November 13, 2014
Fear of the Ebola Virus
The Ebola virus was discovered in the 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Ebola virus—previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever—has been typically a disease of Central Africa, which it was until recently. There are five different confirmed strains of the virus. There is the Zaire Ebola, the Sudan, the Tai Forest, Bundibugyo virus, each of which can affect humans. The fifth strain, the Reston virus, has only caused disease in non-human primates. All of the variations of the disease get their name from the location near where they were discovered. Ebola is a viral disease that is spread through body fluids: blood, feces, urine, semen, breast milk, sweat, saliva (much like Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)). Also the Ebola virus can be spread with infected needles, improperly sanitized medical equipment, or contact with open sores and lesions. Scientists are still trying to figure out which animal or animals are natural hosts who carry the virus. Many scientists suspect the fruit bat to be a natural host. Also, macaque monkeys have been diagnosed with the virus but typically with the Reston strain, which only affects non-primates. Humans encounter the disease via close contact with an infected animal’s body fluids or by eating meat contaminated with the virus. Even after death of the afflicted body, mourners are still at risk by touching the deceased. The viral symptoms are much like the flu virus: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, unexplained hemorrhage. Left untreated, the virus begins to “liquefy” the organs, mainly the blood vessels, liver, kidney, and the victim bleeds from every orifice (eyes, mouth, ears, and rectum). Death is imminent. Symptoms appear two to twenty-one days after exposure to Ebola. The average is within eight to ten days. The virus is confirmed through a blood test detecting the thread shaped virus within the hosts’ blood. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has no anti-viral drug specifically developed for Ebola, only supportive care. To help the patient recover, they are given intravenous fluids, maintain oxygen status, blood pressure, and treating any secondary issues as they occur. The FDA is working with pharmaceutical companies on developing a vaccine to prevent Ebola. Those who do get the disease and recover from it build antibodies that prevents the survivor from getting the disease again. Scientists believe that the antibodies last ten years and possibly longer. They are not sure if the recovered patient is susceptible to the other form. Chemists and the FDA have worked tirelessly over the past five decades to develop and approve new vaccinations to ward off various diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, small pox, and tuberculosis. Since the 1960s, federal funding has been cut from developing new drugs that cure diseases. The money has been put into discovering how to treat chronic illnesses. In this time frame, microbiologists also started abandoning the field of infectious diseases, because they felt there was not much more to be discovered in the line of antibiotics. There was more money to be made in treatment rather than in a cure. By the 1980s, the microbiology field had started to dwindle. According to an article from CQ researcher, Combating Infectious Diseases: “Money in this country for health-care is used for after people get sick,” says Barry R. Bloom, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Howard Hughes Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. “Who makes money when you prevent disease?” Brian Mahy, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Viral and Rickettsial disease division, says inadequate funding for drug research has worsened the plight of victims of emerging infections such as Ebola. “I think it’s a shame...
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“Deadly Ebola Moves into West Africa (Special Report).” Issues & Controversies. InfoBase Learning, April 2014. Web. 2 November 2014.
“Ebola (The Ebola Virus).” Center for Disease Control, 12 November 2014, Web, 4 November 2014.
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