Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Doctors Without Borders Report: Last Week, The Ebola Outbreak Turned One. . .

However. . . rather than dwell on all the quite accurately-reported problems with the global response to this outbreak, from Doctors Without Borders, I'll choose to highlight two old, but promising, antiviral agents that seemed to work, in at least a few post contraction human cases, to arrest progression of the hemorrhagic virus. [See graphic at right, and the European Community statements here.]

I suppose the enduring tragedy of it all will turn out to be that there was no need for the outbreak to see its first birthday. Had we, collectively, made finishing this vaccine candidate (long ago discovered in Canada) a priority, the outbreak may well have ended in just a few months -- and not have claimed upwards of 11,000 lives. In any event, here is a bit from Wired, this morning:

. . . .Last week, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa achieved its first birthday. Though the viral outbreak has been contained, it is still not under control: According to the World Health Organization, cases continue in Sierra Leone and are rising again in Guinea. Liberia was about to record an entire incubation period without a new case — a signal that the chain of person-to-person transmission might have been broken — but on Friday, it announced that it had found a single new case. How that woman became infected is unclear; it is possible that she represents, not a new outbreak, but a brief interruption in an otherwise promising trend.

It has been decades since there was an epidemic of this persistence and magnitude. No other Ebola outbreak matches it; nor does the 2003 epidemic of SARS. You would have to go back to the early days of HIV in the 1980s, or to the flu pandemics in 1968, 1957 or even 1918, to find an outbreak that sickened so many people, challenged international response capacity so much, and instilled such fear in other countries. . . .

Even so, with at least two vaccine candidates showing promise, and these antiviral agents, we may be just a few steps away from turning the corner, here. Onward.

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