Ebola has been around for more than 30 years – and we can genuinely give thanks to Hollywood for proselytizing its sincere threat. Thanks to movies like Outbreak and the Mission Impossible franchise, video sequences reminiscent of the Schwarzenegger’s face stuck in outer space without a suit plague our memories when the name Ebola is mentioned.
We usually expect Hollywood to stretch, exaggerate and bend our minds but unfortunately the horrific scenes of pouring blood are not as imaginative as we would like to believe since Ebola went, err, viral. While the outbreak process is long and symptoms enduring, one scary fact is 50% of Ebola patients do hemorrhage. The mortality rate is a whopping 50% as well. This virus is vicious, visceral and downright scary – so why don’t we have a cure yet?
The need is here. According to the WHO, the virus kills 50% of those it infects, and in just the past two years, the outbreak in West Africa has infected more than 21,689 people, 8,600+ of whom have died. The WHO admits that these figures are underestimates.
In the 5 major African countries severely affected (Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Mali), it’s nearly impossible to track the spread. Just this week, tons of bodies were discovered in a remote diamond mine in Sierra Leone.
A cure may be here… but why just three little doses?
You probably heard of the administration of 3 potential cures for Ebola to three relief aides. The simple fact is, this virus is extremely resilient, and the cure is not “tried and true” after only three doses served (one of which failed). The mortality rate in Africa for Ebola has climbed up to 90 percent, and experiments must be heavily contained. Like your data, infectious diseases need even more secure control – in this case, a biosafety level 4 laboratory, which is the highest level of protection available.
Ebola is a virus – not a bacteria, which means that it’s much more difficult to develop a treatment. Antiviral therapy is simply behind the times as compared to antibacterial therapy. The reason for this is that viruses are small molecules, with only a handful of proteins, making it more difficult to discover the way in to treat it.
Ebola can live on a surface for a few hours, and outside of the body in blood for a few days. That would require that you transfer it to your mouth or eyes – but nevertheless, that’s a high level or resiliency that we must defend against. Even with modern technology, the experiments, which until 2014 had only been conducted on mice and monkeys.
Other concerns include:
Ebola evolves VERY quickly. There are 5 known species of Ebola.
Ebola spreads from animals to people – originally it is thought to have come from bats in the DRC and Sudan. It spreads subsequently from person to person via bodily fluids.
But the biggest concern of all? When will we have a public cure?