Written by Lori Chapman-Sifers: Ebola seems to devour everything in its path and the World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding a global alarm that education, funding, and health care is needed immediately. ‘Ebola Zaire’ is the confirmed source virus that has killed 2,300 people in West Africa in the past six months. An estimated 20,000 minimum are at risk and there are no signs that the virus is slowing.
Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have been hit especially hard. Adding to the already sad reality that these three countries combined have the highest mortality rates in the world, Liberia’s Defense Minister, Brownie Samukai, is now saying that the threat to Liberia’s ability to remain a solvent country is at risk. The WHO is warning that the Ebola outbreaks have placed such demands on the government that it has “outstripped” the government’s “capacity to respond.”
By the numbers: The United Nations estimates that $600 million will be needed to combat Ebola in West Africa alone. So far, the United States has spent $45 million and has pledged $100 million more. Britain has spent $40 million. Even with the crisis in its early stages, the Centers for Disease Control’s Dr. Thomas Kenyon said, “It’s not under control anymore.” In fact, the numbers suggest an exponential increase.
Recent estimates place the amount of currently infected people to be at least 12,000. Samukai told the assembled UN Security Council that Ebola is “devouring everything in its path” and expressed concerns over the rapid spread of the virus which he likened to a wildfire. The already weak health infrastructure of the country has been overwhelmed.” The number of health care workers that are dying has placed Liberia at risk of collapse or vulnerable to hostile takeover.
According to Canadian researchers, this strain may be mutating and opening up the possibility of transmission by air. This seriously complicates the risks. Given the 300 percent increase in the West African population in the past 40 years since the last large outbreak of Ebola, the medical community is scrambling to fast track trials for a variety of possible treatment options. The WHO doctors say that given six months, and with cooperation on a global scale, the virus could be contained.
Is there hope? There are no know effective treatments or vaccinations for the ‘Ebola Zaire’ virus at this time. Theories on the suspected origin of the virus include the possibility that the virus initiated in fruit bats and is transmitted by bodily fluids. The virus then mutates into a form with airborne transmission properties.
A variety of clinical trials are said to have been fast tracked due to the severity of this Ebola outbreak. Exactly when and how a reliable treatment or cure will be found is unknown. Ending the exposure by containment, treatment, and a disposal regime that involves fire are minimum recommendations.
The WHO confirms that although the virus has a 50 percent mortality rate, thousands of infected patients have recovered. The current avenue of research suggests that using the antibodies collected from the blood of a recovered patient many assist in the patient’s own body defeating the virus. However, given the global alarm over the current Ebola crisis, more research is needed and will be ongoing in the hopes that the virus, which seems to devour everything in its path, can be contained and an effective treatment method discovered to reduce the morbidity rate.
By Lori Chapman-Sifers