After returning to Europe, a Swiss scientist was reported to be suffering
from Ebola hemorrhagic fever. This was the first case reported in 15 years.
Further investigations revealed that the scientist might have been exposed to
the virus while studying unexplained deaths among the chimpanzees in the west
coast of Africa in November 1994. In April 1995, a medical worker died in a
hospital and so did the nurse who cared for him. Now, the population of Kikwit,
a town in Zaire, Africa, is threatened with the killer disease -- the Ebola
The Ebola virus and its related strains were first seen in 1976 in
Sudan. In that year, 280 people died in a village near the Ebola River from
which the virus got its name. The Ebola virus is one of the most mysterious and
deadliest killers. It kills 90 per cent of the victims who are infected. It is
spread through direct contact with infected blood and other body fluids.
Symptoms of the disease are fever, headache, violent diarrheas, vomiting and
weakness. Death finally occurs in the second week when blood pours out from the
eyes, ears and nose.
Meanwhile, scientists gather to search for answers to
cure the hundreds in Kikwit who are infected with this disease. The problem lies
in the fact that no one has any idea what the host or carrier of the Ebola virus
is. Where does the parasite come from ? When the disease was detected in 1976,
scientists killed hundreds of monkeys, bats, rats and other animals in the hope
of finding the host of the disease. However, all tested negative. It is highly
suspected therefore that the host was Man himself.
There is still no vaccine for the virus but the symptoms can be kept under
control. Fortunately, it is not easily transmitted but contact with blood and
contaminated needles can spread the infection at an alarming rate. In the
meantime, health officials are struggling to confine the virus to Kikwit and its
surrounding areas. Spot checks and road blocks are carried out on roads leading
into Zaire's capital. However, these attempts have proved to be unsuccessful as
soldiers can be bribed easily. Air and sea ports around the world like the US,
Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Yemen have also taken
steps to tighten the screening of the Ebola virus.
At this moment, the Ebola
virus is stable with no new cases reported. 101 people are confirmed dead and
136 infected in Kikwit. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the
deadly Ebola virus does not pose a serious international risk. Since the virus
is confined to Kikwit, chances of it spreading beyond the area are very unlikely
as the virus is spread through contact with blood and not through casual contact
or by air.