Continuing the Fight Against Ebola
Ebola was arguably the largest story in international news in 2014. The disease has been around for thousands of years, but was only discovered and named in the 1970s. It struck fear in the hearts of millions around the globe because it spread quickly in Africa, appeared unstoppable, and threatened to explode from the boundaries of the African continent.
Examining the 2014 Outbreak
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa was the worst in recorded history. The disease began as a number of isolated cases in the nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Ebola would go on to cause panic across West Africa as suspected and verified cases of the virus began to appear in other West African nations.
Eventually, the disease was effectively contained to the three nations mentioned above, but the outbreak was far from miniscule. There were an estimated 15,246 cases confirmed in laboratories and a total of 11,314 confirmed deaths. The spread of the disease and the lack of an effective vaccine scared citizens around the globe, and shone a light on the situation in West Africa.
Early Success with ZMapp
As nations from around the world slowly began to provide aid and assistance in West Africa alongside private organizations, an early success in the fight to find a vaccine was provided by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals in San Diego, California. The company had an experiment drug known as ZMapp on hand during the outbreak, but it was only available in limited amounts. The company reported that it takes 18 months to develop samples of the drug.
ZMapp made a splash on the international stage when it was given to two Americans who were evacuated to the United States for treatment. Both individuals recovered and survived their encounter with Ebola, but it has yet to be discovered if Ebola was the reason, or their natural immune system allowed them to live. Ebola is generally fatal in 90% of cases.
As of 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued fast-track status to ZMapp to see if it can prove effective on a larger scale in fighting Ebola. It is still being tested in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, where the outbreak has finally died down, with no new cases of Ebola reported for months now.
New Experimental Treatments
CNN has reported on a new Ebola vaccine being tested by the World Health Organization. WHO officials began testing the new VSV-EBOV vaccine in March 2015 in Guinea, and it showed so much promise that trials were expanded to provide the vaccination to all people at risk after close contact with an infected individual.
Testing of the new VSV-EBOV vaccine is still in its early stages, but the trial has shown 100% efficacy to date. The vaccine’s effectiveness is being tested using a “ring” strategy, which calls for creating a protective “ring” by vaccinating all individuals who have contact with an infected individual.
The fight to protect the region, and the world at large, against Ebola is an ongoing process. With drugs like ZMapp and VSV-EBOV in trial phases, there are signs that mankind may gain the upper hand on the virus.