The world has been facing numerous outbreaks of diseases in the recent past. The most pressing outbreak posing a threat to the world now is Ebola. The Ebola virus first emerged in Zaire and Sudan in 1976. It’s from this region that the name Ebola came to be. Ebola a river found in Zaire where the virus was detected. In that year, it infected about two hundred and eighty-four people. The mortality rate was 53%. Later in the same year, about three hundred and eighteen people were infected with a mortality rate of 88% in Zaire. In 1989, imported monkeys from Philippines were found to have the Ebola virus in Virginia. Those infected with the virus seroconverted and did not contract Ebola.
Ebola emerged later in Cote d’Ivoire in 1994 in a dead chimpanzee in the Tai forest. Ever since then, the origin of Ebola has not been known (Stanford University, n.d.). Currently scientists believe the main reservoirs of the virus are in bat meat that is consumed in the regions that have had outbreaks. Currently, the worst outbreak of Ebola emerged earlier this year in West Africa. Countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal are the worst hit (CDC, 2014). So far, it has claimed lives of over 4,500 people in West Africa.
Ever since the first discovery of Ebola, its cure has been elusive. The main method used to control Ebola is the traditional quarantine of the infected people (Caitlin Dickerson, 2014). Apart form that, scientist have been in the rush to find a vaccine for the Ebola virus. Although there is already “developed” vaccine, it has not undergone all the required stages of testing and verification of the vaccine. In fact, the vaccine has not been tested on humans and as such cannot be legally used in the prevention of Ebola. However, due to the situation at hand, scientists, as well as the WHO have recommended the use of the untested drugs on the wiling people. In fact, the best time to test drugs is during an epidemic since it is the only time there are patients. For example, there are many Ebola patients now than ever before. Richard Harris (2014) notes that scientist in the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health are accelerating the research on Ebola. Such a move has resulted in extra ordinary measures some of which do not follow the strict regulations on the development of drugs.
There are several ethical issues arising on the drugs of Ebola. First, the drug is not enough as per the current demand. There has never been mass production since it is not a fully developed drug. Therefore, who then receives the drug between the medical practitioners and their patients? Or should it be given the sickest person on compassionate grounds? Such a choice leaves one with an all-time dilemma.
Never mind who gets it, but then, how a drug that has never been tested on humans can be monitored. Such a situation presents a challenge on how to administer the drug and do follow up activities since such require full-time monitoring (Susan Brink, 2014). From the above premises one wonders how much of the Zmapp (the Ebola drug) can be produced at this time owing to the fact that just as most viruses, Ebola virus mutates.
There is no guarantee that the drugs shall contain Ebola. There could be other ways that are more appropriate with lesser harm than administering untested drugs on humans. In addition, the choice is tough since it is illegal for the scientists to administer any untested drug. Possible litigations may arise in the event that it causes lethal side-effects on the patients.
Stanford University, n.d. “Brief General History of Ebola.” Accessed on October 18, 2014 from https://web.stanford.edu/group/virus/filo/history.html
CDC. “Ebola outbreak in West Africa, 2014.” Accessed on October 18, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/index.html
Caitlin Dickerson. “Ebola Researchers Have A Radical Idea: Rush A Vaccine Into The Field.” 2014. Accessed on October 18, 2014 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/30/352549117/ebola-researchers-have- a-radical-idea-rush-a-vaccine-into-the-field
Richard Harris. “Tests Of New Ebola Drugs Could Take Place As Early As November.” 2014 Accessed on October 18, 2014 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/09/30/352505596/tests-of-new-ebola- drugs-could-take-place-as-early-as-november
Susan Brink. “The Ethical Issues In Using An Experimental Ebola Drug.” 2014 Accessed on October 18, 2014 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/08/12/339841723/the-ethical-issues-in- using-an-experimental-ebola-drug