In 1976, strains of the Ebola virus were first discovered. But until recently, the incidents were localized.
And only in 2014, the outbreak attracted the attention of the world community. We will try to present the main facts about him.
Outbreak in 2014. At the beginning of August 2014, the World Health Organization stated that 932 people had already died from hemorrhagic fever in just two summer months. For our world of several billion people, this number may seem insignificant. But it is worthwhile to understand that some small African settlements have suffered especially badly. The first resident of Nigeria to die from the terrible virus was a nurse in Lagos. She died on 5 August. The news was shocking as the country's capital is the most populous city on the continent. Here, according to some estimates, up to 21 million people are crowded. Nigeria has thrown every effort to counter the spread of the deadly virus. But new cases of the disease appear regularly, so how successful the fight will be and how many more people will die remains a mystery. In 2014, an outbreak of the disease was also noted in Guinea, where the Ministry of Health registered dozens of cases by March 24, 2014. It took several months for the virus to cross the border and appear in neighboring countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even recommended refraining from travel to countries affected by the virus.
The emergence of the virus in America. The news of the 2014 outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in the West was received with caution, but did not cause much concern. And the fever itself has already manifested itself from time to time for 30 years, what is known about it. But there were no reports of significant consequences. But when it was officially announced that the infected American doctor Kent Brantley would be delivered to his homeland, panic began in the United States. Journalists saw a reason for mass hysteria, exacerbating the situation. The 33-year-old doctor was brought from Liberia by air ambulance. His arrival in America took place on August 2, 2014. The patient was immediately admitted to the hospital at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This facility is equipped with a high-tech and bio-isolation patient care unit. Here ultraviolet light shines and the air is thoroughly filtered. Those who still fear the release of the Ebola virus should not be scared. Epidemiologists believe that outbreaks in the United States could not take place. The fact is that in developing countries, cultural traditions are such that family and friends look after the patient, they also prepare the bodies for further burial. In developed countries, the approach to the viral problem is completely different. Here, health authorities quickly identify infected individuals and isolate them from society, preventing the spread of the disease.
Virus detection. For the first time, an outbreak of fever was recorded in 1976 in Zaire. This country is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The epidemic immediately spread to Sudan. When a mysterious ailment began to afflict the inhabitants of Zaire, the president's personal physician, William Close, called in experts from the Belgian Institute of Tropical Medicine. Experts focused their research on the village of Yambuku, where the first known case of infection occurred. The victim was the director of the local school, Mabalo Lokela. The virus spread quickly throughout the village. The Belgians gave the new disease the name Ebola, after a nearby river. It was decided not to stigmatize the village. No one can say with certainty that the virus has not infected people before. Some say that it is he who is to blame for the Athenian plague, which came to the countries of the Mediterranean during the Peloponnesian War as early as 430 BC. The historian Thucydides, who himself contracted this disease, but managed to survive, said that the plague was brought by Athenian sailors from Africa. Only indirect evidence of that epidemic remained. But descriptions of it, the prevalence among caring people, symptoms in the form of bleeding, fully admit that the culprit of the plague was precisely the Ebola fever.
Accident at Porton Down laboratory. There are many conspiracy theorists out there. According to such people, there are secret government research centers where the authorities breed monsters or create deadly biological substances. But in this case, the truth turned out to be similar to this theory. Porton Down, England, has a Research Center for Applied Microbiology. Ebola research is being conducted there. This laboratory was assigned the fourth safety category. There is a shower system to sterilize the researchers before they go outside. Bulletproof glass ensures that the virus does not leave the laboratory. And if any accident occurs, even if a suit or glove breaks, then an alarm will sound immediately. These operating rules have been in place for decades, since the Ebola virus was identified in 1976. No one really knew what exactly to expect from him and what to fear. On November 5, 1976, a researcher accidentally pricked his finger with a syringe while working with laboratory animals. A few days later, the scientist fell ill. He was able to leave his body fluids and initial data about the virus and the course of the disease, the observed symptoms. Fortunately, the researcher was lucky and managed to survive.
Sexual spread. The first 7-10 days after the onset of symptoms of Ebola in patients is very important. Indeed, it is during this period that most of the victims of the virus die. But if the human body manages to produce a sufficient number of antibodies, then recovery is possible. But even a clean blood test may fail to detect a virus that is hiding in the body in strange ways. For example, the disease can be transmitted in the breast milk of lactating women. The virus can remain in semen for another three months. The antibodies produced by the blood do not reach the testes. That is why those men who have had Ebola are strongly encouraged to practice safe sex and be sure to use condoms. A researcher who contracted the infection in Port Down had the virus in his semen even two months after he recovered. However, experts believe that the likelihood of contracting the fever virus through sexual contact is small. First of all, because hardly only those who have recovered from the disease do not particularly want to have sex - the body is already exhausted. Another method of transmission is more likely, rather unpleasant. In Africa, there is a long tradition of washing corpses before burial. It turns out that the virus thrives not only in living bodies, but also exists for several days in the dead. The corpses of monkeys "told" about this.
Impact on the world of wild animals. Those viruses that kill their victims in a matter of days scare people. But cunning is to be found in this. A quick death is terrible, but it prevents the disease from spreading rapidly. As a result, viruses such as Ebola usually burn out quickly before they can escape their original source. Other viruses, like HIV, develop slowly, allowing them to spread around the world. Scientists believe there is a reason why the Ebola fever did not disappear into oblivion, but manifests itself from time to time. The virus has found repository in the bat population in Central and West Africa. Now these creatures are spreading fever as they carry rabies in other parts of the world. Carnivorous bats are asymptomatic vectors. They transmit the virus to small antelopes, dukers, and primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees. In advanced countries, these bats quickly die, which ends the story of the spread of the virus. Today, in many sub-Saharan African countries, wild meat is sold with might and main. They are hunted and in demand when more traditional and tasty options are not available. Moreover, this meat can belong to any species of animals, including bats, rats and monkeys. This sounds disgusting to a civilized person, but is it better to die of starvation? And to start the epidemic in 2014, it was only enough for someone to eat the meat of one infected animal.
Death from Ebola. Although the plague is localized, hospitals around the world are willing to accept people with Ebola symptoms. But in the early stages, the symptoms are so common and common that they are simply misdiagnosed or completely ignored. It seems that the person has just caught a cold: the head hurts, the throat hurts, the temperature rises, one feels tired, the body aches. Usually everything goes away in a few days and few people will run with such symptoms to the nearest hospital department. But soon things get more serious. The stomach begins to boil, which turns into pain, diarrhea and vomiting. By the next stage, the person becomes exhausted, and the virus takes advantage of this and hits all important functions of the body. This stage is the most terrible, because the hemorrhagic element of the disease becomes noticeable. Internal bleeding develops, blisters appear on the skin, and blood begins to flow from the ears and eyes. Death comes as a result of various complications. These include seizures, organ failure and low blood pressure. And there are several factors that determine the mortality rate, one of the main ones being the specific strain of the virus. In 2014, the death rate hovered around 60 percent.
Vaccine. Until recently, fever spread from animal carriers, infecting a handful of people in the countryside, and then dying out. The danger was seriously discussed only in thrillers, for example, "Epidemic" in 1995. The plot of this film revolves around some fictional form of the disease. But in the West, no one paid much attention to what was happening in Africa. Developing a vaccine or medicine for the pharmaceutical giants was simply not profitable. And although there was no commercial potential in this matter, governments around the world were seriously considering the disease. Millions of dollars were spent on the study of Ebola and the search for a vaccine. There was concern that the virus could be used by someone as a biological weapon. Experimental vaccines appeared that seemed very promising. One of them completely blocked the infection of rhesus monkeys with the Zaire strain. Namely, he was the cause of the 2014 epidemic. The vaccine was so effective that it even cured four infected monkeys. It remains only to interest private companies in creating a mass solution.
Virus transmission. It is not known exactly how the Ebola virus is transmitted. Most experts believe that this occurs from person to person during the exchange of body fluids. But there are variants that the virus is transmitted aerobically from pigs to other species. It seems simple to protect yourself from the virus, you just need to limit the transfer of fluids. But the danger of the disease is underestimated by those who have not seen firsthand its destructive effect. Quite a lot of fluid flows out of the body of a patient with fever; in the last stages, blood can ooze from all openings in general. Given the fact that a doctor or nurse in the conditions of poor infrastructure of hospitals in Central and West Africa is sometimes forced to visit dozens of patients at a time, it is not surprising that the virus is transmitted to doctors.
Treatment. Until recently, no one knew how to deal with the Ebola virus. The patients were simply supported in their own struggle for life. People were given fluids and electrolytes to maintain proper levels in the body. The patients received pain relievers, antipyretics and antibiotics. This made it possible to reduce accompanying complications and preserve the immune system to fight the main virus. The rest depended on the health of the person and the type of strain. But the first American victims, Kent Brantley and Nancy Wrightball, were able to obtain an experimental drug. The first began to be treated at an early stage. Brantley received a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old boy whom he treated and who has already recovered from the virus. The patients also received serum, which was first obtained by the biopharmaceutical company Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego. This medicine was obtained from the antibodies of animals exposed to fever. The serum helped improve the endurance of the immune system. They say that with her help the patients managed to improve their condition. Other pharmaceutical giants, such as Canada's Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and MediVector, also quickly began developing a vaccine against the Ebola virus. Delay this time can be costly.