It's been a few years since the world was gripped by fear of the Ebola virus. Headlines blared about outbreaks in West Africa and the occasional imported case in the United States. But now, the fear has subsided and the media has moved on to other topics. So, what happened to Ebola?
Contrary to what some may think, Ebola is not gone. In fact, it never really went away. The virus is still present in certain regions of Africa, causing occasional outbreaks and claiming lives. However, there has been significant progress in the fight against Ebola, including the development of effective treatments and vaccines.
The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which primarily affected Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, was the largest and deadliest in history. Over 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths were reported. The international community was slow to respond, allowing the virus to spread rapidly. But eventually, a coordinated effort was launched to contain the outbreak and treat those affected.
One major breakthrough in the fight against Ebola was the development of treatments. Previously, there were no FDA-approved treatments for the virus, meaning that patients could only receive supportive care, such as fluids and electrolytes. However, during the 2014-2016 outbreak, several experimental treatments were tested and shown to be effective. One such treatment, called ZMapp, was given to two American aid workers who were infected with Ebola while working in Liberia. They both survived and were later released from the hospital.
In addition to treatments, vaccines have also been developed to prevent people from contracting the virus. The first vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, was tested during the 2014-2016 outbreak and found to be highly effective. In a trial involving over 11,000 people, the vaccine was shown to be 100% effective in preventing Ebola in those who received it. Since then, several other vaccines have been developed and are being used in outbreak response efforts.
Despite these advances, Ebola is still a concern. The virus can remain dormant in survivors for months or even years, and can resurface in the form of late-onset complications such as vision loss, joint pain, and chronic fatigue. In addition, the virus can continue to circulate in animal populations, particularly in bats, and can resurface in humans through contact with infected animals.
This was seen in the 2018-2019 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was the second-largest in history. Over 3,000 cases and 2,000 deaths were reported. The outbreak was particularly difficult to contain due to insecurity and conflict in the region, making it difficult for health workers to access affected areas. However, efforts by the DRC government, international organizations, and local communities were able to eventually bring the outbreak under control.
While the media may have moved on from the Ebola story, the virus is still a threat. It is important for the international community to continue to support efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks. This includes investing in research and development of treatments and vaccines, as well as supporting health systems in affected regions.
For up-to-date information on the status of Ebola, follow @ebola_cases on Twitter and visit blog.ebola-cases.com and ebola-cases.com. Together, we can continue to fight against this deadly virus.