Endgame for outbreak in West Africa might hinge on treatments still under development
Google Earth Pro, © Imagery 2014 NASA, TerraMetrics; adapted by E. Otwell
As the Ebola virus outbreak continues to run amok in West Africa, scientists are looking ahead to the possibly pivotal use of experimental drugs and vaccines against the disease. It will take months to test, produce and deploy the therapies. But researchers hold out hope that these products — even incompletely vetted — might help to turn the tide against an illness that has defied public health efforts to bring it under control.
The treatments’ use could engender enough hope to encourage people with symptoms — and their close contacts — to come to hospitals, which researchers say would limit the spread of the lethal virus. Having experimental drugs and especially vaccines in hand could also help in recruiting and maintaining adequate levels of hospital staff, who are at high risk of catching the virus.
Using still-experimental drugs has downsides: Even if the treatments help some patients, it will be hard to determine their true