We read a lot about antibiotic resistance arising through excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics. But what about the antivirals? There is also an ongoing problem with viruses developing resistance to antivirals, the HIV virus being the most relevant. So why are governments and drug companies not dealing with the issues? Why are they dicing with death rather than dealing with it? Probably because nobody is interested unless the odds are stacked in favour of a jackpot. Researching and developing new antibiotics and antivirals is an expensive business and the drug lifespan is very short due to the speed with which resistance develops. Many drugs are just not worth developing because there is a very short limited 'market' for them. The Ebola virus is a good example. Scientists have known about the virus since 1976. Clearly there was no profit to be had in developing a vaccine or antiviral treatment for a virus that only affected countries that did not have the financial means to pay for the product - and philanthropic humanitarian kudos was peanuts compared to the value of keeping the shareholders satisfied. Flu however was a different story, there was money in flu, - swine flu, avian flu, any old flu that could affect countries with decent sized health budgets and disposable income. In 2009 during the bird flu pandemic, governments were positively fighting over the available stocks of Tamiflu - there were even rumours of international 'gazumping'. The flu took hold in 206 countries and over 500,000 cases were reported which resulted in over 6,000 deaths, a mortality rate of just over 1%. The world is now faced with a deadly virus, that is averaging a mortality rate of 50%, and could be as high as 90% in some areas. The world has no vaccine to protect against it, no antiviral treatment to deal with it and governments are having to train people and send them out to the affected areas in Africa to create a medical Maginot line. These amazing people are prepared to put themselves at huge risk to do a job that should never have appeared in the medical job centre in the first place.
If an Ebola pandemic does develop, what can we as individuals do?
⇒ Avoid getting into contact with the virus and avoid spreading it. Keep up to date with the latest WHO and government guidelines. If you can, work from home, avoid large public gatherings in enclosed spaces, avoid travelling on public transport, shop online or in the little corner village shop (if you are lucky enough to have one). Know the symptoms and follow a better safe than sorry policy, visit a medical professional immediately if you have any of the symptoms.
⇒ Kill the virus before it gets up close and personal. Use the appropriate disinfectants and washing methods. Restrict kissing and hugging to immediate family members and the people you are closest to.
⇒ Know your antivirals. Keep them ready in the home. Find out which are the best cleaning fluids and use them for all work surfaces and bathrooms.
⇒Eat well to maintain a healthy immune system that is geared up to fight it if you do get it.
In the worst case scenario of a global pandemic with no more room at the Hospital Inn, the following is a list of recent research papers indicating that certain substances have proven antiviral action. None of them have proven action against Ebola and if you read any claims elsewhere that they do, then disregard it as no tests have ever been carried out on the effect of herbal antivirals on Ebola. However, these antiviral substances are worth knowing about because in the unlikely event of a serious pandemic - one of them might just prove to be lucky. It is also worth taking a look at the pages of the flu strategy, and herpes simplex strategy as these pages also have information on substances that have proven antiviral action.