The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the endgame on the current outbreak of Ebola. New cases for the week ending January 25th were down to 99, the lowest since June 2014. Over 22,000 people were infected with Ebola and 8,795 have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Meanwhile, over at the Institut Pasteur in France, scientists are agreed that the Ebola virus is mutating. This isn’t unusual, like HIV and flu, Ebola is an RNA virus, which means the virus is more able to adapt and mutate.
What’s of concern is whether the Ebola virus will mutate to become less deadly, which would be positive, or whether it will become more contagious, or worse, become airborne. Currently the pathogen is only transmitted through contact with bodily fluids from infected individuals.
The Paris research is studying blood samples from infected patients and it is hoped that this work will throw some light on why some patients are unaffected, some suffer minor symptoms and many die. Currently, the survival rate is 40%. The research will assist scientists and doctors in their quest for a vaccine.
Current research has indicated that a modified version of the current measles vaccine may prove effective. But until then we must await — and prepare for — the next outbreak.
“We’ve seen now this is a threat that can be quite large and can extend on a global scale,” said Professor James Di Santo, and immunologist at the Institut Pasteur.
“We’ve learned this virus is not a problem of Africa, it’s a problem for everyone.”