Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ebola: New studies model a deadly epidemic

News Brief by Shane Visram

Over a year after the “flood-like” contagion of the Ebola disease began, more than 21,000 cases of the disease have been reported with almost 9,000 confirmed deaths. With the death toll rapidly increasing, public health professionals across the United States are attempting to better understand the epidemiology of the disease and how to better contain it. 

A frightening aspect of Ebola is the collection of symptoms known as hemorrhagic fever. This fever causes bleeding out of the mouth, eyes, nose, and ears, leaving healthcare professionals shocked and unprepared. 

Several factors contributed to the accelerated spread of the disease such as deforestation which caused fruit bats (the initial reservoir for the Ebola Virus) to come into closer contact with humans. 

Currently, as there is no vaccine for Ebola, pre-symptomatic isolation is the greatest hope. Carlos Castillo-Chaves of the Levin Mathematical and Modeling Sciences Center highly stresses the importance of mathematical modeling in studying isolation effectiveness for epidemics such as this. 

Hope for a vaccine, however, still lives on. Previous studies involving a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies from tobacco plants have been tested and have shown some promise in animal testing along with many other tested methods.

The disease however does seem to be somewhat retreating from West Africa. According to the World Health Organization, fewer than 100 new weekly cases have been reported in the three most effected countries. This is the lowest rate of reported cases since June of 2014.

Arizona State University. "Ebola: New studies model a deadly epidemic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2015. .

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