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Progress Toward Eradicating Ebola

Eradicating Ebola is the global community’s next step in ensuring worldwide health. The disease is rare but extremely contagious, and causes internal and external bleeding as well as a severe fever. As soon as the virus enters the body, it weakens the immune system by attacking immune cells. In time, it causes blood vessels to carry less blood, which results in organ failure and eventual death.

Also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever or Ebola virus, the disease is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids or objects that have been contaminated by bodily fluids, such as medical needles. It can also be contracted through contact with infected animals, specifically bats and primates.

There have been a number of Ebola cases internationally but the disease has mainly remained in regions of West Africa. The disease originated in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it was Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone that witnessed the largest Ebola epidemic in 2014 through 2016. An estimated 28,616 people contracted the disease and this resulted in 11,310 deaths.

Fortunately, the presence of Ebola has been contained since the outbreak. In 2015, researchers from the World Health Organization began testing a vaccine in Guinea, which returned with a 100 percent success rate. This vaccine was developed through a “ring vaccination” approach. The approach separated patients and their immediate contacts from the general public.

The vaccination report was released in December 2016. As Marie-Paule Kieny, lead author of the report, states: “While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless.” Although the vaccine demonstrates progress in eradicating Ebola, it is in need of additional safety research before it can be formally licensed.

Another development in eliminating Ebola comes from a group of Canadian researchers. The group administered a drug known as Interferon Beta-1a to patients infected with Ebola. The drug, which is used to treat hepatitis B and C, had surprisingly effective results. “After 21 days, 67 percent of the Interferon-treated Ebola patients were still alive, compared to just 19 percent of the others,” reports Tom Blackwell from The National Post.

Although more research must be conducted regarding Interferon Beta-1a, findings look promising. The vaccine also demonstrates significant progress in eradicating Ebola, a disease that is now destined to become an element of the past.

Gigi DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr