Ebola Virus Outbreak: Can It Be Controlled?

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Few diseases are more feared than the Ebola virus. The disease is next to impossible to treat, mortality rates are extremely high, and the symptoms themselves are gruesome. The most recent outbreak of the deadly disease started in Guinea in March and so far there have been at least 200 confirmed casualties. Given the potential for under reporting in poorer African countries, the total number of cases could be much higher.

Medical teams from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders have arrived in eastern Sierre Leone, hoping to contain the spread of the disease. Their efforts, however, may prove too be too little, too late as the disease itself has already spread across several countries and infiltrated numerous major urban areas.

Ebola will be difficult to control

The most recent outbreak is especially frightening as Ebola has traditionally been limited to rural African areas, and on the rare occasion it has spread to major urban areas, has been brought under control quickly. The most recent outbreak, however, appears to be spreading through major cities and is evading the considerable efforts of authorities.

A general distrust of medical practitioners among undereducated people, and the terrifying nature of the disease itself are making it especially difficult to contain. Many infected individuals may be avoiding treatment. Meanwhile, medical practitioners in Sierre Leone had to watch as six infected people were removed from hospitals by family members who were threatening violence if anyone tried to stop them.

Once “freed”, these patients were denied potentially life saving treatment. Perhaps worse, the disease then had the chance to spread unabated among local communities and infect more people. Ebola is a highly infectious disease which makes it extremely difficult to control outside of isolation.

Ebola’s symptoms are horrifying

Ebola has earned a reputation as one of the most brutal diseases in history. Beyond the mortality rates, which can reach as high as 90 percent, the disease is especially brutal in the way it kills people. The disease causes massive diarrhea and vomiting, which can drain people dry. At the same time, there is a high risk of open sores breaking through the skin, causing massive bleeding. Meanwhile, high fevers can literally cook people from the inside out.

Guinea remains the epicenter of the outbreak. At least 258 cases have been confirmed, and so far those cases have yielded 174 deaths. Unless the disease is brought under control quickly, the death toll could climb rapidly.

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