The Ebola vaccination seems like a dream come true for those who live and work in areas endemic to Ebola. Ebola and all its relatives are horrific diseases that compose the stuff of nightmares. With a lethality rate around 50%, it’s a killer, and here’s the kicker: twenty to fifty percent of Ebola patients die even if they get top-notch care in high-level hospitals, like those found in the USA and Europe. Anything other than round the clock care in a hospital yields a mortality rate of 90%. Ebola is a blood-borne disease, but given that extensive hemorrhaging is a common symptom, the Ebola virus is transmitted readily from human host to host. Considering the interconnectedness of the modern world, it’s possible for the virus to travel from nation to nation, continent to continent, in asymptomatic carriers; that is, people who’ve contracted the disease and are contagious, but don’t know they’re sick yet.
Should Americans Worry?
Really, we shouldn’t, although Ebola, one of the Marburg viruses, isn’t simply “an African disease,” and over the last several years, it’s moved out of the remote jungles to some of the larger cities in Africa. That’s the kind of situation no one wants, as the more people the virus infects, the more likely exponential infection can occur. In fact, in the late 1980s, a variant of Ebola was discovered in monkeys at a research facility in Reston, Virginia. Luckily, that variant of Ebola virus isn’t know to infect humans, although it killed many of the monkeys that carried it.
Back to the idea of worrying over Ebola: Ebola isn’t likely to cause a pandemic in the First World, but elsewhere, it has caused great loss of life. In the outbreak of 2014 to 2016 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, 11,310 people died. It’s a real threat.
A New Vaccine in Action
Ebola vaccines have been studied since the early 21st century. The first viable vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, was developed in 2016, with a protection gradient around 70 to 80 percent effectiveness. It’s being used currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, during the worst outbreak of Ebola since 2016. Prevention specialists there are using the ring technique of vaccination, in which only those people most likely to contract the disease are vaccinated.
The effectiveness of rVSV-ZEBOV will be thoroughly analyzed in the months following the end of the Congo outbreak. From there, researchers are hoping to develop a highly reliable vaccine for people who are at the highest risk of contracting Ebola.