EBOLA UPDATE: subtle undertones of stabilization?

With 15 319 confirmed Ebola cases in West Africa and 5 444 recorded deaths, the Ebola virus may seem to be stabilizing in certain areas upon more medical response and awareness.

According to an interview with Dr Christopher Dye, a director of strategy in the office of the director general at WHO, the virus spread has slowed down in some of the affected areas in the three countries: specifically Lofa county in Libera as well as Kenema and Kailahun district in Sierra Leone. Cases have reduced to an estimated 1 000 per week average:- which is still high, so celebration is still premature.

Although there is progress, there are still certain countries that haven’t shied away from giving a helping hand. Yesterday, Ireland announced an additional €220,000 on top of their €4 million in response of the outbreak – to support families in Sierra Leone who were quarantined by the outbreak – providing food packages, fuel and other vital supplies. The earlier 4 million Euros went to supporting the health care system in Liberia. The country has pledged a total of 17 million Euros for the 2014 year.

Long Term solutions

Seeing that Ebola broke out initially in 1976, and marred the lives and economies of DRC, South Sudan, Congo Gabon and trickled down to South Africa – and now penetrated 5 West African countries, it is obvious that there is a need for a long-term solution. Not only does there need to be a drug, but vaccines need to be administered.

With clear concise knowledge on the virus and how it attacks, fighting it with a drug is a more effective tool – in addition to means of prevention. Now that over 9 countries have been affected since the history of Ebola – Pharmaceutical companies are looking into extracting a vaccine and medication, looking from a business standpoint of view: there is market.

This year, scientists have put more efforts and focus into finding a treatment and a vaccine for the virus. As we know, the ZMapp drug has been given to patients in the current outbreak, although not all the patients were healed. Manufacturers of the drug raised issues of limited stock –adding that it may take months to increase production.

The race for vaccinations has already begun. Vaccines trials and tests have been ongoing since October in the UK, US, Russia and Canada in controlled clinical trials. The aim of this is to have 20 000 doses that will be issued to West Africa by January next year. In a normal environment, such vaccines would take years before a completely new vaccine is used – however, the emergency of the outbreak surpasses such which has scientists working at a fast tracked rate.

It is unfortunate that the response only comes at a time when there is economical gain – this should push African scientists and researchers to develop their own pharmaceuticals to atleast fight our ailments – in order to stop leaning on the west for answers.