Recent Spread of Ebola Virus Warrants Preventative Measures

Still fresh in the minds of many people worldwide is the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and 2015, which claimed many lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, even claiming the lives of some relief workers from the United States and Canada.

The most recent country to experience an outbreak is the Democratic Republic of Congo where, on April 22, a man of 45 years sought help for the virus. Since then, the area has experienced three deaths in under a month as well as a spread of up to eighteen confirmed cases. Compared to its predecessor from only a few years back, this may not appear to pose the same threat, but it is still worth understanding when to exercise caution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the outbreak in 2014 was the largest outbreak in history. Furthermore, the World Health Organization was criticized for not responding fast enough to properly contain and treat the virus. Currently, there are more than a hundred people to have come into contact with patients and, due to this, preventative measures are being taken very seriously to ensure that the eighteen confirmed cases are properly treated and that others in the region are at lower risk of contracting the virus.

One potential solution could be a newly created vaccine which greatly reduced cases in the previous outbreak. However, the vaccine, being recent, has not received approval from all medical regulatory and licencing committees and was only cleared for use during the 2014 outbreak due to the drastic state of emergency. Clinical trials do take time and the safety of vaccine use must always be considered.

Although the cases appear to be spreading, the government, as of yet, has not approved the use of this vaccine on its citizens. Of course, this vaccine may be a key to preventing another epidemic, but as of now, it is still an unlicensed medical product and the government of Congo wishes to continue treating it as such.

Containment is likely the best method for containing the virus right now, even if this may be easier said than done. Despite the common association between the virus and simian species, the CDC says that it was likely bats who played host to the virus in the previous outbreak. Being small and numerous, bats are a difficult species to control and keep separate from humans, even if patients remain isolated and suspected cases are kept under close watch.

For now, even though this outbreak will require aid and careful containment, signs do indicate that it will not reach nearly the scale of the 2014 outbreak. Understanding the danger that the virus poses, the World Health Organization responded almost immediately and, even though the virus has spread, control measures are underway and patients are receiving treatment. Finally, if a major outbreak begins to look more likely in the future, clearance of the vaccine might just make all the difference.

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