Expedite Ebola vaccine release

The Ebola virus, formerly known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans that first appeared in 1976 and got its name from the Ebola River, site of one of the early outbreaks. The first occurrences were in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests. The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex since Ebola was first identified, affecting thousands. There are even a few isolated cases outside Africa, including in the United States.

This outbreak has become a public health emergency of international concern. According to Media Centre fact sheets, the virus has a fatality rate of 50 percent, and is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. There are not yet any vaccines for Ebola, although scientists are working to create one.

The earlier infected patients receive better care in terms of surviving the disease. Early symptoms include sudden fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches, and sore throats. As the illness progresses there is vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function, and sometimes internal bleeding.

A debate has grown over the use of experimental and untested drugs in fighting Ebola. ZMapp is an experimental treatment based on genetically engineered tobacco leaves. The two aid workers who contracted Ebola both received this drug and successfully fought the infection. In times of need we need to try everything we can to help. But. some argue since the drug has only been tested on monkeys and is not FDA approved, it should not be given to patients.

People fear the spread of Ebola, and this experimental drug gives those infected hope. It is designed to allow the human body to win against Ebola replication, according to Medicine Net. The biotech firm Mapp Bipharmaceutical Inc. developed ZMapp. Several years ago, this company and the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, began work to develop a treatment for Ebola. When tested on monkeys, the antibodies from the drug were shown to protect them from early Ebola infection. When tested on Dr. Kent Brantly and his associate Nancy Writebol, the drug was effective in slowing or stopping severe symptoms within hours. Breathing became easier and rashes faded away.

Brantly described the treatment as miraculous. The company had just a few doses that could be used in patients but is trying to increase production.

According to company documents, four monkeys survived after being infected with Ebola. More study of this drug is needed and scientists are working at it, but this treatment may be able to help people, so I think we should take our chances.

Scientists are also attempting to develop a vaccine, but in the meantime we could at least slow down severe symptoms, and potentially save lives. Dr. Brantly said goodbye to his wife when he thought for sure it was the end, but this drug saved his life.

World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl cautioned that health authorities “cannot start using untested drugs in the middle of an outbreak.” Getting approval through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a long process and that is time that people with Ebola don’t have. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the military, allotted additional funding to Mapp Bipharmaceutical due to the promising results.

People infected with Ebola should get the choice of whether or not they want to try the new drug, so in emergency situations like this the FDA should make exceptions to its normal safety protocols.