Earlier Ebola Outbreaks, and How the World Overcame Them

The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is only the second-largest in history, but undoubtedly the most frustrating.

Scientists are fairly certain they have the medical tools needed for victory: one vaccine that appears to work about 98 percent of the time, another that has worked well in monkeys, and four therapies that may block the virus if they are given early enough.

Instead, scientists are being thwarted by the nightmarish conflicts and politics of eastern Congo. Health workers have been murdered, treatment centers have been torched, rumors have repeatedly outwrestled the truth. An overwhelming sense of divisiveness and fear has undone almost every effort to save the stricken and protect the vulnerable.

Three previous Ebola outbreaks have demonstrated how a response can succeed — or how, in an atmosphere of suspicion, it can go badly wrong.

Also, the virus tended to kill doctors and nurses; the initial outbreak was spread largely by the health care system. It was initially misdiagnosed as an epidemic of malaria, and some victims were given quinine with needles that were not sterilized. Pregnant women were given vitamins with the same needles, and died.

The epidemic mostly burned itself out. Before outside investigators from Europe, the United States and South Africa arrived, 80 percent of the hospital’s staff had died and many local residents had fled. Luckily none — including a sick nun taken to the capital for care — started an urban outbreak.

The reports of the disease were so scary that, so as not to stigmatize Yambuku, investigators named the virus after the Ebola River, which was 40 miles away.

Sahred From Source link Health

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