Ebola is an enormously dangerous disease; while it only spreads when a host comes in direct contact with bodily fluids, the mortality rate can go up to 90 percent. It’s difficult to test for, its symptoms resemble a host of equally awful diseases, and it’s a point of concern for world health authorities. Thankfully, a vaccine appears to finally be available.
Merck ran an accelerated trial recently in Guinea, vaccinating 3,500 people who came in close contact with Ebola. Of the 2000 vaccinated soon after contact, none were infected; of the 1,500 who were vaccinated later, there were 16 cases of the disease. Equally important was the technique; as an Ebola case was found, the “ring” of friends and family around them were vaccinated.
It’s just one trial, but everyone involved with it has been stunned at the effectiveness (100 percent if taken early enough). Equally surprising has been the sheer speed of vaccine development; the recent outbreak has pushed pharmaceutical companies and governments to condense years of Ebola research into months.
There’s still more research to do. Everyone, from the WHO to Merck, wants to track the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine and conduct more trials. But, for now, it appears that we have a powerful tool to contain outbreaks of one of the deadliest viruses.