The most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest epidemic to date, with more deaths and recorded cases in this outbreak than in every previous outbreak combined. The first notified cases occurred in March 2014 and, since that date, the World Health Organisation has estimated there have been nearly 28,000 cases of the disease with 11,298 confirmed deaths.
While the overwhelming majority of these cases (99%) have occurred in three West African countries – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – this has not stopped panic and hysteria gathering pace globally. So what are the facts with regards to Ebola, and how is Ebola research evolving?
What is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease (EVD or Zaire ebolavirus) is a rare, severe, and potentially fatal human illness. It was first discovered in 1976 after two simultaneous outbreaks in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of five identified Ebola viruses that originate from the virus family Filoviridae, the other four Ebola viruses being the Tai Forest virus (Tai forest ebolavirus), the Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus), the Bundibungyo virus (Bundibungyo ebolavirus) and the Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus).
What causes Ebola and how can you catch it?
Researchers believe the Ebola virus is transmitted to people from animals, with bats being the most likely virus host. The virus then spreads amongst humans as a result of human-to-human transmission. Transmission can only occur if a person has direct contact with a bodily fluid of an infected person (dead or alive). This means Ebola can only be caught if infected bodily fluids (such as blood, urine, saliva, vomit, sweat, faeces, breast milk or semen) touch broken skin or a mucous membrane in a person’s eyes, nose or mouth.
The most recent Ebola virus epidemic has resulted in panic and hysteria, leading to a number of misinformed beliefs with regards to how the disease is caught. Ebola cannot be spread through the air, water or via food. This means Ebola can’t be caught from a handshake or hug, or through coughing/sneezing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued formal advice for individuals in an area with an Ebola outbreak.
- Wash hands often with soap, water, and an alcohol-based sanitiser.
- Do not touch blood or bodily fluids, or handle items that may have come into contact with a sick person’s blood or bodily fluids.
- Do not touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola.
It is important to remember that Ebola remains a rare disease. People are only at risk of contracting Ebola if they have travelled to an area with an Ebola outbreak, and if they have had direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from a person with Ebola. To date, there has only been one confirmed case in the United Kingdom, and four confirmed cases in the United States.
Symptoms and signs
Symptoms of Ebola can appear at any point between two and twenty-one days after contact. In addition, a person infected with Ebola will only become infectious once symptoms have begun. Initial symptoms include a sudden onset of fever and fatigue, muscle pains, headaches and a sore throat. This is followed by diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and, in some cases, unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Treatment and research
There remains at present no proven treatment for the Ebola virus. Medical treatment is limited to supportive rehydration measures with oral or intravenous fluid, as well as the treatment of specific symptoms. There are however a number of vaccine trials undergoing human safety testing and one vaccine in particular – VSV-EBOV – has produced promising results. An interim analysis of the Guinea phase III vaccine trial has so far shown this vaccine has proved highly effective against Ebola. Trials are set to continue, but there is room for optimism.
Ebola remains a popular subject of research. We provide a comprehensive range of products relating to Ebola studies, including:
- Virus samples
- Ebola NP protein
- Ebola Zaire protein
- Ebola Sudan protein
- Anti-NP (Ebola/Zaire)
- Virus antibodies
- Anti-GP (Ebola/Zaire)
- Anti-GP (Ebola/Cote dlvoire)
- Ebola Virus VP40 antibody
- Mouse anti Ebola virus
- MAb to Ebola Virus antibody
- Ebola Virus (EBOV) Real Time RT-PCR Kit
See our website here for a full listing of Ebola products and related suppliers.
If you are interested in the field of immunology, 2BScientific can help. We work with a number of high profile manufacturers in the field and offer a wide range of reagents and immunogens, equipping researchers, students and scientists throughout Europe with the reagents they need to carry out their research.
To find out more about 2BScientific’s industry-leading range of immunogens, call us today on +44 (0)1869 238033 or contact us here for more information.