Ebola – Is the world ready for the next pandemic?

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In our world today, Ebola is one of the most feared diseases. It is one of those diseases that when heard of, causes a lot of panic in the world. One thing worth noting about the virus it was first reported back in 1976 and the death toll caused by the disease, as we are going to find out in this article. There have also been a number of diseases that have similarly caused many fatalities. These are diseases such as the Zika Virus, Bird Flu in China, the Yellow Fever outbreak in Brazil and the Cholera outbreak in Yemen. All these have had many fatalities that have caused much anguish on the survivors and the human race at large.

Cynthia Goldsmith This colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. See PHIL 1832 for a black and white version of this image. Where is Ebola virus found in nature?The exact origin, locations, and natural habitat (known as the "natural reservoir") of Ebola virus remain unknown. However, on the basis of available evidence and the nature of similar viruses, researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic (animal-borne) and is normally maintained in an animal host that is native to the African continent. A similar host is probably associated with Ebola-Reston which was isolated from infected cynomolgous monkeys that were imported to the United States and Italy from the Philippines. The virus is not known to be native to other continents, such as North America.

Formerly referred to as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease (EVD) is an acute illness which more often than not is fatal. EVD spreads from animals to people and then spreads in a given population through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person or animal.

With an average rate of fatality of 50%, the death rates for various outbreaks around the world varies from 25% to up to 90% in the past. Although this fatality rates might seem severe, there is hope. Through community participation, the outbreaks can be controlled. Cases of outbreaks have been known to be controlled by applying a combination of interventions such as management, prevention of new infections and practices that are aimed at controlling infections such as surveillance and contact tracing. For people who have already contracted the disease, supportive care with rehydration, treatment of symptoms in a bid to improve the chances of survival of an individual.

Origin of Ebola

Ebola africaThe earliest reported cases of this deadly virus were back in 1976 in Zaire. It was therefore named Ebola, after the river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is where it was first reported. Since it was discovered, the virus has spread across the region.

Also, worthy to note is the fact that the disease also affects non-human primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas. These primates were therefore earmarked as being the possible sources of infections for human beings by the World Health Organization. These primates termed as being “accidental hosts” contracted the disease and then transmitted it to the human counterparts but were not the initial originators or “reservoir” sources of the deadly virus.

The reported cases of the disease have been found to have five distinct strains: of which only four can be spread to human beings and the then the remaining fifth strain affects only primates. Within the virus’ Family known as Filoviridae are three genera: Ebolavirus, Marburgvirus, and Cuevavirus. Also, in the genus Ebolavirus, are five species identified based on the region where they were first reported: Bundibugyo, Zaire, Taï, Reston, and Sudan. The virus that was the cause of the 2014–2016 outbreak in the West African nations belongs to the Zaire ebolavirus strain.

The Ubangi River, which is situated in the areas close to Ebola river, is where one of the most recent outbreaks have been recorded. As of now most of the reported cases of the virus due to human infection are in Africa. For instance, the reported cases have been in countries such as Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Guinea.

Ebola 2South Africa has also experienced some cases due to immigrants with the disease. While countries like England and Russia having cases reported due to Laboratory contamination cases.

Symptoms of Ebola

Ebola 3Is there a treatment for Ebola?

In terms of treatment of Ebola, rehydration with intravenous or oral fluids considerably increases a patient’s chances of survival. Although there are no proven treatments available at the moment, a combination of therapies has been found to improve a patient’s health. This includes immune therapies, drug therapies, and blood products.

An Ebola virus which was used experimentally has also been found to be highly effective for example in Guinea. In this trial study, 11 841 people were involved. Of the 5837 people who were vaccinated, no Ebola cases were reported 10 or more days after vaccination. On the other hand, there were at least 23 reported cases 10 or more days after vaccination among those who were not vaccinated. The study was conducted by the WHO in conjunction with Guinea’s ministry of health, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Médecins Sans Frontieres. During the trial, a ring vaccination protocol was selected, this is where some of the rings are vaccinated shortly after a reported case, and then the other rings are administered after a period of 3 weeks.

Health care workers, wearing a protective suits, leave a high-risk area at the French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) Elwa hospital on August 30, 2014 in Monrovia. Liberia has been hardest-hit by the Ebola virus raging through west Africa, with 624 deaths and 1,082 cases since the start of the year. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

There has also been some research on the disease, based on the protein it carries. The Protein has the ability to disarm the body’s natural defenses. The research which is led by doctors in the USA was published in the Journal Cell Host & Microbe. If the scientist can come up with a way to disarm Ebola of VP24, human beings would have a real chance of fighting this deadly virus.

Therefore, one can totally understand the panic and worry that has accompanied the recent reports of an outbreak in Yemen. One can only wonder if the virus back.

Will the efforts of various stakeholders in search of a cure bear fruit?

Will humanity survive another full blown outbreak of the deadly virus?

Will this lead to the extinction of the human race?

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