Ebola – Hold Your Breath or Get Rational

Nov 14, 2014 | blog, Uncategorized

We would like to thank Dean Swift for his article about ebola, and for allowing us to share it!

We have all been hearing ebola in the news so frequently as of late- what does it mean for the industry?

Dean Swift shares his words, below! 


After terrorism, Ebola virus has been the most frequent participant in the world media spectrum. The resulting disease from this viral infection is truly horrific leading to a painful death in a very short time. All the North American hype and belly-button gazing is difficult to understand if you don’t have the background to put it in context.
If we don’t contribute, this situation will become a problem for all of us.
The true worry is for the people of West Africa at the Ebolavirus epicentre. Poor sanitation, water quality issues and hospitals without the basics should dominate the discussion. Unfortunately, the two aid workers sent back to the US for treatment helped create the media frenzy. Then the death in Dallas and the two subsequent cases really created an uncomfortable paranoia. This severe distraction took our (Western) focus away from the African epicenter. Paranoia has led to blocking supply ships to West Africa. Presently only one airline is flying in to the region from Europe. There are shortages of food, medicines and protective gear resulting in skyrocketing prices.
Medical teams started managing this outbreak as if it were Malaria or Typhoid back in March 2014 in rural areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The knowledge about Ebolavirus was minimal and lead to misdiagnoses. As of the beginning of November, over 14,000 cases have been recorded with a 60% mortality rate.
There is a real endemic need for a vaccine to stop this disease from becoming a continental scourge. The key to preventing further suffering is to promote early detection, without the feeling of stigma, and to build a trustful health care system in Africa.
The Facts
The original epidemic began in 1976 in Zaire and the transmission vector is believed to have originated from Fruit Bats. Ebola virus is a hemorrhagic virus that leads to a high fever and subsequent organ membrane breakdown with severe internal bleeding. Its effects are similar to Marburg and the North American Hanta virus. It is quite remarkable that this outbreak in West Africa is 5,000 km from the area of previous outbreaks. At the beginning, in Sierra Leone and Liberia, there were only 200 local doctors serving 10 million people. During the past 6 months 1/3 of these doctors have died.
The saving grace of this epidemic was that Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) was in the area as part of a Typhoid project. MSF has participated in 10 previous Ebola epidemics or outbreaks since the beginning. The MSF field force has grown from 300 to 2,000 in the past 6 months. MSF, as a volunteer based group were very understaffed as they were, and are still, handling 60% of the cases. The local Health Systems collapsed as people travelled to cities for help and spread the disease to dozens of distinct areas including large cities like Monrovia. These are conditions that are already present on a regular basis, but because the clinics are so full of Ebola patients, people with other conditions such as malaria just can’t get the care that they need.
Funeral traditions, such as returning the dead back to their villages with intimate end of life ceremonies, have only exacerbated the situation.
Where we go from here
I am no infectious disease expert, but I can guarantee that there are very few knowledgeable people on this continent who have first hand experience with the Ebolavirus. What I can explain is that the principles of infection control have at this time, once again, gone off the rails, as they have so many times in the past. The key to managing this crisis is to control each case correctly by having thorough follow-up and giving education that minimizes stigma and enhances trust in the Medical system.
From a disinfection point of view, Ebolavirus is very easily inactivated by almost all disinfectants. It is an enveloped virus, which, in simple terms, means it has all of its “junk” on the outside of its envelope, much like HIV and H1N1. Products such as BioSURF are effective in as little as 20 seconds against similar types of viruses.
Infection Control has to be a global concern. We must collaborate and coordinate as “earthlings” in these endeavours. My suggestion, should you be very concerned about the plight of the African continent , is to support Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF Doctors without Borders) who have been and continue to be the lead agency in so many humanitarian emergencies.
Dean Swift B.Sc. B.Ed. FADM Cert. Tox.
Research Director Biolennia Laboratories, Toronto, Canada