Hope may be spreading in Guinea as the news of at least seven survivors of the deadly Ebola outbreak had recovered from the virus and were allowed to go home, according to BBC. With a survival rate of about 10 percent and no known cure, some patients fought off the infection and lived to see another day. Those who have the highest chances of survival are those who had the disease identified early and received the necessary medical care. A highly contagious disease, Ebola is transmitted to humans from wild animals via body fluids, such as blood, urine, sweat, and other bodily secretions. When people move from place to place, the virus spreads quickly almost like a wildfire in dry brush. Symptoms of an Ebola infection include acute fever, muscle weakness and pain, sore throat, and headache, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Later symptoms include diarrhea, rash, vomiting, hepatic and renal dysfunction, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
Rose Komano, 18, was the first patient to be discharged, who was from the medical ward in Gueckedou where the outbreak had originated. Dr. Marie-Claire Lamah, who works at one of the treatment centers at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), was thrilled when Komano first stepped out from the treatment center. She got the whole medical team cheering for her, she said.
Komano said that she didn’t feel sick anymore, yet she didn’t understand why she was sick in the first place. She had spent 10 days in the treatment center with medics who were armored in yellow protective gear. She had to shower with chlorine and received clean, new clothes before exiting the ward. WHO says that patients are discharged once all of the symptoms of Ebola are no longer there.
Ebola infects wild animals such as gorillas, chimps, monkeys, fruit bats, and antelopes, based on those that were found dying or dead in the rainforest, according to WHO. Infected humans can carry the virus to other people via direct skin contact and indirect contact via the environment and objects that are contaminated with the fluids. Even the dead can transmit Ebola since the local African burial ceremonies allow the mourners to touch the corpse. Those who have recovered from the disease could still infect other people. WHO stated that male survivors could still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery. It is rather difficult to detect because of its inconsistent incubation period within its host, which is usually between two to 21 days.
Although there is no current cure for Ebola, there is still some hope for both victims and survivors. Since 2001, there has been numerous testings of treatments against Ebola and other lethal diseases in the United States, according to WND. One of these treatments, a protein called cyanovirin-N, appears to be effective. However, it is still undergoing various stages of testing. Early phases of the testing showed that cyanovirin-N had at least 90 percent efficacy. The protein uses a microbicide property that “reduces the infectious nature of various viruses or bacteria” rather than a vaccine property that has biological compounds that can boost the victims’ immune system. Cyanovirin-N prevents Ebola and other infectious agents from leeching and infecting healthy cells. Due to funding problems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hurdles, and side effects of the treatment, the cure may be years away from reaching the general public that desperately needs it.
Even without the Ebola treatment, Komano and the other survivors bring hope to those who are infected. Meanwhile, WHO and other international health organizations must use the isolation method to contain the infection from spreading. Early treatment and identification as well as refraining from touching certain animals and infected people can greatly reduce the risk of spreading this deadly disease.
By Nick Ng