Liz Levey, ‘Doah Staff Writer
September 17, 2014
Ebola is one of the world’s most deadly diseases. It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities. Currently the number of cases is outpacing the ability that health officials can handle.
What exactly is the Ebola virus? The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which according to the U.S. Center of Disease control (CDC), refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding. The virus is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo where one of the first outbreaks occurred in 1976. The World Health Organization says there are five different strains of the virus — named after the areas they originated in. Three of these have been associated with large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in Africa.
The reason why Ebola generates such fear is because that it is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities,” it says. Which is understandable since March in Guinea, it has claimed at least 1,552 lives. The outbreak has spread far beyond Guinea, and is now raging unabated.
A total of four countries have been affected: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. There is also no vaccination against it. Of Ebola’s five subtypes, the Zaire strain — the first to be identified — is considered the most deadly. The WHO said the tests have suggested that the outbreak there was this strain, though that has not been confirmed.
One of the biggest questions and misunderstandings of the virus is how it spreads. The WHO says it is believed that fruit bats may be the natural host of the Ebola virus in Africa, passing on the virus to other animals. Humans contract Ebola through contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals or the bodily fluids of infected humans. The virus is believed to be able to survive for some days in liquid outside an infected organism. Outbreaks are usually spread in areas where hospitals have poor infection control and limited access to resources such as running water. Those people who become sick with it almost always know how they got sick: because they looked after someone in their family who was very sick, who had diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding or because they were health staff who had a lot of contact with a sick patient.
The World Health Organization has declared the largest-recorded Ebola epidemic an “international public health emergency,” yet the international effort to stem the outbreak is dangerously inadequate. Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) who have teams on the ground are seeing huge gaps in every aspects of the response: medical care, training of health staff, infection control, contact tracing, epidemiological surveillance, alert and referral systems, community education and mobilization.
All countries require an immediate and massive mobilization of resources. MSF has been responding to the outbreak since March, and now has 1,984 staff working in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, treating a rapidly increasing number of patients. After two other Americans were brought back to the United States for treatment, a plane carrying Dr. Rick Sacra landed Friday morning in Omaha, Nebraska, and he was then was taken to Omaha’s Nebraska Medical Center.
Over time we will have to see how Ebola will be handled. With it still spreading and no rooms to treat patients in camps over Africa. This is an epidemic that needs to stop quickly before the virus mutates again.