Fighting Ebola

On 23 March 2014, a notification reached World Health Organization (WHO) from the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea regarding what was to be “the worst Ebola outbreak” in history. Cases of Ebola virus disease was rapidly picking up pace in the forested area of south eastern Guinea with a total of 29 deaths and 49 infected patients by 22 March. Soon, there were suspected cases in Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as well. By the end of July, 670 people had been reported dead because of the virus, which would reach around 1500 within a month and thousands confirmed cases.

First recognized in 1976 in Zaire, Ebola virus is a complex organism whose origin remains a mystery till date. However, it is believed that the first patient of the disease got infected after coming in contact with an infected animal. The virus spreads through direct contact with blood or body fluids. The symptoms of the disease are influenza-like, beginning with fatigue, fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, headache and stomach pain. The virus damages the immune system and organs, causes level of blood-clotting cells to drop, which results in uncontrollable bleeding inside and outside the body. Within a few days of infection, a patient can die. With up to 90% mortality rate in infected people, the virus is a rare but deadly one.

Along with thousands of people, the virus also engulfed the life of a leading Ebola doctor, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan. Dr. Khan, who had been treating the disease in Sierra Leone got infected and died on 29 July while hospitalized in quarantine. However, an experimental drug named ZMapp was available, which could have been used on Dr. Khan making him the first person on the planet to receive it, but the medical team opted to decide otherwise.

Around the same time, as Dr. Khan’s death, Kent Brantly, a Texas-trained physician and a nurse, Nancy Writebol were stricken by the disease as well. After being given doses of Zmapp, both of the American aid workers made recovery. Made by Map Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego, California, the drug is yet to be proven 100% effective, since a Spanish priest who had received the same drug couldn’t survive. And even if it were, unfortunately, the supply of ZMapp is too limited, to be available for all patients. There are other pharmaceuticals that are trying to come up with effective drugs against Ebola virus. But as of now, Ebola is still a cure-less disease.

Days after Ebola virus was traced in Guinea, health workers were already spreading words of preventing Ebola contraction across the land. Till a solid cure is discovered, which is unlikely to be found till 2016, these methods are the only possible way of staying Ebola-free and alive. However, the chances of Ebola breaking into US is very low, considering the safety measures that is being taken. Nevertheless, here are some of the preventive measures that might come in handy:
• avoiding countries and locations, where Ebola virus have been confirmed,
• avoid direct contact with body fluids of those infected with the virus,
• avoid direct contact with the body of someone who has died from the virus.

For more information on prevention and control of Ebola, go to:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ebola-virus/basics/prevention/con-20031241

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