Ebola no longer incurable, researchers say

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Ebola no longer incurable, researchers say
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Ebola no longer incurable, researchers say
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Wishes have been granted and hopes are high as two Ebola patients from the Congo have been declared cured. The World Health Organization’s announcement came Monday, August 12, after a year-long outbreak that infected more than 2,800 people and caused over 1,800 deaths – making it the second-largest known Ebola outbreak. Treatments for the disease, previously considered incurable, are predicted to save thousands of lives. However, Congolese mistrust and violence towards outsiders has made it difficult for medical personnel to administer treatments in the past, meaning that only half of the Ebola battle has been won.

According to Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, gaining trust in these societies is just as crucial as the treatments themselves. In a recent interview, Konyndyk explained, “Stopping the spread is not just a matter of curing the people who already have it. It’s a matter of preventing those who have it from spreading it to others through risky behaviors.”

The behavior that Konyndyk is referring to is the Congolese’s tendency to hide the sick from outsiders and treat the disease from home, where its estimated that at least a third of victims will die. The spread of Ebola as a direct result of the desire to protect loved ones has led Konyndyk to describe the disease as one “that preys on very basic human instincts and emotions.”

Thus, it’s generally understood by the research community that treatments can only do so much until behavior and attitudes about the illness dramatically shift. Until then, it’s predicted that roughly 75% of those that go untreated by professionals will continue to perish unnecessarily.

What’s more, even with trust, medical staff will still need to vaccinate that majority of the impacted population in order for the treatments to be effective. Known as herd immunity, vaccinations protect a population by stopping the transmission of dangerous illnesses among most of its individuals. However, experts estimate that at least 80 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be achieved.

As tough as the situation seems, nevertheless, it’s believed that the new treatments may allow responders to overcome mistrust and save many more lives. Moreover, researchers are hopeful that solving both aspects of the crisis will provide a model for treating other illnesses and outbreaks in the future.

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