The first recorded sample of the HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) virus, which causes AIDS, was taken from a man in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1959. This virus is similar to Green Monkey Disease, a virus which produces identical symptoms in the green monkey, or macaque, or western Africa. This disease is also known as SIV (Simian Immuno-deficiency Virus)

How the disease was transferred from apes to humans is still a mystery but the likelihood is that it mutated using the same process as avian flu in Hong Kong in 1999, an outbreak which left three people dead, but which could have been a catastrophe, had it not been for the swift action of the authorities in killing all of the city’s chickens.

Ebola, which has again appeared in the DR Congo, is another of the thirty-odd “new” viruses which have appeared in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1980s. The disease was first recorded in the mid-1970s, when an outbreak killed 440 people in the Sudan and the former Zaire, where the strain is most virulent, having an 85/90% death rate. The last major outbreak was in Kikwit, DR Congo, in 1995, in which 245 of the 316 people infected died.

The pathology of Ebola, again a carbon-copy of a similar disease among apes, makes this disease a nightmare for public health authorities, due to the fact that it is so virulent, so contagious and so horrific. It can be passed on through a handshake, or simple touching of the skin of an infected person, who may not yet have felt the first symptoms – a splitting headache, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, pains in the joints and chest, later severe internal haemorrhages in the liver, spleen, kidneys and testicles, and projectile vomiting of blood. Bleeding may also occur spontaneously from the anus, ears, nose, gums, eyes or skin as lesions open and close when blood vessels are strangled by the virus. The incubation period, the time between contagion and the onset of symptoms, is between three days and three weeks.

Death comes through shock due to massive blood loss. Those who survive have an immune system which is capable of fighting the virus because the usual anti-viral medicines such as Interferon have no effect on Ebola.

It is thought that intrusion into hitherto-unexplored forests are bringing humans into contact with undiscovered viruses, posing the potential threat of other lethal viruses waiting to break out among the human community.


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Author`s name Editorial Team