This year's Ebola Virus Disease outbreak is the worst in history. The latest figures indicate 19,031 people infected and 7,373 deaths, a mortality rate of some 39 per cent, prompting the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to state that while much remains to be done, the UNO will work towards total eradication of the disease.
Nearly a year after the virus first appeared in the Republic of Guinea (in February; the outbreak then spread to neighboring countries Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Senegal, and also to Nigeria), there is still a worrying increase in cases in the forested areas in the hinterland of this country, although there are signs that the outbreak is slowing in some regions.
"Much remains to be done. Ebola continues to spread and is a serious risk for all Guineans," declared Ban Ki-Moon on a high-level visit to the West African countries affected, accompanied by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan, Special Envoy for Ebola Virus Disease David Nabarro and the Director of UNMEER, Anthony Banbury.
The focus today is to engage national government officials, community leaders, traditional healers and local communities in coordination with the UNO's regional organisms, in fighting the disease, spreading awareness and adopting adequate practices. Mechanisms are being set up to ensure that cross-border infection does not occur.
Referring to the "extraordinary" response from the African countries affected, the UN Secretary-General went on to "invite the international community to remain mobilized," adding that "Our common goal is to eradicate the disease completely."
While as yet there are claims that effective treatment does not exist, there is the experimental drug Brincidofovir, administered to Thomas Eric Duncan unsuccessfully, there is the plasma treatment in which a patient receives a transfusion from an EVD survivor with the same blood type (as was the case of Nina Pham receiving plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the first two American citizens infected), and there is Z-Mapp, which was successfully administered to these two patients, Dr. Brantly and aid worker Nancy Writebol.
What is ZMapp?
ZMapp is a treatment composed of the use of cultures of cells which make monoclonal antibodies, mAbs. The experimentation began with MB-003, a cocktail of three human/human-mouse mAbs, namely c13C6, h13F6 and c6D8, which showed promising results when administered to rhesus monkeys infected with EVD. The process evolved to the creation of ZMab, a cocktail of three mouse mAbs, namely m1H3, m2G4 and m4G7. These also proved very promising in trials on Ebola-infected macaque monkeys. ZMapp humanized the three ZMab antibodies and tested these with combinations of MB-003 first in guinea pigs and then in monkeys. The best and most successful therapeutic combinations were the c13C6 from MB-003 and the humanized mAbs c2G4 and c4G7, from ZMab, and the result is what is known today as ZMapp.
Contagion and symptoms
EVD is not yet an airborne virus like the Influenza viruses, although it is transmitted by contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, faeces and vomit, milk, urine and semen, possibly also saliva and tears, more especially in the later stages of the illness, and from sweat, studies are inconclusive, according to the WHO. However, the information is unclear because the same source, the WHO, states that EVD can be caught from touching contaminated surfaces. Some say that the virus then needs to be passed to mucous membrane through touching the mouth, nose or eyes, others say it can be transmitted through lesions in the skin, while others state that it can be absorbed directly through the skin, in which case it is enough to touch an infected and contagious person.
Contagion occurs when a patient is infectious, in other words displaying the first symptoms, which is a sudden high fever, extreme fatigue, headache, sore throat, body pain and lack of appetite. This develops into nausea, then diarrhea and vomiting. As the virus takes hold and destroys the blood vessels, the central nervous system takes control from the digestive system and tells the body to expel as much fluid as it can through violent and sustained, copious projectile vomiting and diarrhea, which in the terminal stage can include blood. The patient becomes a human volcano of bodily fluids and torrents of blood.
It is for this reason that the healthcare workers need to use full protective gear at all times, while treating the patient and when cleaning a room after a patient has been accommodated in it, and to follow the protocols for removal of the gear strictly, not touching the face with infected gloves.
The Russian Federation has been present fighting this pandemic at all levels. President Vladimir Putin has met the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and has pledged full support. A medical team of Russian virologists, epidemiologists and bacteriologists is in the field in the Republic of Guinea, to date 19 million USD has been provided, alongside humanitarian aid. Russia is ready to send large numbers of doses of the anti-viral drug Triazavirin, which is effective in 70 to 90% of cases of infections with 15 strains of Influenza, including A H1N1 (Swine Flu) and H5N1 (Avian flu), at any stage of the infection.
Russia is also working on a vaccine and is ready to begin trials on primates. After this the human trials will begin and it may be ready for massive operations by Summer 2015.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. He is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights.
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