Outbreak Investigations: Ebola in West Africa

Ebola was first identified in 1976. Several symptoms including nausea and diarrhea are associated with the presence of Ebola virus, but the most horrifying symptom is the hemorrhagic fever of the skin and eyes (Fox, 2014). The biggest known outbreak of Ebola until now was in Uganda, in 2000. The 2000 Uganda outbreak affected 425 people and killed 224 victims (Fox, 2014). The recent outbreak of Ebola wasreported in West Africa. Thus far, more than 700 people were reported dead in four African countries (WHO, 2014b). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 65 public health experts is in collaboration with the WHO and its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) partners, in assistance to the regional ministries of health and other health partners in 2 countries (WHO, 2014a). The virus is moving faster than the WHO control efforts.

Many cases of Ebola in villages are unreported due to lack of public health facilities or absence of adequate public health infrastructures. Consequently, individuals with unreported and untreated cases of the virus are active media for the transmission of the virus to other people. Based on the lack of proper health care and systematic health care surveillance programs in these areas, especially in the villages, the epidemiological tracking system in the affected areas is insufficient and highly incompetent in tracking infected individuals for immediate and proper health care services (Fox, 2014).

According to government sources and health officials, the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is the biggest outbreak since 1976 and thus far, the ability to control the virus and track infected individuals are out of control (Fox, 2014). About 729 known cases were recorded as fatality cases while many known cases of infection have been reported in four countries; Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, since the virus first re-emerged in March 2014 (WHO, 2014b). The incidence is expected to keep rising if more aggressive control measures are not implemented. There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola virus, and the virus kill about 60% of its victims (Fox, 2014). Unfortunately, due to the lack of proper health care infrastructure and health education in most of the infected areas/villages, unfortunately, the villagers believed that the disease is a curse or is of spiritual origin (Fox, 2014). In furtherance, due to the lack in proper public health infrastructures, volunteers and public health officials are unable to promote health awareness effectively around the villages in educating villages on the mode of transmission of the virus. Ebola spread from person to person via contact and bodily fluid exchange.

Scientists hypothesized that people in the villages may have been infected with the Ebola virus from eating bush meat-Apes, Monkey, Bats, and Rodents (Fox, 2014). Many experts also believed that Hemorrhagic fever is common in Africa (Fox, 2014). Bats carry many viruses including Ebola, and Bats carry Ebola antibodies (Fox, 2014). Currently, West Africa is in the mango fruit season, and Bats eat mango and fruits. Perhaps, scientists suggested that one of the sources for the Ebola outbreak is through contamination of fruits and mango with Bat’s saliva-containing Ebola virus. In addition, many scientists also suggested that the fruit eating Bats is another possible transmission medium for MERS as well, the transmission mechanism that several MERS inclined experts are currently investigating (Fox, 2014)

The steps taking by scientists for identifying possible transmission mode for the current Ebola outbreak is reasonable and rational, but it needs to be tested and validated. Perhaps inoculation mechanism in the lab is a good method to test the hypothesis. If the hypothesis turns out to be reliable and valid, it is a huge breakthrough for epidemiological intervention and control measures for the transmission of Ebola. The recent outbreak of Ebola is indicative of the need and urgency for effective and cultural competent public health infrastructure in local regions and villages. The incorporation of cultural competence in any public health infrastructures and programs is a necessity tool in public health and health promotion efforts. Having trained staffs in the villages who are culturally competent will be beneficial in sharing public health message in a culturally competent manner, which in turn, is a win-win situation for the common good.




Fox, M. (2014). Ebola outbreak, tips of the iceberg experts say. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/ebola-outbreak-tip-iceberg-experts-say-n137081

World Health Oganization. (WHO) (2014a). WHO ramps up to address Ebola challenges; prevent new infections. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/2014/preventing-ebola/en/

WHO. (2014b). WHO: Ebola moving faster than control efforts. Retrieved from http://news.msn.com/ world/who-ebola-moving-faster-than-control-efforts