Ebolavirus

Posted: September 3, 2014

Over the past year, Ebolavirus has been commanding widespread media attention.  The current outbreak in West Africa has exhibited an unprecedented number of cases of which some half are fatal.  Most infections have occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  There has been limited spread to contiguous countries namely Senegal, Nigeria, and most recently Mali. The infections have also been detected in travellers coming to Spain and the USA.  In the USA 2 health care workers have so far acquired the infection from the traveller.  As of April 1, 2015  the number of cases stands at over 25,000 with 10,445 deaths.  Of particular concern to the microbiology community is that there have now been 861 cases and 495 deaths in health care workers exposed to the infection.  However, the virus has not shown appreciable spread outside of the above 3 countries where the outbreaks originally occurred.  In fact, in Liberia, there were no now cases reported in March of this year.  Ebola has the potential of reaching Canada by way of returning travellers.  Accordingly, the National Microbiology Laboratory and the Provincial Public Health Laboratories have  implemented nucleic acid based testing for this virus.  There is active evaluation of candidate therapeutic agents and vaccines underway including the VSV based vaccine developed by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Update: On Dec 29, 2015 the WHO declared that Human to Human transmission of Ebola had ended for Guinea.  Vaccine evaluations continue, although with no further cases, the evaluation may prove difficult to complete.