The recent outbreak of the Ebola disease virus (EDV) in West Africa has caused a scare for not just persons in the affected areas but also persons in the larger international community. Most are concerned about how highly contagious the disease is and whether there will be a cure anytime soon.
The virus has become epidemic in three large countries in West Africa since it broke out in February of this year, namely in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The disease was carried into Nigeria when the US national Patrick Sawyer flew there from Liberia. Upon his death, it was revealed that he had contracted the disease.
Since then, two nurses who have treated Sawyer have reportedly died from the disease. The Minister of Health in Nigeria, Onyebuchi Chukwu in a statement to the Associated Press, recently revealed that five other cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the country. The airports in Nigeria are now screening all passengers for EDV on arrival.
Sierra Leone and Liberia are the most affected by the disease jointly accounting for over 50% of the confirmed cases. The two countries have since declared a state of emergency wherein the movement of persons have been restricted and programs have been implemented to educate the public about precautionary measures.
US Nationals stricken with deadly Ebola disease virus
It has hit home when news struck that two American medical experts transmitted the deadly virus. They have recently been taken from the region back to the United States for treatment. The two, Dr Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, were medical aids in Liberia treating patients with Ebola.
Last week a possible case showed up in New York involving a man who has travelled to West Africa recently. He is currently being tested at the Mount Sinai Hospital. So far, reports on this case are that the man is isolated and Sis in stable condition. With the increasing number of confirmed cases and the infection of the US citizens who are currently in the country, national concerns are increasing. Susan Rice who is the National Security Adviser assured the public on Tuesday that the risk of Ebola transmission in the country is very low. She said; “we have in this country the protocols to isolate and manage any patient who may present with those symptoms of the disease.”
Hope for the Ebola virus?
Since the two contaminated medical aids have been returned to the country, reports have come forth that a drug called ZMapp has been developed to treat the deadly EDV. ZMapp is the result of a collaboration between Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc. and LeafBio (San Diego, CA), Defyrus Inc. (Toronto, Canada), the U.S government and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). According to a statement released by the team, “ZMapp was first identified as a drug candidate in January 2014 and has not yet been evaluated for safety in humans. As such, very little of the drug is currently available.”
The antibodies used in this drug were taken from mice exposed to Ebola. The serum should help the body’s immune system to vigilantly fight off the virus. Once the antibodies from the serum are present in the blood system, an artificial immune response is triggered. The lab-made antibodies subsequently fights the infection by sticking to the Ebola virus.
Dr Brantly was said to have shown signs of marked improvement within an hour of receiving the drug. Writebol was said to have received two doses of the drug but has not shown the same level of improvement as Dr Brantly. Both patients who are currently being treated at the Emory University Hospital, are said to be recovering steadily. It is unsure, however, whether their improvements are attributable to the ZMapp drug.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, has commented that clinical tests for an Ebola vaccine are expected to begin as of September. These tests have so far shown promising results during its pretesting stage on animals.
Fauci, on BBC’s Newsday Program, said; “by the middle to end of 2015, we’ll be able to have some vaccine – at least to vaccinate health workers – who put themselves at considerable risk when they take care of these patients.”
The ZMapp drug is currently only available in the US largely because the process to create the treatment is extremely expensive and the serum is still in an experimental stage.