The World's Fight Against Microbes Essay

2036 words - 8 pages

The World's Fight Against Microbes

     Many infectious diseases that were nearly eradicated from the
industrialized world, and newly emerging diseases are now breaking out all over
the world due to the misuse of medicines, such as antibiotics and antivirals,
the destruction of our environment, and shortsighted political action and/or
inaction.

     Viral hemorrhagic fevers are a group of diseases caused by viruses from
four distinct families of viruses: filoviruses, arenaviruses, flaviviruses, and
bunyaviruses. The usual hosts for most of these viruses are rodents or
arthropods, and in some viruses, such as the Ebola virus, the natural host is
not known. All forms of viral hemorrhagic fever begin with fever and muscle
aches, and depending on the particular virus, the disease can progress until the
patient becomes deathly ill with respiratory problems, severe bleeding, kidney
problems, and shock. The severity of these diseases can range from a mild
illness to death (CDC I).

     The Ebola virus is a member of a family of RNA (ribonucleic acid)
viruses known as filoviruses. When these viruses are magnified several thousand
times by an electron microscope they have the appearance of long filaments or
threads. Filoviruses can cause hemorrhagic fever in humans and animals, and
because of this they are extremely hazardous. Laboratory studies of these
viruses must be carried out in special maximum containment facilities, such as
the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia and the United States
Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), at Fort
Detrick in Frederick, Maryland (CDC I,II).

     The Ebola hemorrhagic fever in humans is a severe, systemic illness
caused by infection with Ebola virus. There are four subtypes of Ebola virus
(Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Ivory Coast, and Ebola-Reston), which are not
just variations of a single virus, but four distinct viruses. Three of these
subtypes are known to cause disease in humans, and they are the Zaire, Sudan,
and Ivory Coast subtypes. Out of all the different viral hemorrhagic fevers
known to occur in humans , those caused by filoviruses have been associated with
the highest case-fatality rates. These rates can be as high as 90 percent for
epidemics of hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola-Zaire virus. No vaccine exists to
protect from filovirus infection, and no specific treatment is available (CDC
II).

     The symptoms of Ebola hemorrhagic fever begin within 4 to 16 days after
infection. The patient develops chills, fever, headaches, muscle aches, and a
loss of appetite. As the disease progresses vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain,
sore throat, and chest pain can occur. The blood fails to clot and patients may
bleed from injection sites as well as into the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and
internal organs (CDC I).

     The Ebola virus is spread through close personal contact with a person
who is very ill...

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