At least two more people have died in a new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This brings the death toll to 38. Worse yet, the disease is proving to be the deadliest strain yet. Right now, public health officials are citing mortality rates above 50 percent. To put that into perspective, the infamous Spanish flu had a mortality rate of just 2.5 percent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is rushing to roll out vaccines, which will hopefully slow the spread of the disease. The WHO is distributing 3,300 vaccines in North Kivu, and has another 3,000 in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. If necessary, the WHO has access to 300,000 more vaccines.
Let’s hope the vaccines work. Officials believe the vaccine is still effective. Researchers have confirmed that the outbreak is being caused by the Zaire strain. So far, the Ebola vaccine has been able to combat Zaire Ebola.
The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak brought Ebola into center focus for world health leaders and the media alike. Thousands of people died, including some in developed countries. Travel was greatly restricted, and a vaccine was rushed to market. Some feared that the disease would spread across Africa, and even the world.
That outbreak grew quickly due to lax efforts by world health leaders. Conversely, public health officials are taking Ebola more seriously now.
Indeed, the Equateur province of the DRC previously suffered an Ebola outbreak. However, the WHO and other public health experts quickly responded to contain the disease before it spread. So long as current vaccines and protocols work, public health officials stand a good chance of bringing it under control.
However, if the virus has evolved immunity to the vaccine, or gained the ability to spread through different mediums, containment could quickly become more complicated. Currently, Ebola is only spread through contact with bodily fluid, but in the past, airborne variants plaguing primates have emerged.