The whole world is talking about a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in Western Africa, the worst since the disease was discovered near the Ebola river, in the Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), in 1976. At the time, 280 of the 300 people infected with the virus died. According to some scientists and historians, the plague first appeared between the years 430 and 425 before Christ and killed 300 thousand people in a deadly outbreak.
Much has been said about this disease, for which there is still no cure and for which a 12 percent survival rate is reported, but, has anything significant been done to prevent its spread? Quite clearly, it hasn’t.
Most nations, including Cuba, remain alert and attempt to keep the virus from crossing its borders. Ultimately, it is unlikely the virus will spread considerably, owing mainly to the hygienic and sanitary conditions (medical faciltiies with the latest in medical technology, intensive care units, well-trained specialists and access to medications) that prevail in most countries, conditions that countries like Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Nigeria – where nearly a thousand people, including children, have died since the outbreak began in March – do not have.
If the governments with the needed resources sincerely want to prevent the spread of Ebola, they need only help the countries affected – the poorest in the world – to improve their sanitary and general living conditions.
Most are concerned about keeping the virus out of their homes, but few actually care about the reasons the epidemic returns time and time again to these poor regions of the planet.
According to information provided by the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), no cases of the disease have been reported in Cuba.
Ports, airports and marinas are being monitored to prevent or control potential cases that may arrive in the country. According to the Director of MINSAP’s International Control Department Niurka Molina Avila, medical doctors working in African countries and all personnel arriving from these regions are subjected to a daily examination, in recent days it was learned no Cuban health professionals serving in these countries are working in the areas or wards where infected patients are treated. Those who have returned to Havana on vacation have been isolated and subjected to strict monitoring.
What We Should Know About Ebola
Contagion is possible only through close contact with an infected person. That is to say, to contract the disease, one must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal (alive or dead), such as sweat, vomit, feces, blood, urine or semen. The disease cannot be contracted through aerial channels.
It generally takes 21 days for an infected person to begin showing symptoms, which are common and may be confused with those of other diseases. These include vomiting, fever, headaches, muscular pains, general malaise, diarrhea, stomach ache and lack of appetite. The disease also presents other more specific symptoms: half of those infected present internal hemorrhaging or nose and mouth bleeds, and nearly all pregnant women miscarry. Only after the first symptoms appear can the disease be transmitted.
Currently known strains are more aggressive than previous ones, for unknown reasons. For instance, the last outbreak took place in 2002. Like the first epidemic, it took place in the Congo. At the time, the mortality rate reported was that of 30 percent. Today, 88 percent of patients die of the disease.
Avoiding contagion is not as difficult as we have been led to believe. Medical personnel must use face masks, gloves and long-sleeved gowns when treating patients, as well as routinely wash their hands before and after seeing patients and be particularly careful in the handling and disposal of needles and syringes. Infected persons must be isolated to prevent contagion to relatives.
The one thing that is truly needed to prevent the spread of Ebola (and perhaps eradicate it) is what many African countries lack today: hygiene, adequate medical services and improved living conditions, including electricity and drinking water. Improving basic living conditions is the best remedy for this terrible epidemic.