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I need information on Ebola disease

Please can you enlighten us about the Ebola disease? With the recent cases of the disease in an African country, it is wise for us…

Please can you enlighten us about the Ebola disease? With the recent cases of the disease in an African country, it is wise for us to be enlightened about it in order to prevent occurrence here. 

Benedict C.

 

Thanks Benedict for your question. Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases.

How do people become infected?

1. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. 

2. In Africa, infection has occurred through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead in the rainforest. 

3. It is important to reduce contact with high-risk animals (i.e. fruit bats, monkeys or apes) including not picking up dead animals found lying in the forest or handling their raw meat.

4. Once a person comes into contact with an animal that has Ebola, it can spread within the community from human to human. Infection occurs from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people. 

5. Infection can also occur if broken skin or mucous membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient’s infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles.

6. Health workers have frequently been exposed to the virus when caring for Ebola patients. This happens because they are not wearing personal protection equipment, such as gloves, when caring for the patients. 

7. Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola. Persons who have died of Ebola must be handled using strong protective clothing and gloves, and be buried immediately. 

8. Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery. For this reason, it is important for men to avoid sexual intercourse for at least 7 weeks after recovery or to wear condoms if having sexual intercourse during 7 weeks after recovery.

Who are those at risk?

During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are:

1. Health workers.

2. Family members or others in close contact with infected people.

3. Mourners who have direct contact with the bodies of the deceased as part of burial ceremonies.

4. Hunters in the rainforest who come into contact with dead animals found in the forest.

What are the common signs and symptoms?

1. Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat are typical signs and symptoms. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

2. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts, and elevated liver enzymes. The incubation period, or the time interval from infection to onset of symptoms, is from 2 to 21 days. The patient becomes contagious once they begin to show symptoms. They are not contagious during the incubation period.

How to prevent Ebola?

Currently there is no licensed vaccine for Ebola virus disease (EVD). Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use right now. Raising awareness of the risk factors and measures people can take to protect themselves are the only ways to reduce illness and deaths.

What are the treatment options?

• Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. They are frequently dehydrated and need intravenous fluids or oral rehydration with solutions that contain electrolytes. There is currently no specific treatment to cure the disease. Some patients will recover with the appropriate medical care.

• To help control further spread of the virus, people that are suspected or confirmed to have the disease should be isolated from other patients and treated by health workers.

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