Ebola Virus DiseaseImagine traveling 1,316 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help for your nine-year-old daughter who seems to have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

On August 29, 2019, a nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of this rare and fatal disease. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away.

This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than last time. This disease has infected the North Kivu Province and has caused more than 2,200 cases, along with 1,500 deaths just this year. Thus, making this the second-largest outbreak in history following behind the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people. As of September 4, 2019, a total of 3,054 Ebola Virus Disease cases were reported. Out of that total number of cases, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports and the rest of the 109 were probable cases. Overall, 2,052 of those people died.

This disease has had a total of 25 outbreaks since its first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa and has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. Even though reports are coming from 29 different health zones, the majority of these cases are coming from the health zones of Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. About 17 of these 29 health zones have reported new cases stating that 58 percent of probable and confirmed cases are female (1,772), 28 percent are children under the age of 18 (865) and 5 percent (156) are health workers.

This 2019 case is different because of the way that Ebola Virus Disease is affecting an area of the country that is undergoing conflict and receiving an influx of immigrants. The nation’s “political instability,” random acts of violence and “limited infrastructure” also contribute to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak.  As of June 2019, the disease started its expansion to Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated.

Out of the five Congolese who had contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups.” Another 8,000 people were vaccinated against Ebola due to “high-risk areas in the country.”  Overall, 200,000 people in DRC have been vaccinated against EVD along with “health workers in surrounding countries.” With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to effectively protect people from this disease. Therefore an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Also, a therapeutic treatment has shown “great effectiveness” in the early stages of the virus.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands, strengthened border controls and banned public gatherings in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

The Solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything they can to prevent the international spread of this disease. They have implemented the International Health Regulations (2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD.

This operational concept includes “specific procedures for disease surveillance,” notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, fast risk assessments, acting as a determinant as to whether or not an event is considered to be a public health emergency and coordinating international responses.

WHO also partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper “technical expertise” and skills are on the ground helping people that need it most. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that use human and technical resources to “constantly alert” one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to “outbreaks of international importance.”  WHO and GOARN have responded to over 50 events around the world with 400 specialists “providing field support” to 40 countries.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

How to prevent ebola

The History

To understand how to prevent ebola, one must first consider its history. The Ebola virus was discovered in West Africa and has been around for more than 35 years. According to an article written by Sydney Lupkin, an ABC News reporter, “The virus first arrived in the United States via U.S. missionaries flown here for treatment [during the] summer [of 2014].”

A Liberian tourist, by the name of Thomas Eric Duncan, also played a role in importing the virus when he took a flight from Liberia to Texas (he later died in Dallas). When news of the virus first reached the U.S. an uproar of fear and panic swept across the nation.

On Jan. 14, 2016, BBC News reported that since the first confirmed case on Mar. 23, 2014, 11,315 people have died from the disease. The reported deaths came from six countries which include Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the U.S. and Mali. Overall, “The total number of reported cases is about 28,637.”

Since the peak of the outbreak, the number of diagnosed cases has been reduced substantially, but this does not mean a future outbreak is not possible. Only by understanding the facts and symptoms of the Ebola virus can one truly know how to prevent Ebola.

The Ebola virus — which was first transmitted to humans through animals — belongs to a viral family known as Filoviridae. This places Ebola in a category of viruses that can cause profuse bleeding both internally and externally. These symptoms are often contracted simultaneously with high fevers.

Ebola differs from other viruses because it cannot be contracted through the air or by a simple touch of the skin. According to a medically reviewed article written by Rachel Nall, a registered nurse, an individual “must have direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who [already] has it.” The virus may be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, feces, breast milk, semen, urine and vomit.

The Symptoms

The website for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most individuals will start experiencing Ebola symptoms within eight to ten days after their initial exposure.

That being said, symptoms can arise as early as two days, or take as long as three weeks. Often times the first symptom is extreme fatigue, followed by diarrhea, fever, headache, muscle pain, stomach pain, unexplained bleeding or bruising and vomiting. The virus can be transmitted via the eyes, nose, mouth, broken skin or sexual contact.


Before any symptoms arise, it is important to stay cognizant of how to prevent ebola. Individuals can prevent the virus by practicing good hygiene habits such as washing one’s hands with soap and water.

Be sure to wear durable and protective clothing when wildlife is present. Never come in direct contact with the body of someone who died from Ebola. Abstain from utilizing any items a person with Ebola has handled. Lastly, avoid coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

Anyone who has come in contact with Ebola, given care to someone diagnosed with Ebola or touched an infected animal should seek immediate medical attention. The sooner the virus can be diagnosed, the better chance medical professionals have to fight it.

As of April 2015, The World Health Organization has reported it is testing two possible vaccines. But until medical experts create a reliable vaccine, it is paramount to always stay alert.

