The Ebola virus has worried the scientific and medical communities for decades. Once thought to be restricted just to Africa, this virus has now made its way across the world and even into countries like the U.S. that once thought it was relatively safe from this sickness. However, as doctors and nurses travel internationally with relief groups like Doctors Without Borders and risk infection, and in light of the influx of African immigrants to America and other countries around the world, Ebola is now considered to be a global threat.
Rethinking the Transmission of Ebola Virus
As the virus made its way across the world, doctors and scientists took minimal comfort in their theory that the Ebola virus could only be transmitted through direct contact with infected body fluids like saliva and blood. As long as people avoided body fluids of Ebola victims or took precautions like wearing gloves and masks, they could not, in theory, catch the illness.
However, recent discoveries about the virus found that it lingers not only in body fluids but also the lining of the lung tissue in victims that were once thought to be successfully and recovered from Ebola. Its presence in the lung tissue means that human-to-human transmission of the disease is possible, making the virus on par with viruses like the flu and the common cold.
Once it gets in the air, it can, in theory, spread like wildfire, infecting millions of people just by the simple act of them breathing it into their own respiratory systems. A worldwide infection would put a strain on global healthcare systems and cause widespread death because of the minimal treatments that are available for this particular disease.
Because of the risk posed to the entire global population, scientists continue to scramble to find a vaccine for it. The vaccine would have to guarantee that the virus would not mutate and efficiently prevent transmission. It also would have to be made affordable for everyone.
The Promise of New Ebola Vaccine Trials
A recent study published in the Lancet medical journal showcased the early success of the first-ever tested Ebola vaccine. The World Health Organization recently tested the vaccine in Guinea, giving it to people who had recent contact with Ebola victims. None of the people who were given the vaccine went on to develop the disease themselves.
This 100 percent success rate, albeit early in the vaccine trials, shows great hope and promise that a vaccine could soon be introduced to the rest of the world so that virtually everyone in every country is immune from this dangerous disease. The vaccine continues to be studied by WHO scientists and is being designed to stop transmission from victims to healthy people.
Thus far, the trials have shown that it takes about 10 days for vaccinated people to build up immunity. This time period is relatively fast considering that it takes up to 14 days for the flu vaccine to build up antibodies in people’s systems. The next challenge that WHO is working on with the vaccine involves manufacturing it in a way that makes it low cost for everyone. The vaccine, if proven to be entirely effective and safe, could be introduced to the global market in the next few years.
Ebola virus has killed millions of people in Africa and beyond. Discovered in 1976, it recently surged through the world at an alarming rate in 2014. It now impacts every country, forcing scientists to work on a vaccine that will protect people. The vaccine has shown promise of being safe and effective and providing 100 percent immunity from the Ebola virus.
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