“The Hot Zone”…and the New Ebola Vaccine

Reading Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone” was one of the most influential books in my young life. It’s about the outbreaks of Ebola in Africa, and in a Virginia lab in 1989. (If you haven’t read it, go pick up a copy at your local library!) 

It got me curious about viruses, which I later learned are so amazingly cool. They’re a bag of proteins and genetic material–not able to be classified as “alive”, as they don’t have all the characteristics of a living organism. They need a host to replicate, and they do so in such interesting ways. 

What they can do is unbelievable and terrifying, and we are lucky to be able to stop some of them with vaccines.

CDC

We now have an Ebola vaccine that’s working. This vaccine will prevent so many deaths from this terrifying disease. 

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids like blood. Should someone contract this virus, there’s a 25-90% death rate. 

This virus, as Preston explains, can cause, among other symptoms, the infected person to hemorrhage and bleed from places like the nose and mouth. The blood spatter from an infected person can infect those close by who are carrying for the patient or handling the body. This happens around 1-2 days before the patient dies, at a rate of 30-50% of patients. Of course, symptoms may not include the bleeding, but they are still pretty nasty. 

Outbreaks have been hitting record highs in the last five years, but this is all about to change with this fantastic new vaccine. 

Vaccines give us the ability to potentially remove diseases from populations where the infections were once rapid. How darn awesome. 

Read more here in NATURE (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03490-8)

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