The latest Ebola virus outbreak has claimed the lives of more than 670 people in West Africa in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Two doctors from the United States are the latest to be diagnosed with the severe and generally fatal infection.
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that a man arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, on an international flight, already sick with Ebola, and died there on July 25. This raises concerns about the disease being transmitted beyond Africa. For your next research paper, you can focus your topic on the Ebola virus itself or health in third world countries.
Facts about Ebola
In previous outbreaks of Ebola, about 90 percent of those infected die. There is no vaccine or cure for the highly infectious disease. “Ebola virus: What you need to know about the deadly outbreak” by Jolie Lee for USAToday July 28, 2014, shared the main facts about the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.
- Symptoms: fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and sometimes internal and external bleeding. Symptoms appear eight to 10 days after infection.
- Transmission: The natural host of the Ebola virus is believed to be the fruit bat. Wild animals transmit it to humans, who can pass it to each other via blood, other bodily fluids or contaminated needles.
- Prevention: Lee wrote that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends, “If an outbreak among animals is suspected, the best practice is to quarantine the animals, cull the infected animals and bury or incinerate the carcasses.”
The current epidemic
This most recent outbreak of the Ebola virus is believed to have originated in late 2013 or early 2014 in Guinea in West Africa. After a period when it looked like the virus was slowing down, it gained momentum again and even spread to the capital of Liberia for the first time.
The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights) ran a June 21, 2014, article written by the Associate Press on the current Ebola virus outbreak, “Doctors Without Borders: Ebola ‘Out of Control’.” It stated that the multiple locations of the current Ebola virus outbreak make it particularly challenging to combat.
The article also said, “According to the WHO, the highest previous death toll was in the first recorded Ebola outbreak in Congo in 1976, when 280 deaths were reported. Because Ebola often touches remote areas and the first cases sometimes go unrecognized, it is likely that there are deaths that go uncounted during outbreaks.”
Controlling the outbreak
If the Ebola virus itself weren’t challenging enough, now healthcare providers in the area, including Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross, are causing fear among the people of West Africa, who have started to blame the outsiders for the spread of the deadly infection. This region of West Africa, particularly the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where the Ebola virus has hit hardest, has a long history of adhering to their own traditional medicine and a wariness of outside medical assistance.
“Fear of Ebola Breeds a Terror of Physicians” by Adam Nossiter for the July 27, 2014, edition of The New York Times, stated, “Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs.”
The fear of health officials is most likely only adding to the severity of the epidemic. Reports indicate that many of the sick are being hidden and buried without any protection to prevent further spread of the disease. And not even the doctors themselves are immune or safe. The lead doctor fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone has died of the disease, and two other American doctors working in Liberia have tested positive for the disease.
Is it only a matter of time before a deadly virus like Ebola, or Ebola itself, spreads around the world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.