Ebola – a truly deadly and terrifying disease. The current outbreak in Africa has already claimed over 1,150 lives, and some believe this number is vastly underestimated. A patient in New York was recently admitted to Mt Sinai hospital for suspected Ebola after a recent trip to Africa – fortunately he did not have it. This outbreak has prompted quite a few inquiries in my office, so here are some facts:
Ebola was first identified in 1976, in Africa. It is a virus spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood, saliva, semen and even tears. It is not thought to spread through air, making it less contagious than some other viruses.
Once someone contracts the virus, they become ill between 2-21 days later, most showing the first signs of illness between 8-10 days. People are not contagious until they show signs of illness, fortunately.
The early signs of infection include a flu-like syndrome, consisting of fatigue, fever, headaches, joint pain, muscle pain and abdominal pain. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Five to seven days later the bleeding starts – from everywhere: internal bleeding, skin bruising, bloody eyes, bloody vomit, and bleeding into the colon.
Several days later there is multiple organ system failure and death, typically between 7-16 days after the first signs of infection. The mortality rate has ranged between 50 – 90% in past outbreaks, and about 65% in this outbreak.
Prevention consists of isolation of the infected person. Treatment consists of supportive measures, such as IV fluids, oxygenation and measures to prevent loss of blood clotting factors.
The “secret serum” recently used to treat two infected American health care workers is called ZMapp, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. It has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness – it was used in a humanitarian effort, with apparent success for these two people, but not for a third. The product is a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies that bind to the protein of the Ebola virus.
Mapp Biopharmaceuticals is a privately held company, so stock shares are not available to the public. However, a Canadian company Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp., (NASDAQ:TKMR) has also been developing a treatment, which began human trials earlier this year. Its stock jumped 45 percent last week to $20.70 per share. Why don’t I translate medical breakthroughs into stock purchases?
Read more about Ebola here: