Updated 06:05 AM EST, Sun, Dec 05, 2021

Ebola News Update 2014: Why We Don't Have a Vaccine Yet

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Currently, there is no single drug or vaccine to treat the Ebola virus. In the over 40 years since it was first classified in Africa, treatment has changed very little. Instead of a direct cure or treatment, doctors and nurses focus on mitigating the symptoms of the disease, such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and also keeping the patients hydrated as best they can. 

According to the Associated Press, recent outbreaks in West Africa have seen over 1,300 infections since March, with more than 700 of those cases resulting in death. 

WHY DON'T WE HAVE AN EBOLA TREATMENT IN 2014?

For one reason, there hasn't been a lot of work done with the virus, relatively speaking. Because of the virus' deadly nature, only facilities with the highest security protocols can afford to house and analyze it. Apparently Ebola doesn't play nice with traditional petri dishes, further complicating analysis. 

Another issue is that the virus is rare. No one knows when or where an outbreak will occur until it is too late, which makes testing experimental treatments difficult.

This current outbreak is the largest on record, and yet the relative number of people affected by the virus is miniscule compared to something like Malaria or HIV/AIDS. That means that funding is also lower for Ebola than for other more prominent diseases. 

One virologist confirmed Ebola treatment research's economic non-viability when he stated: "It's not economically viable for any company to do this kind of research because they have stockholders to think about." 

So essentially the companies that have the resources to analyze and potentially treat the disease aren't willing to because there isn't enough profit in it for them. 

LOOKING AHEAD

The AP reports that there are currently "a half dozen" potential Ebola vaccines being developed. One such vaccine, developed by the U.S. Army, has had some signs of success it its tests on monkeys. Yet, there is still doubt that the treatment would work in humans

"We think this may work because of the animal models but until you do the studies in humans, you just don't know," states Fred Hayden of the University of Virginia. Hayden is an infectious diseases expert who was not involved in this particular study. 

EXPERIMENTAL SOLUTIONS

Some scientists have raised the issue of using this new outbreak as an opportunity to test experimental treatments on those infected. While the World Health Organization is unwilling to endorse any such tests right now, one has already gone forward. 

An American aid worker who contracted Ebola during the current epidemic has been given some form of experimental treatment, though it is currently unknown what kind of drug it was. 

Yet this raises the obvious question as to why aid workers are receiving treatment while the general African population does not.

Though one researcher, Dr. Heinz Feldmann, noted the presence of mistrust towards westerners by the West African nations when he said, "At the moment, it doesn't even look like the local population wants it." 

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