Latest Ebola News: Ebola co-discoverer says crisis could have been avoided by early action

Peter Piot, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus in 1976, said that the lesson people should draw from the current Ebola crisis is that this disease could be avoidable by acting early. Speaking at the University of Hong Kong, Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that West Africa's funeral tradition deteriorated the Ebola epidemic. (Read: 10 reasons that make the Ebola virus deadly for humans)

In West African traditions, people touch and kiss the beloved ones in funerals to say goodbye. Once families and friends touched dead bodies, they would be easily infected as the Ebola virus would be in its strongest situation soon after patients died. Once people touched dead bodies they would be easily infected. Piot then stressed that acting early was very important for every outbreak. He said if measures were implemented earlier, and patients were properly isolated, the crisis would be avoidable.

'I would rather be accused of overreacting than not reacting, and then let things out of control,' he said. In his view, stopping the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is in line with the interests of other countries. 'Our world is so globalised...Hong Kong (for instance) is at the crossroads of many many continents. So the best way to control Ebola in any country is to make sure that in West Africa it is stopped.' (Read: What is the Ebola virus disease survival rate?)

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He criticised the US's new policy which demands that anyone who had contact with Ebola sufferers in West Africa has to be put under a 21-day quarantine after flying into New York and New Jersey. He said this would totally undermine volunteers' support to West African countries. About China, Piot warned that the increasing number of Chinese people working in West Africa could pose a risk.

However, Piot believed that the crisis itself could bring positive changes. 'This is an opportunity... to intensify training in infection control of hospital workers,' he said. According to the latest figures released by the World Health Organisation, more than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola and nearly half of them have died. The deadly Ebola virus, which first broke out in West Africa in March, has put the whole world on high alert since it spread to Europe and the US. (Read: Ebola facts frequently asked questions (FAQ))

Here are a few reasons why Ebola is so deadly:

It can kill within seven days: Unlike other viruses (like HIV) that can remain dormant in a person for years without causing the disease, Ebola violently multiplies until the viral particles are amplified to about 100 million viral particles in a droplet of blood. Further, without resting in a dormant stage the virus kills the host to find a new one. The fatality rate of the disease is 60 percent.
There is no vaccine or treatment available: What makes this virus deadly is the fact that researchers have not been able to find an effective treatment or preventive technique to combat the virus and the spread of the disease. The experimental drug Zmapp has shown promising results but the safety and efficacy of the drug are to be evaluated. So, as of now, neither do we have an effective form of therapy nor do we have a vaccine to prevent the disease.

Attacks every part of the human body: Ebola only needs a host cell that can help it produce multiple copies of itself. What worsens the condition is the fact that the virus does not need a specific type of cell to multiply (unlike other deadly diseases). According to studies, except for skeletal muscles and bones, the virus is known to infect every part of the human body. Connective tissues, the ones that hold your internal organs in place, are primary targets of the virus.

With inputs from IANS

Photo source: Getty images

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