Luckily, Ebola virus is incredibly rare in most regions of the world, and you do not need to worry about falling victim to its horrific symptoms. However, if you live in West Africa or are intending to travel there, you need to fully inform yourself on the current situation and risk of Ebola.
Residents of Ebola affected areas
If you live in parts of West Africa, or in other regions where outbreaks have previously occurred, extreme caution needs to be in place, including:
§ Seeking immediate medical attention should any loved ones show signs and symptoms of Ebola. Avoid direct contact with them, and most certainly with any bodily fluids.
§ Do rely on Western Medical treatment rather than local shaman or spiritual healers, claiming to have the powers to heal Ebola.
§ Avoid contact with deceased loved ones at any cultural funeral rituals, which would otherwise involve that direct contact, including traditional washing and cleaning of the body, and touching the face of the body after washing hands in a common bowl.
§ Education about Ebola virus is very important, including risk factors and what to do if you believe you, or someone you know might have contracted Ebola.
Travel to West Africa
Of course, if you are travelling to West Africa you also need to exercise caution. Always check with travel regulations, and any current warnings that have been issued to avoid non-essential travel. It’s also important to find out if your travel insurer covers you, should you become a victim to the Ebola virus.
§ Avoid contact with wildlife throughout West Africa, particularly any monkeys or fruit bats.
§ Don’t risk enjoying any local cuisine of bush meat or handling any bush meat.
§ If you are travelling with an aid organization to help treat Ebola, follow all policies including strict use of protective gear such as gloves, protective gowns and face shields. Ensure that all used equipment is properly disposed of, and that you do not come into direct contact with any fluids, or test samples taken from suspected Ebola patients.
§ If you think you have been directly exposed to Ebola, report immediately so that the necessary diagnostic tests can be carried out. You can never be too careful, as even with all precautions in place, mistakes can still occur, with US aid workers in the past becoming infected with Ebola. Contact tracing is important, as it helps to understand who may have come into contact with anyone that has been diagnosed with Ebola.
On 23 December 2016 it was confirmed that scientists had developed a vaccine against Ebola that proved to have 100% efficiency. The experimental trial involved 11,841 people in Guinea throughout 2015 and goes by the name of Merck’s V920 vaccine, which only protects against the Zaire strain of Ebola.
There were 5837 people who received the vaccine, and results showed that no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination. On the other hand, 23 cases presented after that same 10-day period, for those that didn’t receive any vaccine.
This news marked a breakthrough in medical history. However, given strict American regulations, the vaccine remains unlicensed and may stay that way until at least 2019.
This has raised incredible controversy at the delay, given isolated cases of Ebola continue to be detected in remote villages of West Africa.
This delay comes down to multiple complicated factors, including lack of funding, the need for larger trials, and the lack of interest from large partnering pharmaceutical companies in America, given the lack of potential profits to be made by them.
Moving forward, if another Zaire strain of Ebola outbreak takes place, there are backup vaccination stockpiles available, which surely experts from the US will approve for use, in order to prevent another large scale outbreak. Research continues to find the most effective treatment for controlling this incredibly complex virus.