As of December 2 in the disease-ridden countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Senegal, and Nigeria, Ebola has taken the lives of 6,113 individuals and infected more than 17,000 people.
The U.S. was startled with four American cases of Ebola. The first patient, Dr. Kent Brantly, was treated at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. A few other individuals who were working as missionaries in Liberia were quietly discharged from Emory as they healed from the disease. Despite the Western arrival of Ebola, problems are much greater in West Africa.
How are some people’s immune systems equipped to fight Ebola?
The 40% of people who survive this deadly disease obviously have uniquely strong immune systems which can handle Ebola’s initial impact, which “depletes the body’s immune cells, which defend against infection, said Derek Gatherer, a bioinformatics researcher at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, who studies viral genetics and evolution (livescience.com)
The human leukocyte antigen-B is another marker found in Ebola survivors. This gene produces a protein which is critical for immune functions.
“A 2007 study found that people with certain versions of this gene, called B*07 and B*14, were more likely to survive Ebola, while people with other versions, called B*67 and B*15, were more likely to die.” (livescience.com)
What is the state of the current humanitarian relief effort?
Dr. Joseph Fair, a leading American physician in Liberia aiding humanitarian efforts said in a recent 60 Minutes interview that “…until we handle outbreaks where they occur, we are never going to be safe ourselves.”
In a one-disease hospital with a staff of about 200, run by American doctor Pranav Shetty, Ebola victims in Liberia are treated in corresponding regions of the camp: high risk, cleared, and those waiting to find out if they have the disease.
Doctors in this intensive unit stress that they need more global support to fight this disease. Most of the staff are Liberian; in order to raise spirits, they sing hymns each day before putting their suits on.
Cleaning protocols are excessive, but necessary to fend off the disease. Everywhere around the camp are chlorine centers. Chlorine kills the virus instantly. A dedicated team of staffers follow every individual that walks into the camp and sprays them with chlorine periodically to kill any trace of Ebola.
Around the camp, staffers are covered head to toe in protective gear. Dr. Colin Bucks remarked that “the tough part is that when the masks get filled with your own breath and sweat, that then it really gets hard to breathe. And you have to go to breathe. You have to get out then. You feel like you’re suffocating.”
These doctors’ valiant efforts to contain Ebola can only go so far without more global assistance. Funds and resources have been flowing in more than ever before, however there is much more work that needs to be done before the virus can be declared over, and the world can breathe a sigh of relief.