Although the saying is cliché, if we don’t learn from our past we are doomed to repeat it. By spreading the knowledge of how to prevent Ebola, we can ensure that human health and safety are top priorities.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Ebola VirusIn January, officials in Sierra Leone confirmed a new death from the Ebola virus in the country, days after Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea declared themselves Ebola-free.

According to NewsWeek, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last Thursday that “it was the first time all three West African countries had held the Ebola-free status simultaneously…effectively bringing to an end the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history that has claimed lives of some 11,300 people.”

The Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is transmitted to individuals from human to human transmission, or from wild animals. There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines and the average EVD case fatality rate is around 50 percent, according to the WHO.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been the largest and most complex outbreak since the deadly disease was first discovered in the late 70’s.

Said the WHO, “The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have very weak health systems, lack human and infrastructural resources, and have only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability.”

A test center in Sierra Leone announced that the tests on the patient who died a few days ago confirmed that his death was due to the deadly virus. To reduce further threats, Sierra Leone officials are currently investigating how the individual became infected and who may have been in contact with him.

The World Health Organization also emphasized that future flare-ups of the deadly virus are probable.

Bruce Aylward, the Ebola correspondent in the organization said that the “risk of re-introduction of infection is diminishing as the virus gradually clears from the survivor population, but we still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them.”

According to NewsWeek, recent investigations have found that the virus can remain in the male survivor’s semen for up to nine months. Hence, the WHO suggests Ebola survivors and their sexual partners abstain from sex or practice extremely safe sex.

“There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated,” said the WHO. Additionally, two potential vaccines re undergoing human safety testing.

The World Health Organization suggests that in order to prevent and control this deadly threat, community engagement is the key to successfully control the outbreaks. “Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission.”

Isabella Rolz

Sources: NewsWeek, World Health Organization
Photo: Bloomberg Business

New Ebola Vaccine Kills Virus in MonkeysA recent study published by the Journal of Clinical Investigation has reported that a new prototype aerosol Ebola vaccine was found to successfully neutralize the deadly virus within monkeys during clinical test trials.

The study, led by Dr. Michelle Myer and conducted collaboratively by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, determined that the experimental vaccine activated immune cells within the respiratory system that subsequently provided full protection against the virus. The study also notes that this is the first time researchers have attempted to use an aerosol vaccine within monkeys to fight a hemorrhagic viral fever such as Ebola.

Co-author of the study Dr. Alexander Bukreyev, a medical virologist from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, recently stated, “This is one of the few vaccines that works. The initial several decades of attempts to develop a vaccine against the Ebola virus were unsuccessful.”

Vaccination researchers within the medical community have become familiar with the notion of failure, as an experimental drug designed to treat Ebola patients proved ineffective in fighting the virus. The experimental drug, known as TKM-Ebola-Guinea, was designed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and reportedly was, “Not likely to demonstrate an overall therapeutic benefit,” for patients infected with Ebola.

The drug was designed to utilize RNA interference, a process in which the functions of certain genes within the Ebola virus are disrupted and subsequently renders the virus incapable of attacking human cells. Prior to the failure of the trials within human subjects, many researchers considered the experiment the single most promising lead in the race to stop Ebola, as the drug had proved effective in stopping the virus in monkeys during clinical test trials

Since the unprecedented outbreak of the disease in West Africa last year, the virus is estimated to have killed over 11,000 people and infected an additional 27,000 people in the nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization.

As the aerosol vaccine does not require the assistance of trained medical professionals, the distribution of the vaccine within developing regions that lack adequate health infrastructures and large personnel staffing will prove to be notably less challenging. Dr. Igor Lukashevich, a medical virologist from the University of Louisville, recently argued that “This aerosolized form of the vaccine is really what the field needs right now. The discussion […] right now is if this Ebola outbreak will be some kind of game-changer for vaccine development, or will it only be one more scare that will be forgotten.”

Dr. Meyer explained in a recent interview that human cells “in the lungs are acting as the first barrier for protection. That’s ideal to combat the virus at the site of the infection.”

Four of the monkeys used for the study were given a single dose of the vaccine, while an additional four were given two doses of the vaccine. Two other monkeys were given a liquid form of the vaccine, while two more monkeys were not vaccinated in order to serve as controlled variables for the study. Four weeks after the administration of the vaccines, all 12 of the monkeys were administered 1,000 times the fatal dose of the Ebola virus.

Two weeks after the injection of the Ebola virus into the test monkeys, all of the vaccinated monkeys had remained healthy while the two unvaccinated monkeys became infected with the disease and were euthanized.

Dr. Daniel Bausch, a medical virologist of Tulane University, noted that the study was “a positive step forward,” but cautioned that “it’s not a breakthrough or ‘Eureka!’”

The success of the aerosol vaccine during the clinical trials on the monkeys indicates the next step will now be for testing to begin on humans in the coming months.

James Thornton

Sources: New York Times 1, New York Times 2, MB
Photo: Red Orbit