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A disease which has sniffed the lives of millions in the year 1976 during its outbreak in the African countries, especially in the Congo (then Zaire) and Southern Sudan is Ebola virus. This virus has so much destructive potential that it has claimed about 88% of the population during its first outbreak. Now, again Ebola has hit the world again. As of August 18, 2014, it has been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) that about 2473 cases are registered out of which 1350 deaths have been confirmed. All these cases and deaths are reported in the African countries like Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
Now, you are thinking, what exactly is the Ebola virus disease? This is a disease of humans which is very rare but deadly, that causes bleeding inside and outside the body, which is formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Basically, Ebola virus is a condition that is transmitted from animals to humans through direct contact with an infected person or animal.
What are the signs and symptoms of Ebola virus?
The incubation period of Ebola virus is 2 to 21 days. Incubation is the time interval from infection with the virus to the onset of symptoms. This severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, muscle pain, headache, intense weakness, and sore throat. All these symptoms are then followed by diarrhea, rash, vomiting, impaired kidney, and liver function. Moreover, various cases of Ebola have to deal with both internal and external bleeding.
Causes of Ebola virus disease (EVD):
According to scientists of WHO there are five different types of viruses that are behind this disease. All these viruses have the potential to infect humans. The viruses include Bundibugyo virus (BDBV), Sudan virus (SUDV), Taï Forest virus (TAFV), and Ebola virus. But out of the previously mentioned viruses, Ebola virus is the sole member of the Zaire Ebola virus species which is alone responsible for the largest number of outbreaks. Basically, the fifth virus, which is Reston virus (RESTV), is not thought to be a disease-causing in humans, but is very dangerous too. All these viruses are closely related to the Marburg viruses.
How can Ebola virus be diagnosed?
It is hard to tell a person that he/she is suffering from Ebola. To make the diagnosis of this virus, doctors may test you to rule out the other diseases like malaria, cholera and other viral hemorrhagic fevers. After confirming the diagnosis of the virus, blood samples of the infected person is tested for viral antibodies, viral RNA, or the virus itself. Finally, if your doctor’s report confirms that you have got Ebola, then immediately you’ll be isolated from the public to prevent the spread.
Vaccine and treatment:
WHO has said in its statement that right now there is no specific treatment for EVD, but they are working on several vaccines but none are available for clinical use. Therefore the primary goal of the treatment is to treat the symptoms and prevent secondary infections or complications like pneumonia and liver failure.
Prevention and control:
Ebola virus is a transmission disease, which has been transmitted in humans from animals. So to control or prevent this deadly disease, controlling Reston Ebola virus in domestic animals is needed. Basically, there is no vaccination against RESTV is available, but you can deactivate the effect of this virus by routine cleaning and disinfection of pig or monkey farms (with sodium hypochlorite or other detergents).
The basic step to control the outbreak of Ebola virus is quarantine, which means an enforced isolation. Quarantine is effective in decreasing spread by shutting down the suspected areas and schools. It has been reported that during the 2014 year outbreak Liberia has closed its schools.
Human-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus is associated with direct or indirect contact with blood and body fluids. It has been reported that health-care workers have also been infected by this virus during the management in hospitals when appropriate infection control measures have not been observed. Some of the precautionary measures that people and health care professionals should follow:
- Hand hygiene
- Respiratory hygiene
- Safe injection practices
- Safe burial practices
Health-care providers caring for suspected or confirmed Ebola virus patients should apply standard precautions like when in contact (within 1 meter) of patients with EBV, they should wear face protection, a clean and non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves are necessary. Furthermore, laboratory workers and scientists are also at risk of getting attacked by Ebola while taking the samples from suspected humans or animals. But, they can prevent them from getting attacked by Ebola by handling the samples with proper care or by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.
According to the WHO reports, an estimated 80% of the infected people with this virus definitely die. It is also a fact that early and effective treatment of symptoms for example, supportive care to prevent dehydration may reduce the fatality rate significantly. Moreover, if an infected person survives, then recovery process of the victim may be quick and complete. But, prolonged cases are often complicated due to the inflammation of the testicles, muscle pains, skin peeling, joint pains, or hair loss. Ebola symptoms may also persist in the semen of some survivors for up to seven weeks, which may give rise to the infections and diseases via sexual intercourse.
Should people in India worry?
In an advisory issued by the WHO, it has been mentioned that Asian countries should keep a close check on the people who are coming from African countries. Basically, this virus is not prevalent in India, but people living in remote areas, are always at risk of getting infected.
This piece of content is created and shared by David Reynolds, Health Awareness officer of OnlineRxMedicines to spread awareness against deadly Ebola virus, under an awareness initiative.