One of the many, many negatives of the Trump Administration’s dumpster fires is that we lose focus on greater risks because Trump demands so much attention. Among the crises we are overlooking is the latest recurrence of Ebola in the Congo. The latest resurgence of Ebola has reached the city of Butembo, which has a population of more than a million. It’s not a cause for panic, or panicked reactions. Although doubtlessly Trump will have panicked reaction if he notices. But it is a cause for concern.
This most outbreak began in August, and has so far resulted in 467 confirmed cases and 48 probable cases. More than half of the cases have resulted in death (including those of 17 health workers), while 177 patients have recovered. You may remember when Ebola had a 90% death rate; it’s a combination of the virus (or at least some strains of the virus) evolving and better treatment protocols. But any disease with a 50% mortality rate and an incredibly high infection rate is more than a little worrisome.
Ebola is a viral hemmoraghic disease.1 It seems to be endemic in some species of African fruit bats. The bats carry the disease but it doesn’t seriously affect them. It re-enters the human/primate population as bushmeat, wild animals caught and eaten by humans.2 It spreads among primates, including humans, by contact with infected persons of bodily fluids.
This newest epidemic of Ebola has been lost in our truculent President’s twitter storms. While he whines about his wall, real heroes – the kind of hero Trump can only imagine himself to be – like Doctors Without Borders struggle to contain the outbreak. You can be certain that if Trump does notice the problem, his reaction will be inappropriate, just as it was last time.
There are some experimental treatments that show promise, and medical science is much closer to a vaccine; in fact, a large scale trial of a vaccine that may offer 90-95% immunity is under way in South Sudan, on the Republic of the Congo’s border. But Ebola remains a very dangerous disease. It doesn’t help that the Republic of the Congo is in chaos, and afflicted with cholera, measles, and monkeypox s well. The internal displacement of people, as well as movement of Congolese refugees to neighboring countries, has increased the risk of transmission.
You can help. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is a leader in the treatment and management of Ebola epidemics. As well as providing health care in critical health care crises around the globe. They are an amazing organization getting almost 90% of every donor dollar into the field. In the holiday season, consider a gift that can make a difference. Donate here.
- It also mis-named. the disease was first diagnosed in in Yambuku, 60 miles from the Ebola River, but Professor Peter Piot decided to name it after the river so that the town would not be associated with the disease’s stigma. Even the name Ebola River is a misnomer. The correct name is Legbala, which in the Ngbandi language which means “white water”. ↩
- The Ebola virus is in fact made up of five species: Bundibugyo, Ivory Coast, Reston, Sudan, and Zaire, named after their places of origin. Four of these five have caused disease in humans. While the Reston virus can infect humans, no illnesses or deaths have been reported. ↩