|Ebola viruses, artwork – RC5832|
Two American aid workers are currently being treated at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital after contracting Ebola in Liberia during their humanitarian visit to address the current outbreak in west Africa. Both patients received an experimental drug, known as the ZMapp serum, before returning to the U.S. and have reportedly shown significant improvement. Until that point in time, the drug had only been successful in animal experiments and had not yet gone through clinical trials to assess its safety and long-term effects. The use of untested drugs can carry serious scientific and ethical implications, and even if successful, cannot be used in the middle of an outbreak. The company which developed the drug will begin clinical trials in September, hoping to develop a vaccine by late next year.
The Ebola virus causes hemorrhagic fever, resulting in internal and external bleeding as well as damage to the nervous system. Since there is no vaccine or cure, patients can die from dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea if they do not receive early supportive care. The virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids of infected individuals, often in environments where patients may not be properly quarantined. The outbreak in west Africa is the worst in recorded history, with nearly 900 deaths since February.