Ebola Virus: a Return to its Origins

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Ebola incidence 1976-2014 Graph A. Ebola doubling time (35 days). Image from Science August 2014

1,900 ebola victims have died since the outbreak commenced in February 2014, in Guinea, West Africa.

At least 700 people have died in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo within the last three weeks, confirming the ebola outbreak is fully and completely out of control.

Air travel suspended to and from West Africa prevents NGOs from sending aid such as hygiene suits to Sierra Leone.

Riots stopped an attempt to quarantine a district of Freetown, Sierra Leone. 230 deaths weekly could result in the 15 weeks remaining in 2014 multiplied by 230 deaths = 3450 probable fatalities. Of course, we can’t know the exact number of  people who are infected in 6 West African countries.

A total of 20,000 deaths is probable and quite possible from this ebola outbreak within the next year.

Origins of the Ebola Virus

The spread of ebola in West Africa is caused by at least five different species of ebola virus.

A co-operative investigation by the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and Harvard University, Boston, USA on the genome of ebola incorporating research on the ebola victims in Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone, determined that the ebola virus originated in Guinea and spread rapidly to Sierra Leone.

The research was conducted by Stephen Gire and Augustine Goba, who were in Sierra Leone and witnessed the first death in Kenema Hospital, at the end of May, 2014, and were able to diagnose the victim.

A visit to neighbouring Guinea allowed a further 30 infected women to be examined and traced to their burial site. 66 more patients in Kenema hospital, of whom 70% died by mid June 2014, were traced and investigated in  Sierra Leone.

The researchers examined and compared virus samples from these victims were compared with the existing data from the former epidemics and the genesis of the original outbreak.

The ebola epidemic samples from 1976 were available from the Central African region – researchers deduced that a new variant arose from 2004 which then forged ahead during the last decade to finally generate the current February 2014, Guinea ebola outbreak.

The African Fruit Bat Harbours the Ebola Virus

The transfer of ebola virus from the the natural reservoir of the African Fruit Bat assumes they are consumed in a poorly cooked state. Bush meat is the staple diet of many West Africans, who are casual in handling the meat. The researchers confirmed two people handling the unprotected body of an ebola victim at their burial ensured at least one of the handlers became infected. This is a daily occupational hazard.

New Ebola Virus Transmits Easily

This ebola outbreak is distinguished by the detectable and verifiable ease with which the ebola virus is transmitted. The readily identifiable change in the virus, whereby a new species of ebola arose within the last decade is responsible for this current rapid infection with numerous victims – unlike the 2012 Ugandan outbreak which killed less than 20 people.

Researchers have mapped the current ebola virus in order to provide essential data for the production of the experimental ZMapp, a mixture of three antibodies to ebola, which is manufactured by the Californian BioTech Firm, Mapp Biopharmaceutcal. The company provided three ebola victims, two US and one UK health worker, with the antibodies, which gave them a chance to fully recover from the ebola virus.

Ebola Outbreak Future

Western volunteer health workers should be placed in quarantine for at least 21 days, on their return. This alarming, out of control, outbreak is one that West African hospitals cannot deal with.

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