It was long time back when Ebola was just the name of a river but now "Ebola" is a seen as a murdered, killer, tears in blood, death, misery, and fear of contagion. It is also seen to be closely related to political instability & economic turmoil. Everything during the recent epidemic in West Africa was unprecedented.
It began in early December, in a village called Meliandou. The first known case was a two-year-old child who died, after fever and vomiting and passing black stool, on December 6. His mother died a week later.
3 months later, local officials informed the Guinean Ministry of Health about these strange clusters & lethal disease. By then, human-to-human transmission had started to multiply due to the local culture, funerals gathering and etc. The outbreak spread to other villages.
The strange part is, the reservoir host of Ebola virus is still unknown—even after 38 years of efforts to identify it, since the original 1976 outbreak. Till today, one or more kinds of fruit bat, including the hammer-headed bat, are our prime suspect. Howevere, it is still not 100% proven.
The nearest clue that we can figure out could be, that the hammer-headed bats in were in southeastern Guinea during that time. It's possible that somebody killed the bat for food and brought it to Meliandou, where the child became infected either by direct contact with the bat or by virus passed on the hands of an adult.
Based on this, we can understand that, we are not just dealing with the ebola virus but also the reservoir. Ebola virus abides endemically in the forests of equatorial Africa. It will never be eradicated as long as those forests exist, unless the reservoir host itself is eradicated which of course is not recommended. Other possibilities could be directed towards a cure for this viral infection.
Our biggest concern remain close to our heart. It is clear that the virus's is spreading its journey across the evolutionary & geographical landscape. The ultimate question will be, Is it mutating in ways that could make it more dangerous to humans? Is there any chance that it might become transmissible through the air, like the flu, SARS or common cold?
Mmmmm.... Well, although Ebola becoming airborne is the ultimate disease nightmare. We should be realistic about it and never jump the gun to say its not possible. Laurrie Garrette explained that, "What is now a fluid-borne virus attaching itself to cells lining the circulatory system can't easily change into one that targets the tiny air sacs in the lungs. That's a genetic leap in the realm of science fiction," Garrett wrote.
She also explained that The virus probably will not go airborne, but it could conceivably increase its Darwinian fitness in other ways, becoming more subtle and elusive.
The genetic study by Gire found 341 mutations as of late August, some of which are significant enough to change the bug's functional identity. The higher the case count in West Africa goes, the more chances for further mutations, and therefore the greater possibility that the virus might adapt & become more transmissible or even becoming less pathogenic, sickening or killing its victims more slowly, in this case leaving them more time to infect others.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report, in late September, projecting that under the worst-case scenario there could be 1.4 million cases by early next year. The World Health Organization said Tuesday that new cases could rise to 10,000 per week by December, ten times the rate of the previous month. And the World Bank has warned that costs of the epidemic could reach $32.6 billion, which would be an economic catastrophe for the three West African countries that would compound their health catastrophes" by New York Times.
Well, in my opinion, the world won't be free of Ebola 2014 until West Africa is free of it. Even severe restrictions, barring entry to anyone traveling from West Africa, would not make it impossible for the virus to get into America, or Europe, or Asia.
Remember guys, there are too many of us sharing the landscape with the reservoir hosts and sometimes we depend on each another. We are connected by air travel and modern transport. We are the complex creatures. Viruses are simple organisms with well-adaptating skills to fit our modern world. This year it's Ebola, devastating and scary. Next year it could be something else.
Ref: Laurrie Garette, Geri, New York Times
DR DHESI BR (MD,MPH)
Epidemiology. Humanitarian Relief. Emergency Response. Public Health Threats.