The 2014 outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has the world on high alert. Currently deemed an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has racked up more than 1,060 deaths and sickened 1,975 – making it the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever.
Here are 10 interesting facts you might not know about the virus and the current outbreak:
1. Ebola virus disease (EVD), identified in 1976, takes its name from one of the first villages to experience an outbreak—Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, which is located near the Ebola River.
2. Ebola is spread initially from animals (most likely fruit bats), and then through human-to-human transmission– typically from blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids.
3. The current Ebola outbreak – which originated in Guinea and spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria – is difficult to contain because the disease is crossing national borders, and is spreading in more urban areas.
4. In 1989, Ebola-Reston, a non-lethal strain, broke out in the United States. The country’s introduction to the virus went relatively unknown until almost six years later, with the 1995 release of The Hot Zone.
5. Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician who contracted Ebola while treating sick patients in Africa’s current outbreak, was the first-ever Ebola patient to be brought into the United States from Africa for treatment. He was followed shortly after by a second patient, Nancy Writebol.
6. Brantly and Writebol were transported from Africa to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, which is considered to be one of the safest places in the world to treat someone with Ebola.7. There is no licensed vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola. In the current outbreak, Brantly, Writebol and Spanish missionary Miguel Parajes were given the experimental treatment ZMapp, which has never been tested in humans. While the Spanish missionary succumbed to the virus, Brantly and Writebol are reportedly improving.
8. ZMapp is a cocktail of specially engineered antibodies designed to target and inactivate the Ebola virus. The antibodies are produced in specially modified tobacco plants. The plants are harvested, ground up into a green liquid, purified and turned into tiny doses of the drug.9. The last known doses of ZMapp arrived in Liberia on Aug. 13. Liberian officials say they will give the treatment to three people with Ebola, probably to individuals who are younger, newly infected and more likely to respond to treatment.
10. Ebola is manageable – so most Americans need not worry about contracting the virus. Officials are confident that a large Ebola outbreak will not happen in the United States because developed countries have advanced prevention methods.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery