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Ebola Outbreak in Africa

Ebola virus disease is a dangerous virus that has been spreading in West Africa for a number of years. Unfortunately, nowadays no efficient vaccines or drugs for its treatment have been invented. The experts believe that the actual number of victims of the epidemic is larger than the collected data evidences. This paper seeks to analyze the consequences of the Ebola outbreak in Africa and the measures to prevent its spreading all over the world.

The Ebola virus firstly appeared in 1976 in Zaire, in the village on the bank of the river Ebola. The first outbreaks of Ebola virus occurred in remote villages of Central Africa in the area of tropical rain forests, but the most recent outbreak took place in West Africa and covered the major cities and rural areas.

The Ebola virus can be transmitted by a direct contact with the secretions, blood, or fluids of an infected person. The incubation period may range from 2 to 21 days. However, The New England Journal of Medicine states that the mean incubation period is 11.4 days and does not vary by country (WHO Ebola Response Team 2014).

Ebola virus disease is characterized by sudden fever, muscle pain, as well as severe weakness, sore throat, and a terrible headache. Moreover, diarrhea, vomiting, impaired kidney and liver functions, and rash are possible. Presently, the doctors’ efforts, massive foreign aid, as well as the quarantine areas cannot help stopping the spread of the virus.

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There are controversial points of view on the danger of the epidemic for the whole world. Some of the researchers believe that Ebola virus is unlikely to become a global threat to humanity. One of the main reasons is that the deadly virus cannot be transmitted by air. For infection, one should come into contact with body fluids of an infected person. What is more, while the infected person does not manifest symptoms of the disease, they are not contagious.

Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia are the countries the most seriously affected. They have undeveloped health systems, shortage of the staff and infrastructure resources. Moreover, they have only recently overcome prolonged conflicts and instability.

The problem lies in the peculiarities of the local culture: not all the patients go to the hospital. They refer to the sorcerers and shamans who promise the healing by traditional methods. As these people do not know virology, the percentage of healing after their rituals is minimal. What is worse, the local craftsmen invented another way of treatment: they drink the blood of those who have suffered Ebola, but survived. Furthermore, blood of the survivors after the disease became a hot commodity on the black market. By the way, the virus completely disappears from the blood of the recovered person only after a few weeks, so by drinking it as a “vaccination” healthy people risk to become sick.

Burial ceremonies in African countries also play a great role in the transmission of this terrible disease. In her article, Larisa Epatko mentions this virulent ritual – in Liberia when a person dies, the family washes their body and the mourners lay their hands on the departed (Epatko 2014).

As long as population resorts to the folk remedies to fight against the disease, governments are also taking their measures. The world countries struggle with this deadly virus in different ways. The authorities of Sierra Leone put the Ebola patients into the prison of the country’s so-called “gray areas” of infection – the areas where one can pick up an incurable virus. Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia where the largest outbreak of the virus was recorded, urgently establish humanitarian cordons involving police and military on the borders of the regions covered by fever. However, World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders confirm that the epidemic is spreading too quickly.

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In the US, there were also few cases of the disease and two patients (59-year-old Nancy Writebool and 33-year-old Dr. Kent Brantley) respond positively to the treatment by a new experimental vaccine. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (2014) states that the capacity to detect and confirm cases of Ebola virus in the Europe is considered to be sufficient. In Great Britain the crisis headquarters Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) has been created, the experts of which are involved in fighting the disease and training the border guards to determine the symptoms of fever. In Italy, the refugees from Africa are scrutinized and in France hospital staff prepares to a possible outbreak of the disease.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the deadly Ebola virus widespread in West Africa has highlighted the main problems of the continent such as great poverty and massive prejudices. Indeed, the involvement of local communities is very important in the successful control of outbreaks. Quality control of outbreaks is based on a set of measures such as the case management, surveillance and tracking of contacts with infected people, high-quality laboratory services, safe burial, and social mobilization. Healthy people can avoid the disease refusing to travel to areas where the virus is rampant. Health professionals can prevent infection using gloves, goggles, and masks whenever they come into contact with the infected patients. Providing early maintenance treatment with rehydration and symptomatic therapy improves the survival of patients. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines against Ebola; however the researchers have developed a few potential vaccines that may help.