The Ebola virus was first detected in Zaire, 1975. That means it’s just one year shy of its 40th anniversary. The virus’ virulence was so stunning that out of 318 cases in 1975, 280 died. This is a whopping 88% fatality rate. Since then, it has continued to rear its ugly head in several countries.
Uganda was hard hit in 2000 to 2001 with 425 cases, 224 of which died. That’s nothing, of course, to what’s happened to the three West African countries, namely, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone just last 2014. There were already 20,000 confirmed cases and almost 8,000 fatalities.
Ebola might be the deadliest virus that man has come across in the modern era, but the number of people who’ve died from it is nothing compared to small pox, which killed more than 300 million people and Flu, with its different kinds of strains, which has killed more than 50 to 100 million people.
How did Ebola start? There are theories concerning how the virus came to infect man, but there’s no clear history on what started it. The long held belief is that the virus was contracted from bats, gorillas, and chimpanzees. But still, these are all just theories.
What followed were human to human transmissions by direct contact; the virus is passed to another through wounds and other skin breaks then goes inside the mucous membranes. Once it is inside, several processes happen inside the body, beginning with the antibodies trying to contain the viruses. However, the antibodies themselves become the carrier of the disease. After they enter the blood, it’s just a matter time till the virus infects the entire body.
What happens in between outbreaks? Where does the virus go? It’s believed that they are harbored by bats, nonhuman primates, and other animal species until the next contact happens. Somebody may have eaten a bat, a carcass of a chimpanzee or gorilla, or other animals serving as a reservoirs for the virus.
Is there a cure right now? At present, several experimental drugs are being tested, but there are no conclusive results as of today. Also, there’s no vaccine available to combat the virus. The most effective preventive method right now is to trace and isolate the people who are infected, preventing them from having any direct contact with other people.
The virus is so infectious that one mistake in handling it may precipitate an epidemic. The accident that happened in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab several days ago has resulted in more stringent measures being put in place.
The lapse in the proper protocol in the case of a suspected Ebola infected nurse coming home from Guinea in the UK is something that no country could afford. We don’t want another small pox or influenza like epidemic happening. The Ebola virus is more infectious and deadlier than the Black Plague, it just so happens that the outbreak is not happening in highly urbanized areas. If it did, it could be the worst killer in human history.