Fast facts about Ebola Virus

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By Dr. Victor Dumaguing

To Your Health

Friday, August 8, 2014


THE news of the outbreak of disease caused by the Ebola virus in countries at sub-Saharan Africa has pushed news about MH17 crash, climactic disasters like typhoons in the Orient and deadly cyclones and tornadoes in the US to the backseat and now the world's attention and interest on how two affected American volunteer workers affected by the virus would be handled by the sophisticated, high-tech medical and isolation facilities of the Emory University in Atlanta, with very close supervision and monitoring by the Center for Disease Control of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

To date there are 729 deaths in Sierra Leone and more than 100 deaths in Liberia, with other nearby countries having significant worrisome increase in deaths daily. The fear and scare are aggravated by the death of the diligent and conscientious physician who risked his own life treating patients afflicted by the Ebola virus.

Ebola virus is a filamentous virus, together with the marburg virus and belongs to the Filoviridae family. Ebola virus is one of the biggest viruses with size at times be as big as l mm compared to most viruses the size of which are expressed in nanometers. Ebola virus is one of the viruses that causes hemorrhagic disease; the others being dengue virus, yellow fever virus, Lassa and Marburg.

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The subtypes of the Ebola virus are named after the place where it was isolated and identified- Sudan, Zaire. In fact, the third subtype Reston was named after the city in Virginia where in the 80s, the virus was isolated from macaque monkeys from Indonesia and take note, Philippines. Good thing, those exposed to the virus did not get sick.

A close look at epidemiologic data shows the Ebola virus should be taken seriously. Several epidemics of hemorrhagic fever in Sudan and Congo in 1976, another one in Sudan 1979, and a repeat outbreak in Congo 1995, followed by more victims in Gabon in 1996. The World Health Organization , is a special agency of the United nations, established in 1948, sent a contingent to Uganda in 2000 to help the people del with 425 cases of Ebola infection, with 225 resulting to death.

The medical world or better yet, the entire humanity owes a debt of gratitude to Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, who one day while gazing through pieces of cut clear glass and lenses, saw minute organisms underneath. Must have been a Eureka experience - a big boon that time during 17th up to early 18th century - when slowly but surely these minute organisms, later on called microbes , were discovered, described and classified.

Obviously, it was the bigger ones that were earlier known - size, shape, staining properties - that were discovered and in fact, were given names. The invention of the electron microscope in 1930, with its sophisticated modification in 1940, afforded the world, a clearer and broader knowledge of the smallest microbes - viruses.

Next week: Know More about Ebola

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 09, 2014.

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