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What is Ebola

What is Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) ?
According to World Health Organization (WHO) 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. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

Ebola, earlier called Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a fatal disease caused by a virus family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. Filoviridae, the virus family involves three genera: Ebolavirus, Cuevavirus, and Marburgvirus. There are five species that have been detected: Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Taï Forest, and Reston. Out of these, the first three species have been responsible for large epidemic in Africa. The virus responsible for the 2014 epidemic in West Africa belongs to the Zaire species.

COUNTRIESSTATUS (As on 12th December, 2014)
GUINEAWidespread and intense transmission
LIBERIAWidespread and intense transmission
SIERRA LEONEWidespread and intense transmission
MALI Initial cases imported from other countries
SPAINOn 2nd Dec WHO officially declares Spain free of Ebola virus transmission
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)On 15th Nov WHO officially declares DRC free of Ebola virus transmission
NIGERIAOn 19th Oct WHO officially declares Nigeria free of Ebola virus transmission
SENEGALOn 17th Oct WHO officially declares Senegal free of Ebola virus transmission
UNITED STATES OF AMERICAInitial cases imported from other countries

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) can spread to humans as well as nonhuman primates (chimpanzees, monkeys, and gorillas). On the basis of research, it has been deduced that fruit bats from the Pteropodidae family are most likely hosts of Ebola virus. The disease is spread among the humans through close proximity with the blood, organs, and other bodily secretions of infected animals, such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, monkeys, porcupines, and others found dead or ill. In case of human-to-human diffusion, Ebola spreads via direct contact (through mucous membranes or damaged skin) with the blood, bodily secretions, and materials (clothing and bedding) of the inflicted person. When precautions are not strictly observed, then the chances of the transmission of the disease soar high. In fact, if a man has convalesced from the disease can still transmit the disease through his semen between the period of seven weeks after recovery from the disease.

A person inflicted with the disease or Ebola virus will typically develop following symptoms:
  • Severe headache
  • Fever
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Intense muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe weight loss
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Internal and External bleeding
  • Sore throat

After catching the infection, these symptoms surface between 2 to 21 days. Usually, the incubation period is between 4 to 10 days. On the other hand, recuperation may start between 7 to 14 days after the start of symptoms. If death occurs, it typically follows the period of 6 to 16 days from the start of symptoms and is chiefly because of low blood pressure from the loss of fluid. Usually, bleeding indicates the worst possible scenario, which may end with death.

Anyone who is close to the patient and handles his/her fluid or blood samples - family members, hospital workers, and laboratory workers are at a higher risk. Therefore, in order to minimize the risk level, people should put on protective clothing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that that the precautionary gear leaves no skin bare.

Following are the precautionary measures that need to be taken in order to avoid contact with the infected patients:
  • wearing gloves, face masks, goggles, and gowns
  • taking extra cautions while handling blood and other body fluids or waste
  • properly cleaning hands with water and soap can kill the virus
  • disposing or sterilizing used needles and other equipment
  • washing used gloves thoroughly with water and soap, disposing them cautiously, and then again washing hands

Presently, there is no approved treatment or vaccine for the disease even though potential drug therapies and new vaccines are being prepared and tested. Any region affected by an epidemic must be immediately sequestered and those infected with the Ebola virus disease should be put in isolation under intensive care and attention. Chances of survival can be improved with symptomatic treatment and rehydration.

Also, WHO suggests avoiding the use of such medication as ibuprofen and aspirin in case of pain as it may lead to bleeding risk. It is also said that Ribavirin also proves ineffective against Ebola virus. So if professional care is impossible, directions given by WHO for home care proves relatively helpful.

The disease of Ebola virus was first seen in the year 1976 in two simultaneous epidemics – one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter broke out close to the Ebola River (from which the epidemic has taken its name) in a village.

The present 2014 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak since it was first detected in 1976. More cases have been registered this time than all others combined and so are the number of deaths. The disease has now gripped other countries starting from Guinea to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal.

How can one prevent Ebola ?
EVD spreads through direct contact with blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals and persons. Prevention is basically avoiding close contact with the infected persons.

More information is provided by WHO at their website..

'You May Also Want To Know'

Is there any treatment for EVD ?
No specific treatment or vaccine is available for EVD. At present ill patients are given symptomatic treatment and intensive care. Vaccines are being developed. Similarly several candidate drugs show promise but their safety and efficacy in humans is not yet known.

Insight to Ebola
Last Updated : October 09, 2014

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