Ebola virus is said to have originated from fruit bats and other forms of bushmeat. This virus enters the human population through close contact with the blood, organs or surface material of infected animals often found ill or dead in the forest (or of those that are hunted). It then spreads through humans by direct contact with the secretions of those who are infected, or through materials like bedding contaminated with the same. Even burial ceremonies of the deceased can lead to the transmission of Ebola, because people remain infectious as long as their blood contains the virus. Healthcare workers have also frequently been infected while treating Ebola patients due to being in close contact with them.
The Ebola virus first appeared in 1976. It is most commonly known for its recent 2014-2016 outbreak affecting Guinea, Libera, and Sierra Leone that reported more than 11,000 deaths.
The World Health Organisation led the trial for an experimental Ebola vaccine in 2015. This vaccine proved highly protective against the virus in its trial in Guinea. Unfortunately, there currently exists no proven cure for the virus. However, treating the symptoms of Ebola separately has proved to be effective in combating the same. An efficient way to combat it once it has entered the blood cells is through supportive care rehydration. Furthermore, community engagement is vital, including infection control practices, surveillance, contact tracing, safe burials and social mobilisation.
Risk-minimisation should also be followed. Animals should be handled with gloves and should be properly cooked before consumption to minimise the risk of transmitting the disease. Healthcare workers should wear gloves and appropriate body equipment while dealing with suspected patients, and should also wash their hands regularly with soap. Moreover, laboratory testing on active samples should be conducted under intense biological containment conditions, using the triple packaging system while transporting the virus.
Ebola virus is extremely serious and deadly. It has killed thousands of people, and is capable of killing thousands more – which is why it is imperative to find its cure. In a world that is already in so much turmoil, adequate measures must be taken to prevent its spread across the globe.