Sunday, July 29, 2012

Uganda is suffering from a deadly Ebola outbreak

Ebola is one of the deadliest viruses known to roam the world. It causes deadly internal bleeding all over the body and it is especially lethal because there is no known cure, despite the fact that a recent study shows a vaccine may prevent infection in the future. That does not help us now, as is evident from the fact that the virus has wreaked havoc in the African country Uganda.

So far, the Ebola outbreak has taken the lives of 14 people, the government in Uganda said. It was first reported a few weeks ago as a 'strange disease', after which lab tests confirmed the diagnosis of Ebola-induced haemorrhagic fever. The first casualty was a baby, and eight family members lost their lives afterwards due to spread of the infection. A clinician investigating the first case also died, and other people are currently suspected of being infected. The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the outbreak.

Other outbreaks
Sadly, it is by far not the only recent outbreak of Ebola. Many people in central Africa have died from virus-induced haemorrhagic fever in the last decade, but the world has luckily not yet seen a widespread epidemic or pandemic. The picture below shows recent outbreaks in Africa. There are several strains of Ebola, of which Zaire ebolavirus is the most dangerous.
Ebola is dangerous because it causes internal bleeding and there is no cure. It means that a high percentage of patients die from the resulting bleeding and fever. Scientists do try to develop a cure, and a recent attempt to create a vaccine looks promising. A cocktail of antibodies, immunological molecules that bind to a specific target, were used to create the vaccine. They specifically aimed at a protein present on the surface of the Ebola virus, neutralizing it. It seems to work in monkeys, and hopefully researchers will be able to reproduce its efficacy in humans.

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