola can be prevented via a well organized and well-educated healthcare facility. Awareness is the key. It’s as simple as maintaining proper hygiene and avoiding contact with affected individuals (living or dead). Bushmeat e.g. fruit bats (an African delicacy) is also advised to be avoided.
But the question arises what to do about the people who are actually diagnosed by the disease. Ebola has a mortality rate of 60% to 90%. People who have contracted the disease are condemned to a slow, isolated and painful death. And if infected people and an inadequate health care system together fall into an equation then that mean total pandemonium, as is the case in Africa. Only 3% of the world health care professionals live and work in Africa, and they are all overwhelmed in this current outbreak. There is no room for keeping patients. Situations arises like a patient who might been in a potential state of recovery come for help but are refused as beds are unavailable, and due to lack of treatment gradually steps into a phase of the disease when recovery is impossible.
EBOLA: THE HOPE
But scientists are finding a dim light of hope, in these desperate times. Though many are killed in the onslaught, some survive. These people are apparently developing immunity toward the virus. “But how?” asks scientists and microbiologist and are aiming to find the answer with the help of mice.
Similar symptoms as found in humans are displayed by a strain of mice that have been developed by Ebola researchers. Typical mice don’t develop the deadly symptoms of Ebola and hence it is difficult to study the diseases using mice. Though monkeys are an option, but it is a very expensive one.
So these mice were developed to shed some light on the Ebola virus diseases spectra.
When testing 2/5th of the cases showed the symptoms like hemorrhagic fever followed by death, another 2/5th showed no symptoms but gradually died whereas the remaining 1/5th displayed immunity to the virus. Researchers are hoping to analyze the genetical difference to find a cure.
International efforts are also being made. 65-bed treatment centers for infected medical staff is Sierra Leone will be set up as pledged by Britain. French specialist will visit Guinea to lend a helping hand. American President Barack Obama has also promised to send 3,000 troops to build 17 healthcare facilities, mainly in Liberia.
Though it seems much is being done, it is not quite enough. Even if a vaccine or cure is discovered, there are scenarios of providing proper access to these vaccines. Now we all can’t just buy a ticket to Africa and give a helping hand in managing this pandemic. But we can support agencies such the Red Cross, Oxfam, and so on, by donating as much as we can. We can also back the government initiatives towards this problem, and create awareness in people to understand the current problem of the Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
Featured Image Source: nbcnews