Update: The Fight Agains Ebola Goes On

As of February 2, 2015, there are 22,334 cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. There are 13,773 laboratory-confirmed cases and 8,921 deaths. 

On January 15, 2015, one year after the first Ebola cases surfaced in Guinea, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a series of papers looking in depth into West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, revealing new and overlooked facts that may have attributed to the spreading of Ebola in West Africa.

The papers speculate that the first human case of the 2014 Ebola outbreak may be attributed to deforestation in Guinea, which increased residents’ contact with bats.

Further investigation into the epidemic shows that the proliferation of the Ebola outbreak may have been due to incorrect information disseminated to the public. Guinea’s Ministry of Health declared the outbreak to be “nearly under control” as early as April 15, when cases were actually still increasing.

Funerals and burials are cited as another major source of Ebola infection in the WHO report.

For example, Ebola arrived in Sierra Leone when an infected Guinean woman crossed the border to  seek a faith healer. Epidemiologies trace 365 Ebola-related deaths to the healer’s funeral ground. Other funeral practices, such as rinsing corpses, having mourners bathe in that water, and having members in secret societies sleep near the corpses to initiate “the transfer of powers” are linked to 80% of Ebola cases in Sierra Leone and 60% of cases in Guinea.

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas R. Reidan said he was “very confident we can get to zero cases in this epidemic if we continue the way we’re going and nothing unexpected happens.” However, he also concedes that “we are by no means out of the woods.”

As of February 2015, the first large-scale trials of two experimental vaccines against Ebola have begun in Liberia. Scientists aim to vaccinate 30,000 volunteers, including front-line health workers. The trial involves injecting volunteers with a vaccine that contains a small, harmless fragment of the Ebola virus, with the goal of tricking the body into producing an immune response.

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