The Terminal Programmer

Investigating the Ebola HF virus

Suraj N. Kurapati
(school, report, biology)

Ebola HF is a type of VHF (viral hemorrhagic fever) that is only found in Africa. This virus is zoonotic, which means it stays on an animal host until it is passed onto another host. The Ebola HF virus belongs to a family of viruses called Filoviridae which divides up into four known strains: Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Ivory Coast, and Ebola Reston [1]. All four strains have no vaccination, and still claim victims in isolated areas of Africa such as Gabon, Sudan, and Zaire (also known as The Democratic Republic of the Congo). When cynomolgous monkeys infected with Ebola Reston were shipped from the Philippines to the United States and Italy for research, an outbreak occurred and some researchers were exposed to the virus. Fortunately the Ebola Reston did not affect humans, but it did affect the cynomolgous monkeys and other primates.

Although the natural reservoir (the place Ebola HF originated from) of Ebola HF is unknown, the virus was first found in 1976 in the small Bandundu province near the Ebola River in Zaire (now known as The Democratic Republic of the Congo). In this first outbreak, the number of deaths among the 318 infected people (Ebola Zaire) was 88% [2]. Later that year another smaller breakout occurred in Southern Sudan where 53% of the 284 infected people (Ebola Sudan) died [3].

The process of being infected by the Ebola HF virus from another person has yet to be understood, but the symptoms and ways of transmission of the disease are known. During the first few days of infection, most patients will have fevers, joint pains, and diarrhea. Some patients will have sore throat, skin rashes; bloody diarrhea, red and itchy eyes, and hiccups. During the last days of infection, most patients will have chest pain, and shock. Some patients become blind and bleed in their digestive tract in the last hours of their life.

Transmitting the virus between humans requires some person has to have touched an animal carrying the virus. Then that person would go and touch his family and friends, and so on. Some common ways of transferring the virus from person to person are: touching and handling used needles with bodily liquids still on them, touching any bodily liquids of the carrier, touching dead victims, touching infected people's bleeding wounds or skin rashes, and even touching or wearing their clothes.

In the fight for a cure for Ebola HF, several procedures were created to identify the disease in patients. The lgG ELISA (Antigen-Capture-Enzyme-Linked-Immunosorbent Assay) laboratory procedure is used to test patients for virus infection [4]. This specific procedure is a part of a pathogen testing protocol called ELISA (Enzyme-Linked-Immunosorbent Serologic Assay) [4]. It detects specific substances such as viruses, pathogens, and other infectious disease. There are no developed vaccines for any strain of Ebola HF virus, but there are many people who have survived the disease. The disease can be prevented if people are careful around needles, and dead victims, and if they are infected, they should see the doctor right away for the lgG ELISA procedure. There are a few cases of success, for example, in Kikwit, Zairevii in 1995, seven out of eight infected patients lived when they were given blood from patients who had survived the disease. This data seems promising, but there were too few people to experiment with, and each person had his/her own qualities which could have greatly affected his/her outcome. For this reason, this data was considered useless by the CDC9.

According to the CDC [6], African health-care facilities are not the best places to get help for an Ebola HF infection. Patients are often cared for without protection such as masks and gloves, and they are exposed to the same clothes that physicians wear while treating those who are dying. Needles and syringes are not sterilized or thrown away; instead they are simply rinsed with water and reused again. For example, a blood sample would be taken from a dying person, and then the needle would be rinsed and used to inject into a vial of medicine into another person. I think it is naive that these physicians look past such simple things as sterilization. They are infecting more people rather than saving them [5].

The African health-care facilities need more attention from world organizations such as the Red Cross, CARE, and the CDCix. People need to be aware of the conditions in these facilities so we can help the facilities incorporate standard sterilization procedures. This will significantly reduce the number of deaths due to bio-hazardous medical equipment. The facilities and these organizations can also invoke public support, to raise money, and get food for those suffering from the disease and their families. Also, if more biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies invest in medical research they could greatly profit; this will give the researchers funding so they can start work on finding a cure for the disease.

I believe that the African health-care facilities need to incorporate standard sterilization techniques before caring for patients. The Ebola HF virus needs to be further researched so that a cure can be found. And people of the world need to be more aware of this disease. After all, those who are suffering are human, and if we don't help them survive, who will be left to help us?

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC: SPB: Disease Information: Fact Sheets: Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever." Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/ebola.htm. Accessed December 18, 2000.

  2. University of Cape Town. "Management of Patients with Suspected Viral Hemorrhagic Fever." Available at: http://www.uct.ac.za/microbiology/MMWR37s3.html. Accessed December 18, 2000.

  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC: SPB: Disease Information: Fact Sheets: Ebola: Case Table." Available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/ebotabl.htm. Accessed December 18, 2000.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC: SPB: Glossary of Terms." Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/glossary.htm. Accessed December 18, 2000.

  5. New England Journal of Medicine. "OnHealth: Ebola Virus Spreading throughout Cyberspace." Available at: http://onhealth.webmd.com/conditions/in-depth/item/item%2C1921_1_1.asp. Accessed December 18, 2000.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "MARBURG AND EBOLA VIRUSES." Encyclopedia of Virology Plus CD-ROM. © 1995 Academic Press Ltd. All Rights Reserved.