No longer at ease, Ebola gathers regional storm

What is Ebola?

Ebola (Ebola virus Disease) is a severe, often fatal illness caused by Ebola virus. The virus attacks the immune system and destroys the clotting cells of the body, resulting in severe uncontrollable bleeding inside and outside the body.

The disease, also called Haemorrhagic fever, kills up to 90% of people who are infected

The situation in Africa

Africa has the heaviest Ebola burden with West and East Africa on high alert.

The ongoing 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak is considered to be the largest and longest outbreak ever recorded of Ebola, killing at least 1013 people and infecting more than 1,800 to date since March in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 8 August, 2014 declared Ebola outbreak an international health emergency.

Subsequently, the east Africa region and the world at large is on high alert. Consolidated efforts are in place to contain the virus, since it does not have a cure yet.

Specific countries have initiatives in place to contain the virus and prevent further transmissions and infections.

Prevention is key in this fight.

Prevention of Ebola

The infection can be prevented through the use of recommended protective measures such as:

  • Avoid contact with infected blood or secretions, including those from the dead body
  • Using standard precautions for all patients in the healthcare setting.
  • Sterilize equipment, and wear protective clothing including masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles.
  • Washing your hands with soaps or detergents.
  • Disinfecting your surroundings.
  • Isolate people who have Ebola symptoms.
  • Killing of infected animals, with close supervision of burial or incineration of carcasses.
  • Limit or avoid travelling to areas or countries where outbreak of the disease is confirmed.
  • Use protective gear if you must care or go near someone suspected to have Ebola.

Report any suspicious symptoms in yourself or anyone else immediately.

How does Ebola spread?

It is believed that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal’s body fluids.

Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with blood, organs or other body fluids of infected people or exposure to objects such as needles and syringes that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

Ebola can also be transmitted from men who have recovered from the disease through semen as it is infectious for up to 7 weeks.

Infected dead bodies can spread Ebola as they are still infectious. So mourners who have direct contact with the body of deceased person can also get the disease.

Health-care workers who do not wear appropriate protective clothing and family members who are in close contact with infected people or deceased patients.

Signs and symptoms:

Symptoms occur between 2 and 21 days after contracting the infection. Common signs of Ebola include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle, abdominal and joint pain
  • Sore throat
  • Weakness
  • Diarrheal
  • Vomit or cough up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in breathing and swallowing
  • Rash
  • Hiccups
  • Bleeding inside and outside the body

Treatment

Ebola virus does not have any approved cure.

Management of the infection, therefore, consists of supportive medical care. Hydration, maintaining adequate blood pressure, oxygen supply and treating any complications are the key aspects of management.

 

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