The Democratic Republic of Congo has yet another Ebola outbreak, its 10th since the virus was first identified in 1976. This latest outbreak started in early August in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the fatality rate is 70 percent.
But this outbreak is far different from the one that devastated West Africa a few years ago.
Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health points to experimental treatments for those who have Ebola, one thing that didn’t exist during the outbreak in West Africa.
“We have five therapeutics that are available, three of which were being used actively,” he said.
Cells in our blood, called B cells, fight off infections. Two of the experimental treatments involved copies of antibodies of the B cells that could fight off the Ebola virus.
“A person was infected in the 1995 Kikwit outbreak in the DRC,” Fauci said. “The person recovered from Ebola, and we brought the person here to the United States at the NIH. We drew their blood. We cloned B cells and then we made the antibody.”
The treatment is called monoclonal antibody 114. Fauci says it’s being given to Ebola patients in the DRC.
“So far it’s been given to at least 13 people, and 11 of them have been discharged from the hospital,” he said, “which is pretty good odds.”
Many more people need to receive this treatment — and the two others — before we know if any of them actually work.
“We’re proposing a trial to compare one treatment to another treatment to another treatment,” Fauci said.
Another tool that doctors have this time is a vaccine that protects people from getting Ebola. The vaccine wasn’t available during the height of the outbreak in West Africa.
But, there are other factors in this outbreak that frustrate the efforts to control the Ebola virus:
The outbreak is in a conflict zone, so health workers can’t get to everyone who needs treatment or a vaccine.
A few people in the city of Butembo, with a population of more than 1 million, have contracted the Ebola virus.
The outbreak is near Rwanda and Uganda, and people travel back and forth between the countries to sell and trade goods, so they could also spread Ebola.
Despite medical advances, cases keep rising, although not as fast as they did in West Africa. Still, this has Fauci and others very concerned. (VOA)