For so many years, the HIV virus has been the greatest threat to human existence. Scientists are still trying their best to find the ultimate cure for this deadly virus but even before they achieve anything meaningful, a new global health risk popularly known as Ebola is claiming more lives in some parts of West Africa. The virus was discovered in 1976 in two simultaneous instances in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC incident occurred near the famous Ebola River, hence the name of the highly-infectious virus that seems to be spreading faster than wildfire.
According to health reports, Ebola has the capacity to kill more people than HIV. Some victims die just a few hours or days after being infected with the deadly virus, popularly known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. EHF gains access into the body through blood contact, exchange of body fluids, touching infected animals such as monkeys or pigs and touching infected human corpses without wearing protective gears such as masks, gloves or goggles.
When Ebola fever gains access into the human body, it starts destroying the vascular system and the walls of the blood vessels. This prevents blood from clotting therefore causing internal or external bleeding. The main reason why this deadly virus kills faster than HIV is the fact that it attacks rapidly and aggressively. Moreover, HIV has a window period of approximately three months before the signs and symptoms start showing but on the other hand, Ebola’s incubation period can be as low as two days. This practically means that when two people are infected with the Ebola and HIV virus simultaneously, the Ebola patient is likely to test positive and start experiencing the effects even before the HIV patient tests positive.
HIV can be treated through the use of antiretroviral drugs but on the other hand, there is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola virus. This makes it even more difficult to prevent it using scientific methods. The only preventive method at the moment is by avoiding close contact with infected persons but this seems almost impossible in African countries where family unity is one of the most important aspects of society.
However, some health researchers have been trying to evaluate whether the hemorrhagic fever can wipe out the whole world faster than HIV but the chances are quite low. HIV spreads faster mainly because it is almost impossible to tell that a particular person is positive without performing a blood test. This is one of the major factors that contribute to the high infection rate in most parts of the world because some people engage in unprotected sex while assuming that their partners are healthy and safe from the HIV virus. A window period of three months is long enough to spread HIV before detection but the same case does not apply to Ebola fever.
Since the symptoms of Ebola hemorrhagic ever are quite easy to detect, most people find it easier to protect themselves in advance. The recent outbreak in Guinea has so far claimed more than 60 lives out of 80 reported cases, a true reflection of its fatality rate. According to UNICEF, the situation in Guinea is quite difficult to control because some medical staff are among the infected persons.
The global organization has also advised Guineans to stop attending funerals of their beloved ones who died of Ebola outbreak or touching the deceased. This is quite unusual in most parts of Africa where family ties are upheld from birth till death. The families, friends or relatives have the responsibility of supporting their sick counterparts throughout their journey. Their presence is always needed during funerals and at times, they may touch the deceased as they mourn uncontrollably.
By Andrew Wandola