Investors should note that the Ebola virus has been around since at least 1976. The first outbreak was mostly limited to Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and South Sudan. There have been a number of breakouts over the years. In the past the death rate was 90%. In the latest outbreak in West Africa, five countries are on the front lines this time around. They include the nations of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Since last December to the beginning of this month, there have been a total of 7,492 cases and 3,439 deaths. However, the numbers are rapidly increasing. Nearly half of the cases are from one country, which is Liberia. The survival rate this time around is about 47%. There is a separate outbreak occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at this time, not related to the cases in West Africa.
It should be noted that as a result of strict controls on travel and the effective quarantine of virus victims, Nigeria has now declared that it is free of the Ebola virus.
In the United States, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola was Thomas Eric Duncan who was visiting from Liberia. He arrived in Dallas to visit relatives but soon ended up in the hospital. During his first visit he was given medication and sent home. The medical professionals at the time, were acutely unaware of what he had contracted. When he returned to the hospital later seriously ill, he was soon placed in critical condition and died yesterday.
This happened after the news that a number of American doctors and a nurse from the United Kingdom had contracted the disease in West Africa. Four hospitals in the United Kingdom are now on standby for further cases. A 9 year old boy was prevented from going to school in the UK despite testing negative for the Ebola virus. Why? His mother was an aid worker in Sierra Leone.
The United States is now conducting screenings at 5 different airports, but to this date the American government has refused to limit travel to and from West Africa. The new efforts at the designated sites will supposedly reach 94% of all travelers coming from the affected region. This is in contrast to France and the United Kingdom, who have already limited regular passenger air service to the area.
Although it will vary among individuals that contract the disease the usual pattern is for one to first experience general fatigue. Soon this will be followed by chills, fever, headaches, muscle pain, and sore throats. These first symptoms can take up to three weeks to appear according to some medical personnel. However, for most people they will occur within 5 to 9 days. By day 10 one is experiencing high fevers, rashes, diarrhea and vomiting which can contain blood. There can also be impaired kidney and liver function. Many patients exhibit passive behavior at this point. On day 11 in some cases there is bleeding from various orifices of the body. Day 12 is when victims may develop seizures and experience internal bleeding. Many will experience loss of consciousness and often will die shortly thereafter.
The way the virus spreads originally is from wild animals to humans. This makes Ebola a zoonosis, in that it can jump from one species to another. Once it has entered a population it is spread by contact with an infected person through body fluids or blood. It can also be caught when touching items that have been exposed to victims of the disease. According to medical experts it can only be contracted when an infected person begins to show symptoms. Individuals most at risk would be family members and close friends of the victim as well as health professionals.
There have been assurances by government officials in the United States and Europe that control measures relating to infections in hospitals, will prevent a major breakout in the West.
The fear about the Ebola virus is based on the fact that at present, there is no vaccine. Various medical treatments including blood transfusions from survivors, are only partially successful. There are up to 10 medications and three vaccines in development for Ebola, but none have been proved to be effective at this point.
Another concern is the manner of transmission. There are some scientists that have stated that Ebola can be spread through coughing, sneezing and other aerosol means. The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) has denied the possibility of this for months but has recently opened the door for that reality.
In Europe, the first reported victim was a nurse in Spain. She contracted the virus while taking care of a repatriated patient who later died of the illness. Ms. Ramos had complained to authorities on 3 separate occasions that she was ill before she was finally placed in quarantine. Like the incident in the United States, there was a slow response to the medical situation. Supposedly she caught Ebola by inadvertently touching her face, by the contaminated gloves while taking off her quarantined medical garments. As a result of this incidence, over 50 people in the Madrid area are now being monitored because of their contact with the nurse, before she was diagnosed with the virus.
To the north a Norwegian woman infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone is to be given the last remaining dose of ZMapp in the world. Previously, two Spanish missionaries treated with the drug had died but other patients were supposedly cured. So it is uncertain how effective ZMapp actually is. The drug was being sent from Canada to Norway. Supplies of this experimental drug are now gone and the manufacturer has admitted that it will take months to make more. Authorities in Norway are also importing unapproved medicines including TKM-Ebola and Avigan. The last drug was actually developed for a flu pandemic.
It has been documented that as of the end of August of this year more than 240 health workers have been afflicted by the disease. Some of the victims were from areas outside of West Africa. This has occurred despite stringent infection controls in most regions. There is now a lack of medical personnel and shortages of proper protective equipment in West Africa.
In Australia, within the last few hours a nurse returning from a medical tour in Sierra Leone has taken ill. It has not yet been ascertained whether Ms. Kovack has contracted the virus from her one month assignment.
The head of the World Bank Jim Kim has stated that the world response to the Ebola virus has failed miserably. The spread of the disease outside of West Africa are fueling fears of a world wide pandemic. Mr. Kim warned that the situation was going to get much worse. He is calling for a $20 billion USD (United States Dollar) fund to help fight the virus. He is warning that the global community is not moving fast enough to deal with the crisis. The Bank has already estimated that the economic cost of Ebola could rise to $33 billion USD in the next two years, if the virus continues to spread.
In response to the situation, the United States government has committed up to 4,000 troops to assist health officials and medical personnel in the affected areas of West Africa.
The question now is how prepared are officials to this possible pandemic? The costs incurred for the treatment of just one victim, Mr. Duncan in the United States are high. More than 100 people are now being monitored and just the cost to sterilize the apartment he stayed in once a company was located, was estimated to be $130,000 USD. A further spread of the virus in North America, Europe and elsewhere can make costs escalate rapidly.
There will be a huge need for more supportive drugs. More effort will be placed on preventive cures and vaccines as well. The necessity for protective gear for medical personnel in the form of hazardous materials uniforms, will rapidly increase. There will be a greater demand for companies that will handle the cleanup of areas that have been contaminated.
There are a number of companies that will attempt to meet these and other growing requirements. These businesses will become more valuable if the Ebola virus continues to spread in West Africa and elsewhere.
One needs to also consider the damage a number of industries will suffer. More than a few companies could be adversely affected by the spreading contagion.
If as an investor you are interested in specific companies that will help meet these growing needs and those that will be affected by the virus, please check out the Day Trading Academy’s investment newsletter. Beginning tomorrow, we will begin to post updated information on the unfolding crisis.