Do not worry about an Ebola outbreak

A virus, like Ebola, takes over the cell’s DNA and essentially destroys the cell. But Ebola is not as big of a threat as you might think. | Jiselle Santos/ The Cougar

The Ebola threat had seemingly passed, but there was a recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because preventative measures and hopes for a cure are in place, however, we should not have to worry about an Ebola epidemic.

Ebola is a hemorrhagic virus that has killed more than 1,700 people in the Congo. Hemorrhagic means it causes bleeding inside and outside the body. The World Health Organization has declared it a global health emergency.

The Ebola virus spreads though contact with a person who is sick with Ebola, which has an incubation period of two to 21 days and without symptoms. While the virus is in incubation, it cannot spread from person to person. Once the person starts showing symptoms, however, the virus can spread when the uninfected person touches infected body fluids, and the virus gets in through the eyes, mouth or small cuts. A virus can also spread to people through direct contact with infected bats.

The 2014 epidemic hit the Democratic Republic of Congo the most. In fact, Ebola was first discovered in a river in the Congo. It is estimated that more than 11,000 lives were taken due to the virus in the 2014-2016 period.

Nine cases were in the United States in 2014, and they mainly came from people who visited Western Africa. One out of the nine people who were affected passed away.

Ebola is infectious like other diseases such as measles or influenza. Fortunately, preventative measures are in place. We can easily isolate and contain Ebola cases so it doesn’t spread. Also, Ebola in general is less infectious than the other diseases mentioned earlier. One Ebola-infected individual will infect 1.5 to two others, compared to 18 for measles.

Another reason to not worry about Ebola, at least for now, is the hopeful prospect for a cure. REGN-EB3 and mAb114 are monoclonal antibodies that have the potential to cure Ebola. Antibodies are naturally made by the immune system and are Y-shaped proteins that clump themselves onto the outer shells of viral particles. Hence, they prevent viruses from entering cells and infecting them.

The two new treatments are synthetic antibodies grown in the laboratory. These antibodies not only have the potential to cure one of the most deadly viruses but also claim to possibly have a 90 percent rate of survival.

A potential cure, with trials continuing, and the lower infection rate of the virus compared to other viruses that cause illness is enough to not worry about an epidemic for now.

Opinion Editor Maryam Baldawi is a biology junior and can be reached at [email protected].

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