I was on my normal routine reading through the online news of some local and international media. Since the intensity of the Ebola outbreak, my visits to the online features have increased. I searched with the expectation of reading encouraging news in relation to curbing the epidemic. Prior to my search, I understood that a group of global experts via the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a meeting on the Ebola epidemic. High on the agenda were discussions on the use of experimental therapies to combat the disease that has snatched the lives of over 2000 persons in West Africa. I went online to abreast myself with the outcome of the meeting. While searching, I came across a news caption ” Use Ebola Survivors’ Blood- WHO” on BBC News. It sounded interesting. In as much vaccines are under human tests, the Zmapp doses are running or have run out of stock, there is still a therapy to hope on in addition to the supportive care given to patients.
In a week or two prior to this welcoming news, I watched the Nova Documentary on the blood transfusion therapy on Liberia’s National Television station. According to the documentary, the therapy was used by some Congolese doctors in 1995 at the Kikwit General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When one of the nurses working at the treatment center in Kikwit contracted the disease, the Congolese doctors told themselves that they will do everything within their reach to save the life of their fellow health worker. On a night, they convened a meeting of only Congolese doctors to find a medical means to save the ill nurse. They agreed to infuse the blood of an Ebola survivor into the nurse. The meeting outcome was brought before the international health workers working at the same treatment center.The foreign health workers rejected the suggestion on grounds that there was not advance equipment to test the survivor’s blood for all other diseases. They furthered that the therapy had never been performed in such situation and there was no guarantee that it would work. The local doctors had no other option, but persisted and conducted the transfusion. In some hours, there was some improvements in the nurse’s health. The doctors further conducted the therapy on eight patients including the nurse. Seven of the eight patients recovered. After seeing the documentary, I asked myself “aren’t doctors using similar therapy in countries affected by the disease?”. There was a 87.5% survival rate of the eight ill persons the therapy was used on . ” Why would not it be positive on patients in West Africa?” I asked myself. Some reports had it that a 14 year old survivor serum was used to treat Dr. Kent Brantly when he got infected prior to his departure to the US for further treatment. I got reports that he was able to take shower before departing Liberia and also walked out of the ambulance that carried him from the airport to the treatment center in the US. Is the survivor blood transfusion therapy being used to treat many people in affected countries?
WHO approval of the therapy had me saying ” the Congolese health workers that conducted the first transfusion are the inventors and they need to be thanked”. If not for their bravery and persistence, I doubt whether we would had known about such treatment. Even though it is not widely known in West Africa, but I am of the conviction that it will surely work pointing to the success the therapy had in Congo. If there are rewards to be given to inventors such as these, I think institutions responsible should begin planning the award ceremony for the Congolese health workers who braved the odds to experiment such therapy.
The disease has killed many people in West Africa. The weak health systems and traditional practices in Africa are impeding the fight to exterminate the disease out of Africa. With advances being made to finding vaccines and drugs for this illness, I believe that the approved therapy will help in curing people from the disease. Health workers in these affected countries should be urged to begin or resume the transfusion of survivors’ blood into patients with all the precautions taken into consideration. I am not a medical practitioner, but I do trust the judgement of WHO. I am convinced that this therapy will yield fruitful results. I laud the efforts of WHO in ensuring that medications are discovered and made available to help end this epidemic and prevent subsequent outbreaks. I also applaud the works of local and international health workers who are on the frontlines combating the disease, scientists studying to produce medication, and governments and institutions rendering support to help eradicate the disease. It should be noted that the easiest and most effective way to fighting this disease is by prevention. Staying away from infected patients and bodies, washing hands very often, stopping the consumption of bush meats and bats, and reporting suspected cases are all means of preventing ourselves. If we can implement these simple precautionary methods, I am of the opinion that not one more person will get infected with the virus. We all are hoping and praying we succeed in this fight very soon and go back to normality to alleviate the fears and suffering of people.