The dreaded Ebola virus has resurfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the governments of Africa and the United Nations are now better equipped to deal with the disease before it again claims thousands of lives.
Ebola, however, is still very dangerous. Why does it keep coming back, and what needs to be done to prevent it from rapidly spreading?
The Ebola Virus Returns In The DRC
The Ebola virus causes a rare and fatal disease, with symptoms that include fever, weakness, muscle pain, and sore throat. If the disease is not treated, the symptoms will escalate to vomiting, diarrhea, and external or internal bleeding.
The virus is endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it has since spread to other countries in Africa. The latest Ebola outbreak, however, is happening in the DRC, from where it all started.
The latest Ebola outbreak brings back memories of the epidemic that claimed 11,000 lives and infected 28,000 victims in West Africa from 2014 to 2016. While that epidemic started with an Ebola outbreak in a small border village in Guinea, the latest outbreak in the DRC similarly started near the national border, in the market town of Bikoro that is accessible by major rivers. This factor triggered concerns that the epidemic that swept West Africa may happen again, especially after it was discovered that the first deaths from the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC happened in January.
How To Deal With The Ebola Virus
The Ebola virus may quickly spread because contact with small amounts of bodily fluid from a victim is enough to infect other people. In addition, the early flu-like symptoms of the disease are not always obvious.
However, in a BBC article written by Dr. Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines for Wellcome Trust, the containment of the Ebola virus is possible through "a swift and well-co-ordinated response." Weller cited an Ebola outbreak almost a year ago in the DRC that was contained quickly contained. The outbreak happened in a very remote area which may have helped prevent the spread of the virus, but the immediate response was still crucial in limiting the impact to four fatalities and four survivors.
The DRC government, the World Health Organization, and aid agencies have learned from previous Ebola outbreaks, health workers and scientists already in the area of the latest one to try to determine who else has possibly been infected.
In addition, an experimental ebola vaccine, which was developed during the 2014 to 2016 Ebola epidemic but was too late to make an impact, will be deployed by the WHO in the DRC. The WHO obtained 4,000 doses of the vaccine, and on May 13, was already preparing to send them, along with specialists, to the African country.