The Ebola virus has spread rapidly across four countries. It has shocked the world, with scientists and doctors struggling to bring it under control. Currently, over 3,900 people have been infected; more than 2,200 deaths across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria thought to have been caused by Ebola.
The race is on to find a cure or vaccine that could be mass produced in order to try and prevent the spread of the disease. An experimental drug called ZMapp has been used to treat several patients who have contracted Ebola. Many have responded well to the treatment and gone on to recover.
However, there are concerns about the drug’s long-term safety, as it has not been tested in human trials. Supplies of the drug have now been depleted and scientists are working on ways to potentially mass-produce the drug with the aim of progressing to human trials and be used to try and bring the outbreak under control. The next supply of the drug will hopefully be available in December.
Scientists believe that the virus may be carried by African fruit bats, animals which do not show any symptoms of the disease. The outbreak originally began in a remote village in Guinea; a young boy was the first to contract the disease. It is thought that humans may contract the virus when they eat the fruit bats as food. The young boy then passed the virus onto his mother, sister and grandmother who all died before the nurses who treated them also contracted the disease.
Initial symptoms include fever, feeling weak, muscular pain and a sore throat. This develops into vomiting, diarrhoea and in the worst cases internal and external bleeding leading to death. It is spread between humans through direct contact with bodily fluids or through indirect contact with a contaminated environment.
What has made this Ebola epidemic so severe is that it is being spread due to international travel. Previously the outbreak has remained more contained due to individuals living in the remote, fairly static communities. Ebola has become one of the worst epidemics of the 21st century, and a lack of healthcare facilities in W