How was Ebola discovered?

The public should realize and understand that the Ministry of Health cannot be blamed solely for a virus outbreak, be it Ebola or any other virus. Similarly, the ministry’s inspectors at ports of entry — airports, border crossings and seaports — should not hesitate to reveal any suspicious Ebola case to the general public because such action is in the ministry’s best interests.

Transparency in revealing confirmed or suspicious virus cases can go a long way in combating the spread of a disease because citizens and expatriates will follow instructions to protect themselves against such viruses.

The ministry should develop its virus evaluation devices at ports of entry as well as its laboratories so that it does not have to send its samples overseas as it did with the Ebola case and other such cases in the past (MERS, swine flu, bird flu, Rift Valley Fever). If the ministry does not follow a transparent policy regarding virus outbreaks, its inaction will cost many people their lives. The virus will continue to spread from one person to another as people will be unfamiliar with its nature and causes. The Saudi man who died of Ebola was in Sierra Leone when he contracted the virus.

Ebola was discovered for the first time in January 1995 in Kikiwit Forest, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). A coal miner fell down on his way home and his family assumed that he was suffering from a fever and headache. A few days later, his condition deteriorated and he was rushed to a local hospital. There, he started to vomit and blood was gushing from his nose and ears. Shortly afterward, he died.

Similar cases were discovered in other members of his family, especially among those who had had physical contact with him. Shockingly, 12 members of the same family died a month later.

In April, several nurses contracted the disease and met a similar fate. In a short time, the virus spread to nearby towns. A scientist took samples from the victims and sent them to US laboratories and the result came back as Ebola virus. Ever since, the virus has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Readers should know that scientists have never stopped fighting viruses. Since the 18th century, humans have waged a ferocious battle against viruses, which were discovered in a laboratory in 1883. It was Adolf Eduard Mayer, a German agricultural chemist, who paved the way for discovering viruses while he was investigating the tobacco mosaic disease.

In the following year, Charles Chamberland, a French microbiologist, developed a filter with pores that were smaller than bacteria. A solution containing bacteria could be passed through the pores and the filter would remove the bacteria completely from the solution.

In 1892, Russian botanist Dmitri Ivanovsky discovered viruses and was dubbed one of the founders of virology.
Ever since these discoveries, viruses have constantly posed great challenges to human beings. Viruses are not considered living things; rather, they are described as contagious agents (because they do not have the basic properties of life). These agents have a life-like capability to multiply.


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