With the first case of Ebola being diagnosed recently in the United States, what once seemed like an unlikely threat is now hitting much closer to home than many Americans would like. Many people do not know much about the disease or the impact it has had so far. Here are some facts and information that every person should now about the disease.
The virus is a haemorrhagic fever that is severe and often fatal. It is spread through human-to-human contact with an infected persons body fluids. It is not spread through casual contact. While the average fatality rate from Ebola is around 50 percent, the fatality rate of the current Ebola outbreak has been between 60 and 70 percent.
Ebola was discovered in 1976 during 2 simultaneous outbreaks that occurred in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While multiple outbreaks have occurred since then, the most recent outbreak, which began in March 2014, is the largest and most complex outbreak since the virus’ discovery. The most severely affected countries are currently Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and since August 8, the World Health Organization has classified the current outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The Ebola virus can incubate anywhere from 2 to 21 days before symptoms appear in an infected person. The first symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. As the infection progresses, victims then experience vomiting, diarrhea. Those most severely affected experience internal and external bleeding. There is currently no cure for Ebola, and victims can only be treated with supportive care that includes rehydration.
There are currently a number of treatments being investigated, including the Zmapp treatment, which was used for two doctors who were flown back to the United States to receive the experimental treatment. Other treatments currently being tested include blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies. There are also two potential vaccines that are currently undergoing human safety testing.
In a recent interview with the guardian Peter Piot, a researcher who helped discover Ebola, discussed his fear of the current Ebola outbreak being an “unimaginable tragedy.” Piot states, “This isn’t just an epidemic anymore. This is a humanitarian catastrophe.” Piot feels that it will take new strategies to bring the current outbreak under control and manage those who have already been infected. Piot points out that, “Even in 2014, we hardly have any way to combat the virus.” He goes on to say that he, “can still see the Ebola patients in Yambuku, how they died in their shacks and we couldn’t do anything except let them die. In principle, it’s still the same today. That is very depressing.”
While many across the globe have found relative safety in the fact that transmission has only occurred to those who have visited or spent time in Africa, that reassurance is quickly evaporating. A Spanish nurse became the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa earlier this week. She was a sanitary tech who helped treat a priest in Madrid who became infected with Ebola while doing missionary work in Sierra Leone. There have been a total of six people treated in the United States for Ebola, but all of them first came into contact with the virus while in West Africa.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend the following steps to protect against Ebola:
- – Wash hands frequently.
- – Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
- – Do not handle any items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s body fluids.
- – Do not touch the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
- – Do not touch bats and nonhuman primates or eat raw meat prepared from these animals.
- – Avoid hospitals or medical facilities where Ebola patients are being treated.
- – Seek medical care of you develop a fever of 101.5 F or above and have symptoms of headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and/or unexplained bruising or bleeding.
In addition, the CDC has issued a Level 3 travel notice for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and a Level 2 alert for Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated in the U.S. to coordinate technical assistance and control activities. The CDC also has protocols in place to deal with any ill travelers that arrive in the U.S. and prevent the disease from spreading beyond any travelers who may be ill. There is also a Health Alert Notice that has been sent out to all U.S. healthcare workers about preventing the spread of Ebola and testing and isolating patients who are suspected to have Ebola.