A professor of Public Health and Epidemiologist, Dr. Adebayo Onajole has said that the new variants of the Ebola virus recently reported in several countries are coming up due to the mutation of the virus as it struggles to survive in their human host.
The expert who was reacting to reports of the outbreak and spread of the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus disease in Uganda and the risk assessment efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said these strains are being created as a result of the virus constantly mutating to survive.
He said, “All these organisms are trying to survive so when you try to put certain mechanisms to counter them, they try to develop some new genes to survive what is resisting it and that is why we keep on having new strains of a particular disease.
“It is not limited to Ebola, other disease conditions like cholera, and others.”
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control on Wednesday released a press statement declaring that it had conducted a risk assessment of the impact of the importation of the Sudan strain of the Ebola Virus Disease which has been declared an outbreak in Uganda.
According to the NCDC, this strain of the virus is the same as the one that previously caused an outbreak in Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to experts, there are five identified Ebola virus species, four of which are known to cause disease in humans: Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus); Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus); Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus); and Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus).
A study published in the Journal for Infectious Diseases also found that human mortality resulting from Zaire strains of Ebola virus was 90 per cent while that resulting from Sudan strains was 55 per cent to 65 per cent. The Zaire strains, experts say, were much easier to isolate in cell culture than all of the Sudanese agents.
According to the NCDC, the Sudan strain of the Ebola Virus was first confirmed in a 24-year-old male that later died. As of 29th September 2022, the Ugandan Ministry of Health has reported 54 cases (35 confirmed and 19 probable) and 25 deaths (7 confirmed and 18 probable).
Speaking further with PUNCH HealthWise, Onajole lauded the efforts of the NCDC in focusing attention on the people arriving from the country where this virus has been active.
He commended the risk assessment results of the agency. He however stressed that “We need to keep on being aware of what is happening in countries that are close to us, especially countries that have human traffic with us so that we’d be able to know the volume of people coming from those areas, the disease conditions they might be harbouring.
“If you know that, you will be able to put a higher screening method for people who are coming from those areas rather than wanting to screen every single person, it may not really be easy to do that,” he said.
Speaking on the efficacy of the Ebola virus vaccines against new strains of the virus, the epidemiologist stated that the vaccine, when it becomes available to all, can be used to fight against even the new strains of the virus.
“The vaccines can take care of the emerging strains. What happens is that when you have a new strain, they still retain some of their other genes within that old strain, and the body to which you give the vaccine will still fight against the one that is already known.
“What it implies is that the severity of the new strain might not be as much in those who are already vaccinated as compared to those who are not vaccinated at all.”
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