From Jihad terror to a deadly virus. Of course, no bad news week can be without one…
This is war of another kind – against a virus, which is extra scary because while we think it’s impossible to rationalise with a Jihadist, try convincing an almost invisible molecule not to kill and maim people.
What is a virus?
A virus is “an ultramicroscopic infectious agent that replicates only within the cells of living hosts – mainly bacteria, plants, and animals”.
So they need a host to survive, while bacteria can survive on their own. All viruses cause disease, ranging from mild to deadly, while many bacteria are friendly and necessary for good health.
Viruses mutate and evolve according to their host, in order to replicate and spread most effectively. Efficient little numbers then.
Most of my family was hit by a virus a few weeks ago and it always amazes me how swiftly those sneaky little molecules grab you. One minute you’re assessing apples for lunchbox-fit in the fruit aisle and the next you’re feeling hot and cold and needing a lie down.
What is the Ebola Virus and how is it spread?
The Ebola Virus, also known as hemorrhagic fever is a particularly nasty one that causes, amongst other symptoms, internal and external bleeding, and in 90% of cases, death. It is spread via contact with affected animals or bodily fluids. It spreads only when the symptoms are present, so someone harbouring the virus without symptoms – such as in the early stages – is not contagious.
Fruit bats are thought to carry the virus without showing symptoms. It was first encountered in the Ebola River region of Congo in Africa in 1976, when a school headmaster contracted it and died. There have been a few outbreaks of the virus in the decades since.
What is the source of this year’s outbreak?
It has been traced back to a 2 year old child who was killed by the virus in the Western African nation of Guinea back in December 2013. It is thought that the child caught the virus from an animal, probably a fruit bat (zootonic infection). It spread pretty rapidly into Liberia and Sierra Leone (as if those poor buggers don’t have enough on their plates).
A key event in the spread of the virus was the funeral of a faith healer in May 2014. The healer died after being infected by the virus when she was treating victims. Many people attended her funeral in Sierra Leone and 12 of these people were infected.
What is the fallout?
On the 8th of August, 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the situation an international public health emergency.
To date, there have been more than 3,000 suspected cases including some 1,500 deaths, the biggest outbreak of Ebola virus on record. The WHO warns that these numbers may be vastly underestimated. Tens of thousands of people in the affected countries have been quarantined and are without food.
Suspicions of the outbreak being a hoax have sparked riots and protests, only increasing the spread of the disease. Hospitals and emergency clinics are poorly managed and aren’t adequately protecting their staff. Aid agencies are doing their best but the situation is deteriorating rapidly; the WHO predicts that the worst is yet to come and the UN is saying that up to 20,000 people could contract the virus.
Will it spread to the Western World?
Apparently it is very likely. A feverish man recently boarded a plane from Liberia to Nigeria. On arrival it became evident that he had Ebola, he later died. The passengers and crew of this plane are being followed up and assessed, but it is likely that this will happen again. The virus does not, however, pose such an outbreak risk in developed countries as infection control is highly efficient.
Conclusion: I don’t have any wise words. Or silly ones. Wash your hands? Pray? Give to Red Cross? How bloody awful. Maybe I’ve been watching too many movies but I could easily get all catastrophic over this. For the moment, let’s all go outside in the sunshine, breathe our fresh air and feel very very lucky.
I WILL BE POSTING SOME GOOD NEWS SOON I PROMISE.
Tags: ebola, ebola virus, fruit bats, Liberia, mutating virus, Sierra Leone, virus, West Africa, world news
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