It is known to be one of the deadliest viri in the history of mankind. The WHO says that it’s one of the most virulent diseases ever. In the recent times, we saw a massive outbreak of this lethal virus called Ebola virus. The western part of Africa is still incomplete state of paranoia. More than thousands of people are found to have been infected, and around 600 of them have already lost their lives to this deadly virus. The fatality rate of the virus is 90%, and it has already terrorized the people who lived in countries where the outbreak occurred, and the people across the globe live in the trepidation that the virus might spread to their states. Here are some things we need to know about this deadly virus:
At the beginning of the infection, symptoms are fever, weakness, muscular pain, headache, etc. These symptoms are followed by rashes, impaired kidney and liver, vomiting, and sometimes internal and external bleeding. The symptoms usually show appearance in 8-10 days of infection, and infected people are found with a low White blood cell count.
For those of us who like biology, here is a little detail about the structure of the virus (even if you don’t like biology, you must read through as this is important). The Ebola virus belongs to the Filoviridae family, and the viruses in this family (Ebola, Reston and Marburg) take a U-shape. Scientists are still working on their research as to how this RNA-Virus enters the cell, but once it is inside the cell, it is replicated and transcribed in the cytoplasm, eventually infecting the cell.
The virus is named after the Ebola River in Zaire, which the region in Congo where the virus was first reported. The first virus outbreak happened in the region of Yamabuku. There was a total of 318 cases that were reported and around 88% of them died.
- The Outbreak at Marburg
It was the year 1967 when a virus called Marburg spread to three European cities of Frankfurt, Marburg and Belgrade (which was Yugoslavia earlier). There was a lab in Uganda where green monkeys were being tested, and that is suspected to be the source of the outbreak. The virus was first reported when 31 of the lab workers were infected, and 8 of them died.
- Continued Outbreaks
The worst outbreak of the virus was the 1995 outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 317 people were infected and around 240 of them died. There were some outbreaks in Gabon as well, but then in 2000, Uganda reported the highest number of infected people that was 415. 224 people had died before the WHO forces could eliminate the breakout. The last major outbreak occurred in 2007 in the Democratic Republic of Congo where 183 of the 247 infected people lost their lives.
Ebola is transmitted from animal to animal, from animal to human and from human to human. The infection is transmitted through body fluids like blood, urine, mucus, semen, etc. There have been cases where the victim’s vomit has been the catalyst for transmission. Even if one comes in contact with infected animals, there are chances that he/she might get disease-ridden.
Most of the studies through these decades have led to believe that the fruit-eating bat is the greatest source of Ebola Virus. Most of the time, a single outbreak covers a large area that implies that the source could be a living being that can cover long distances. The chain could be like this: the faecal matter of bats is eaten by terrestrial animals, these animals die, and a human comes in contact with these dead animals and get infected. And not just the humans are infected with Ebola, but around one-third of the gorillas have disappeared because of the virus in the last 15 years.
- Containment of the Virus
The early symptoms of the virus look like that of the common flu, stomach viruses, etc. Hence, usually, the symptoms of the virus are unreadable until multiple cases arrive. Most of the hospitals have isolation wards for such victims, and WHO is taking special care by tracking down the relatives of the victims to stop the virus from spreading even more.
Techniques like ‘Barrier Nursing’ are imperative for the medical professionals during the Ebola outbreak. They wear suits, goggles, and a mask around their face and protection around their shoes. It is common for an Ebola patient to puke often. The protection is to ensure that transmission does not follow.
Although there is no cure for the Ebola virus, it can be modified and eliminated if discovered in a regular fashion. In the year 2012, a science journal called ‘Science Translation Magazine’ published some startling and revolutionary discoveries in the history of the Ebola Virus Research. It said that some leukaemia drugs have showed the signs of halting Ebola replication. Intensive care treatment is given to the victims who are infected and a lot many drug therapies are about to get validation.
- Why is it incurable?
There a lot of reasons behind this. The most important reason is that it is hard to develop an antiviral treatment than an anti-bacterial treatment. Also, the Ebola virus cultivates at astonishingly great speed, which means that today’s vaccine might be old tomorrow.
In the region of East Africa, a large number of terrorist cells have been involved in inflicting violence on the public, it is rational enough for people to fear that Ebola outbreaks are deliberate terrorist attacks. There is a lot of security in and around containment site, but there a dire need for policymakers to take a stringent action against the bioterrorist
- The Future
Countries like Guinea have already made eating bats illegal. In some of the West African countries, sanitary methods have been commenced which include the banning of ceremonial washing of dead bodies by hand. Scientists are hoping to find a vaccination soon as they are trying to create safe strains of this virus. Better sanitation, health care, and better education are the key to keeping the virus in control and stop such sporadic outbreaks from arising.