Is the Ebola epidemic really coming to an end?

The initial announcement of the latest outbreak of Ebola was on 25 March, in Guinea – part of West Africa, where the virus has never been known in the population, meaning that they would have been totally unprepared for such an epidemic to occur. As of 14 April, a total of 202 clinical cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) – which includes confirmed and suspected cases – have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone, including 128 deaths. Researchers have also determined that it is genetically similar to Ebola Zaire, but it is a brand new strain. This is significant because it shows that this Ebola epidemic has arisen separately from the previous epidemics in Central Africa. The Ministry of Health of Guinea has announced that with the decrease in the number of new cases, this latest epidemic of EBV is coming to an end; however, the fact that the latest wave of cases involved people in Conakry, Guinea’s capital with an airport, is slightly worrying.

Ebola is a fairly lethal virus, which is actually part of the reason why it hasn’t turned into a pandemic yet; it kills its hosts too quickly – up to 90% of the infected will be dead in a couple of weeks after manifesting symptoms – for them to pass on the virus very far. The other reason is because it is spread via contact with an infected victim’s fluids, unlike the flu, which can spread via air. And that is the next fear – that the virus will mutate such that it can be transmitted through the air, which was suspected to have happened with another species of Ebolavirus known as Reston virus, of the book The Hot Zone fame. On the bright side, it seems that the more people the Ebola virus infects, and the more it adapts to humans, the less lethal it gets.

 

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