On Monday, vaccinations for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo within the northwestern Equator Province. Forty-six cases have been reported so far, and 26 dead. Despite many of the residents still harboring the memory of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, they are better prepared this time.
Since the discovery of the virus in 1976, epidemiologists have been scrambling to find a cure for the disease that has devastated entire villages. The 2014 outbreak killed close 11,500 people throughout West Africa. From 2013 to 2016, 10 people per day were dying from Ebola.
Travesties like this have a tendency to make individuals more resilient. While it is true that the medical care and aid workers help the affected communities tremendously, the people who are indigenous to those affected communities are equally responsible for their own progress.
The ambulance drivers and EMTs who go to retrieve the bodies of once lively people are African citizens, as well as the people who lead their villages in prayer after another loved one is taken away in a body bag.
The sick and the dying have loved ones who are dealing with devastation around them. Not only do they have to become mentally prepared for a loss in their life, they have to alter their cultural practices in order to accommodate their own health and safety.
Modern healthcare is the norm in West Africa although several societies heavily rely on traditional medicine. However, spiritual healers are often consulted to promote health due to their being a widespread belief that there are links between disease and the metaphysical.
Because the hemorrhagic fever is transmitted via blood, sexual contact and direct/indirect contact, it is crucial that everyone keeps a distance from sick family members and friends. Even touching dead Ebola victims can cause infection, which is why cultural burial practices must also be changed.
This current Ebola outbreak will be better contained now that communities have all of the necessary information. The latest emergence sprouted, in part, simply because of lack of knowledge. People did not know the modes of transmissions or what symptoms of the virus to look out for.
The virus invades the host’s cells and creates copies of itself throughout the body in order to weaken the immune system. Later symptoms involve internal bleeding that results in vomiting or coughing up blood.
Treatments include supportive intensive care like oxygen therapy and IV fluids and blood transfusions.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 7500 doses of rVSV-ZEBOV has been deployed to the DRC. The vaccine is a live, chimeric virus that contains glycoprotein that allows the virus to invade and infect human cells. In the vaccine, the protein prompts the immune system to develop a response to Ebola.
Similarly to the smallpox vaccine, the ring vaccination method is being used to combat Ebola. The first ones vaccinated will be those who have been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case, and then those who have been in contact with those contacts. Today, there are roughly 600 contacts from the 46 cases in the Congo.