Ebola, You Say?

The recent outbreaks of Ebola internationally have caused mass panic. West Africa was the receptor of even more negative public reaction than usual, and flights internationally were cancelled. One university even closed its doors to all applicants from West Africa. Ebola was, in a sudden rush of media and word of mouth, compared to the black plague of the Middle Ages that wrecked havoc across the entire European landmass.

But is it truly as terrible as media has portrayed it to be? Among all the different claims being made over the media, what can you believe? Search no further among the myriads of internet articles. Here is the concise summary of Ebola, including everything you will need to know for now.

Ebola is caused by four different viruses: BDBV, SUDV, TAFV, and EBOV. EBOV – ebola virus – is the main cause of Ebola. Ebola is a virus that first disarms the immune system and then destroys the vascular (blood and heart) system. Within the human body, dendritic cells, which sense infections, are in charge of alerting the rest of the immune system so that white blood cells can attack the pathogens. The Zaire ebolavirus, however, attacks these cells first. This means that the white blood cells don’t react. The body’s primary immune system doesn’t even put up a fight. The virus begins to reproduce very quickly. It travels through the bloodstream and causes coagulation, decreasing the flow of blood throughout the body in various places. It also causes the internal walls of blood vessels to weaken, and so they often leak. Blood seeps into organs where it certainly should not. External bleeding doesn’t always occur, but is one of the primary signs of Ebola.

A high fever is triggered throughout the body, but the liver is one of the greatest victims of this disease. Ebola also can cause severe diarrhea, which dehydrates the victim, and cuts off blood pressure. This can lead to circulatory failure – the organs are starved of oxygen. In the end, it is the failure of many organs, combined with an overall incredible weakness, that kills the victim.

Now, this seems absolutely terrible, doesn’t it? To be fair, some of the plagues that ravaged Europe throughout the years (the plague of Athens, the Bubonic Plague) also seemed this horrifying. Bleeding from orifices, fevers, great weakness, and high death rates are something that they all have in common. So is Ebola going to wipe out humanity?

No.

This is not the first time Ebola has come onto the scene. There was another outbreak in 1976 in Sudan, a country in sub-Saharan Africa. 151 people died. The second major outbreak was in Zaire, another sub-Saharan African country, about two months later. A schoolteacher first contracted it, and the government moved fast to quarantine the entire area. Despite a mass panic, the government managed to contain things quickly. Occasional outbreaks throughout the years have claimed the lives of more people, mostly Africans. The outbreak that is currently in news headlines has been titled the 2014 West African Outbreak. It’s been traced back as far as a two-year old girl who died of it at the end of 2013. This outbreak has killed five thousand, and thirteen thousand were infected. The honest truth is that people have been dying from Ebola for years and years – but when Caucasian healthcare workers suddenly fell ill, and died, the entire West panicked.

Another factor that contributed to the spread of fears about Ebola is the gruesome way in which it kills: internal bleeding, leading to incredible pain and the coughing up of blood, and outer bleeding, involving bleeding from all the human orifices.

At the same time, all the medical workers are now encouraging us not to panic. Luckily, Ebola is not contagious until its symptoms show. Being in contact with someone with Ebola that begins to show the symptoms only a week later puts you in almost no danger. Contraction of the disease occurs only through contact with bodily fluids, such as sweat, saliva, blood, and digestive fluids (if the Ebola victim has thrown up).

Mel Robbins from CNN put it this way. “Fear-bola attacks the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking,” she says. “It starts with a low-grade concern about the two health care workers diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas and slowly builds into fear of a widespread epidemic in the United States.”

It’s easy to get caught between the two sides of this epidemic. Is it going to wipe out millions in each continent, or has it been an overblown joke all along? The truth, like it almost always is, is somewhere between the two extremities. Ebola is of course not a joke – at all. It has already killed thousands, and there is no cure for it. Its spread seemed unstoppable. It was stopped, but it wasn’t a confident, easy move. In many ways it was like groping in the dark for a solution. While the solution was found, I believe a certain modicum of luck was involved. If another outbreak occurs, and its as much larger as the 2014 West African outbreak than the West African Outbreak was bigger than the Zaire one, the consequences would be astoundingly terrible, for everyone.

I often tend to fantasize, but I’ve wondered: what if a new strain of the virus develops, that is contagious even before the symptoms show? Or, worse yet, if a new strain develops that is more contagious than the current one. Imagine if it could spread through any skin contact, or through touched objects, or through coughs and sneezes? I don’t know anything about viruses and how they develop, but I do enjoy imagining far-out scenarios. Then again, it might not be that ridiculous. Make sure you stay safe, keep researching, and keep your eyes on the news. But above all, make sure you don’t contract Fearbola.

 

 

Ebola Virus

This is the Ebola virus

Two medical workers at the Ebola outbreak in Zaire

Two medical workers at the Ebola outbreak in Zaire

 

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