The Ebola Virus
Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is a severe, often-fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (monkeys and chimpanzees) that has appeared sporadically since its initial recognition in 1976. It can be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected live or dead animals, and more specifically with their body fluid. Its infectious nature and deadly affect on human makes it something to be reckoned with. This paper compares and contrasts the effects of the Bubonic Plague vs. the Ebola Virus and its impact on humans if there were to be an outbreak in a vastly populated area.
The Ebola Virus
During the Dark Ages a plague swept through Asia and Europe killing millions of people; at the time it was unstoppable with a unique set of hosts. The plague, later named “The Black Death” became one of the greatest catastrophes humanity has ever witnessed. Its predominance was mainly due to the lack of knowledge about sanitation and knowledge about the plague’s common hosts. Later in the late 20th century an outbreak occurred in Africa that killed at an alarmingly rapid rate, wiping out whole villages. It was later discovered that it was caused by a mutated virus that infected animals and was able to jump species. This epidemic also became a major problem in the world for its time. In a modern setting with such a large and close population, with such a wide span of mass global transportation, as we have today, the Ebola virus would be a more devastating epidemic than the plague if both were re-introduced into society. The history of the Bubonic Plague has proven to be a convoluted one. It all started when an Italian merchant ship was returning from China where the plague was already omnipresent. When the ship landed at its location, the bacteria quickly spread sparking off the beginning of an epidemic. The Bubonic Plague had two unique carriers; one being the common rat that used to be frequently found on trade ships, and the other being the fleas found on rats, which could jump from the rats to humans. Both of these carriers were widespread in ancient society (14th century). The epidemic spread all over Europe by these means of transportation but slowed down at Germany due to their good hygiene. The history of the Ebola virus is much more modern. The first outbreak of Ebola was in Zaire (1976) with a kill rate of 88% and infecting 314 people. It was believed that the onset of the outbreak originated from a monkey that was carrying the virus and attacked a woodsman, transferring it to him. The virus’s main means of transportation is through contact with the already infected. Although large organizations like the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.) went to try and stop the spread of the virus, it continued to infect large amounts of people. Infection occurred even with great public awareness and drastic quarantine techniques. After the virus killed itself out, it reappeared in Sudan the same year. It again was believed to originate from monkeys. Though this strain was much less potent with only a 55% kill rate, it proved to be unstoppable until the virus killed itself out (The term “killed itself out” is used because the virus will kill all of its potential hosts in an area so it can no longer infect anyone or anything, literally ‘killing itself out’.) It reappeared in Sudan In 1979. Another strain of the virus was found in Virginia, Texas. This strain was a highly infectious one, but was not able to fully jump species from monkey to human. The virus killed every monkey in the quarantine but did not spread due to the drastic measures taken by the C.D.C., which included incinerating everything in the building including the infected monkeys, filling the building with ammonia gas, and quarantining the four infected humans. The Black plague’s scientific background is not very complex. The strain was only changed...
* CDC Ebola Fact Sheet: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/Fact_Sheets/Ebola_Fact_Booklet.pdf
* The World Health Organization
* CNN News
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