Still on Ebola: ‘The African Disease’? By Sada Malumfashi
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (EHF) was named after a river in the then Zaire after first isolated by a group of scientists in Belgium. This endemic zootropic virus has recently gone ballistic just as it had in precious decades since its first incidence in the 1970s. It is now a full-blown endemic and currently is multiplying in Africa’s largest city, Lagos.
Much has been said and debated, both realistically and mystically on this deadly virus. It is on record that some African natives don’t actually believe the disease itself exists, and certain healthcare workers in Liberia have been pelted with stones as people believe they brought the endemic to them, not putting aside the other theory that it is actually a bioterrorism weapon used for certain purposes by certain world super powers; but that’s another story. The main factor is: It kills and it does so rapidly, in no time, and close to some 40 years since its first incidence no proper vaccine or treatment protocol has been put forward to counter future threats.
It doesn’t really seem that lack of an Ebola vaccine is simply due to lack of ingenuity or scientific capability in this 21st century. No, the drugs are just stuck in the lab because it is a mainstream African disease, and hence borders on the pharma-economics of the drug market itself. Put it this way, no drug giant industry is willing to pour dollars; lots of dollars, into the research of a certain zoonotic African disease that erupts once a while and affects the poorest of the world population. There is certainly no return in that, and the ‘Pharma-Industry’ certainly revolves only around the money. Drugs are not made to treat the poor, and the unfortunate victims of Ebola have certainly been the poorest.
About more than 60 health workers have died since the latest outbreak and unfortunately all have been African nationals, as their counter-colleagues of developed nations who tested positive for the same virus were flown across the Atlantic and used as some sort of laboratory specimen on a drug that was hitherto unknown to the world, but appeared providentially in their time of need and appears to do just the right thing. We Africans are yet again left to lament, but it’s really time to make a stand. It is indeed an African disease and we need to learn how to solve our problems and fast. It is worth noting that diseases like baldness and erectile dysfunction have received more funding than our killer-tropical disease. One may ask of the about 29 African billionaires of which four are from Nigeria, where are they lurking while this virus ravages around. Is return for investment a more priority than lives that are been wasted and the more that will follow eventually? Where is the humanity? We might not be rich enough or have the scientific capability of those higher nations, but what we cannot do is just sit-tight with folded arms waiting for a vaccine or a drug from the so called ‘World-Powers’ when we can make strides to curb this menace on our own.
Yes, going straight into vaccine or drug production is indeed a colossal task but are we even focusing on increasing the survival rate of the infected and curbing the spread of the virus? The health-care sector in the whole of the West-African sub region is dilapidated as it is. Basic equipment and tools to help curb and quarantine the unfortunate are unfortunately lacking all through the region. Convalescent therapy, the transfusion of the blood of a person who has survived the virus to a patient after incubating at a high temperature and screening of HIV, typhus, and other infections, has in literature been used to treat a healthcare worker in Britain in the previous century, and despite its rarity and various technicalities, it is one of the only possible curative measures that is practicable and available in our environment. So despite the risks, it does seem more adventurous than constant rehydration with electrolytes as is the case now, after all patients are in haemorrhagic shock so what else could be worse. Yet at what point do we go for broke?
With Ebola ravaging populations at will anytime it erupts since 1976 but with no proper funded research for vaccine, one buts wonder why the whole and pocket-hearted support of the West towards our Polio Vaccination. What’s actually in it for them?
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