The Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak in West Africa continues to make headlines around the world as organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mobilize to help combat the outbreak.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids or infected animals. It is not transmitted through air or water. According to the CDC, the disease incubates for 2-21 days and symptoms include fever, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting. A non-symptomatic person is not contagious.
No cases have been reported in the United States outside of four American healthcare workers who contracted the disease in Africa and were then treated in the U.S. The virus does not pose a significant threat to the United States.
“Ebola has been isolated to a small area of West Africa and is not in the ecoenvironment of the US,” Dr. Mark Dowell of Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases said. “The main threat would be an infected traveler from a high risk area.”
No vaccine or anti-viral medication has been proven effective against Ebola. ZMapp is an experimental treatment for those infected with Ebola. It’s being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. According to the CDC, a clinical study on humans for safety and effectiveness has not been held and very little of the drug has been manufactured. It’s not available for purchase or general use.
“Vaccine development is a complex process that requires identification of the part of the virus that might help stimulate protection. Next, the concentration of this part of the virus must be determined and lastly, we must prove that it is safe,” Dr. Dowell said. “The fact that Ebola cases have been relatively rare until this outbreak made the research development force vaccine not as big a priority as other vaccine projects. This has now changed.”
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have an Ebola vaccine in development and is preparing for the start of a clinical trial. There are several other companies researching a vaccine and working on therapeutic medication. Currently, treatment for Ebola revolves around treating symptoms resulting from the virus.