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Western Africa nations battle against latest Ebola outbreak

Ebola's latest outbreak has businesses and medical officials concerned.
Ebola's latest outbreak has businesses and medical officials concerned.

This blog has extensively discussed the gradual spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, but now medical officials have to do research on another virus: Ebola. This virus was initially discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo nearly 40 years ago and has found its way west to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Guardian reported.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the more than 300 cases of Ebola were found in Guinea, killing 208 individuals. During previous outbreaks of Ebola, officials found that up to 90 percent of affected persons will die of a hemorrhagic fever. As Ebola continues to spread to neighboring nations like Sierra Leone and Liberia, scientists are wondering, how did a historically central African problem make its way west?

The WHO's findings about Ebola in these African nations have gone against statements government officials have made to residents, TIME Magazine explained. Because Ebola has no cure or vaccine to protect others from contracting the highly contagious disease, WHO has deployed five experts to visit these nations and work with hospitals to see what can be done to contain the outbreak. Failing to do so may result in residents leaving the nation without knowing if they have Ebola.

Lancaster University researcher Derek Gatherer published an article in the Journal of General Virology last month on the future of Ebola, stating that it "will be a while before we see Ebola outbreaks being treated with drugs, or people in risk areas being vaccinated," so it is pertinent that health care professionals take time to "use quarantine and tracing of contacts to suffocate transmission as quickly as possible."

"The worst-case scenario would be uncontained Ebola within a large city and people flying out of the city to other parts of the world," Gatherer wrote.

What makes Ebola a dangerous force to work with is that examining the sequence of the virus is nearly as dangerous as battling the outbreak itself,  University of Edinburgh biologist Gytis Dudas noted in Sci Dev.net, an online science publication. This would also explain why information on Ebola remains low, despite health professionals having known about the virus for 38 years.

Sierra Leone's rapid response

As of June 5, there have been no reports on what Guinea or Liberia intend to do to reduce the spread of Ebola, but mining companies African Minerals Ltd and London Mining announced that they will begin to implement early phases of their business continuity plan — just in case the government declares travel restrictions.

Actions that have been taken include placing travel restrictions to mining facilities in the region and educating staff members about the dangers of Sierra Leone. This safety precaution could be helpful to the nation with over 79 confirmed cases of Ebola.

African Minerals and London Mining are the first and second biggest iron-ore producers in the continent, according to Bloomberg. After making this announcement, shares for both businesses fell to 2009 lows. However, it appears to have caused a trend: more than 12 iron-ore organizations are enacting their own business continuity plans, so the impact of closing shop won't be as financially detrimental.

"Companies are taking a harder look and asking 'Are we in great danger?'," John Rose, COO of iJET International Inc. told Bloomberg. "They can turn the switch on very quickly and move people."

What medical personnel should know about Ebola

The contagious virus typically spreads from an animal's bodily fluids or blood from a person. Health care professionals, especially virologists working with Ebola samples should be extremely cautious because any drop of liquid can become an infection. There are also multiple strains of Ebola, so one solution may not apply to another type of Ebola.

Doctor offices and hospitals that need to revamp their virus preparation plans can benefit from business continuity consultants. These professionals can help identify gaps in a department's emergency strategies and develop one more suitable to the staff and patient population.