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Ebola Resurfaces in Africa

As one of the most fatal, incurable diseases in human history, Ebola functions as a deadly virus that induces the severe hemorrhaging of internal organs, causing death in an estimated 90 percent of cases. A popular theory concerning the origins of the virus is that Ebola was first introduced to humans through contact that an individual may have had with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected animal. The individual subsequently succumbed to the deadly virus, not before spreading the disease to other people, creating an epidemic. Early signs of infection are a sore throat, red eyes, rash, fever, muscle aches, headaches, and bleeding from bodily orifices, such as the eyes or nose.

An estimated duration of survival after initial infection and after the incubation period ranges, on average, from 2-21 days. Initially identified in 1976 after surfacing in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, the Ebola virus has made a reappearance in the West African country of Guinea. The virus spreads through the direct transmission infected blood, mucus, and other bodily fluids. Burial ceremonies in which individuals are exposed to direct contact with the infected body also contribute to the transmission of the virus, and as such it has infiltrated the neighboring country of Liberia.

Although outbreaks of Ebola have surfaced in the past, following the initial identification of the virus in 1976, Doctors Without Borders alleges that this particular outbreak may be the most severe yet. A salient factor unique to this outbreak is its geography – this is the first time that Ebola has surfaced in Guinea. Although the virus typically appears in rural areas especially near rainforests, the virus has not been localized in specific areas of the country. For instance, cases miles apart have surfaced throughout Guinea. Therefore, this instance of the outbreak is much harder to contain than previous incidences.

Furthermore, according to health experts, although the disease is most often fatal, infection requires extremely close contact with the infected individual or engagement in avoidable activities such drugs. Additionally, during the incubation period, which can last up to 21 days, the individual is unable to transfer the disease to others. Once symptoms arise and transmission is viable, surrounding individuals are likely to stay away from the victim since their symptoms are generally severe and obvious. Therefore, it is unlikely that a widespread, global epidemic will occur. As is the case with most disease outbreaks, individuals in affected regions are strongly urged to take proper precautions while individuals residing in unaffected areas are advised on to not create undue panic.

However, other nations are already taking precautions of their own. For instance, Morocco has increased its border control,  Senegal has shut down its borders with Guinea and France has instructed its medical workers to watch out for signs of the virus in the local population. Despite fears that the virus may spread through airplane flights, the World Health Organization has not issued any restrictions on flights, since individuals who show signs of the virus are typically too ill to travel, and therefore risks of airplanes transmitting the virus are not a significant cause of concern. Although no viable treatments against Ebola currently exist, experimental drug treatments are undergoing examination and testing.

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: USA Today, Time, WHO
Photo: New Vision