By Ana-Chrysa Maravelias
In the past few months, the world has been inundated with cases of fatal medical outbreaks. These outbreaks are the results of a variety of situations. Thousands of “anti-vax” parents have fueled the measles outbreak in the United States. The effects of war have killed dozens of doctors and health officials in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making them unable to treat patients with Ebola. Outbreaks all around the world have taken the lives of thousands, and are on the rise. What exactly is going on? Why have diseases that were previously “extinct” come back to haunt us? And what can we do to help others, and the world in a race against time?
The measles disease has taken the world by surprize. In the year of 2000, measles was considered “extinct” in the United States. In a matter of months, it has has spanned countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.” This “effective vaccine” is the Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccination. Although this vaccination has been scientifically proven to help fight against these illnesses, and is 99% effective, with little to no side effects, many parents are still skeptical as to what harm it may do. In a study conducted by the WHO, seven million children under nine years of age in Madagascar were vaccinated with the MMR vaccination, and as a result, the country has seen a dramatic decrease in measles cases, and ultimately, in deaths.
Despite the fatal symptoms of contracting the measles virus, including encephalitis (which is an infection that results in abnormal brain swelling), pneumonia, severe dehydration, and even blindness if left untreated, some parents still believe that getting their children vaccinated will harm them, and even cause them to contract autism. This popular belief was largely fueled by a 1998 report from The Lancet which stated that getting the MMR vaccination would lead to autism. This study was widely disproven, and was later retracted. A study conducted by Harvard Medical School expressed that signs of autism can arise from the time that children are just three months old – months before they are scheduled to receive their MMR vaccination. However, this has not stopped parents from fearing for their children’s health, intensifying the “anti-vax” movement. This movement has harmed many, especially young children, and people with cancer. This is because even if someone is vaccinated, if they are surrounded by people who are not, they are much more likely to contract the virus than if everyone were vaccinated. This has been evident throughout the world these past few months.
There have been three major outbreaks in the United States this year. One in Washington state, and two in New York. Hundreds of thousands have been exposed to this fatal disease (if left untreated), but as of now, no one has passed away from it. Many people are trying to eliminate, or at least decrease the effects of this disease, but when thousands have been exposed to this virus, and even more have not been vaccinated, this ambition is hard to achieve. According to Forbes Magazine “UCLA and Cal State-LA had to quarantine over 700 students and staff members who were exposed to measles from an outbreak in the Los Angeles area. At UCLA, one student who had measles attended multiple classes while still contagious, exposing hundreds of others to the highly contagious virus.” This very clearly depicts the severity of this disease, and how easily it can spread from one person to another – via fluid from the nose, mouth or throat of an infected person. Many healthcare professionals agree that in order to defeat this virus, people need to get together, and need to understand that vaccinating their children with the MMR vaccine will not only help them, but will also help the people that they are in contact with everyday.
Perhaps less well known, there has also been an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a fatal disease which spreads rapidly. The virus spreads through body fluids which are spread either through direct contact, or through objects which have been contaminated (like when sharing a drink). One major problem with this virus is that at first, it is not obvious that a person is contaminated, meaning, they do not show any symptoms of the disease. However, when it develops, the symptoms are similar to those of malaria. These include fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, and unexplained, hemorrhage throughout the body, including in the brain, causing clotting, and from there, resulting in death. Despite the horrifying reality of this disease, an Ebola Vaccination has been created to fight against the disease.
The Ebola vaccination is over 97% effective, and has the capability of saving thousands of lives. This is known, and has been given to over 111,000 people who are likely to contract the disease in the DRC according to the World Health Organization. The vaccine is usually given to to “rings” of people. The ones who have been diagnosed with the virus, and those who are in contact with these people, and because of that, has been working well. Despite the effectiveness of this vaccine, fighting in the DRC has killed dozens of doctors and other healthcare providers who are trying to distribute this medication. A Civil War within the country has caused uncanny amounts of bloodshed, and has caused fighting and distrust against the medical professionals trying to save the country from further collapse.
This has caused the the disease to “spike” as stated by science magazine. “The 9-month-old outbreak in the northeastern region of the DRC as of 6 May has sickened 1506 people, 1045 of whom have died. The outbreak has spiked over the past month, with more than 400 new cases in April alone – a doubling from March – which WHO says reflects the recent disruption of the response because of violence.” To give an idea of how widespread this virus really is, about 11300 died from the EVD outbreak back in 2014. These statistics scare many people, and are proving just how deadly this disease really is. Also, according to CNN, on April 29, 2019 “The Ebola outbreak in the DRC [reached] a record number of new cases in a single day in the current outbreak – 27, as well as a new high for new reported cases, for the week ending April 28.” This disease is not slowing down, and the WHO made a statement on May 11, 2019, stating that the effects of the virus may expand to outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Whether it be the measles outbreak, or the ebola virus, the world has been full of deadly diseases spreading rapidly. As a whole, we need to work together to act to eliminate the diseases which were previously under control in our world.