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What you need to know about Ebola

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Unclear on the symptoms, risk factors and modes of transmission of Ebola? WHO’s factsheet

What is it?

Key facts:

  • The tropical Ebola virus causes Ebola Virus Disease in humans
  • It was formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic fever in humans
  • Ebola Virus Disease is an acute life threatening viral illness
  • The first documented cases of Ebola were in 1976

 

Incidence and Transmission

  • The Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family are considered to be a natural host for the Ebola virus.
  • Outbreaks typically occur primarily in remote villages in West and Central Africa, where consumption of fruit bats is considered a cultural delicacy.
  • The Ebola virus spreads in the human population through close contact with an infected person.
  • According to the World Health Organisation (2014), the Ebola virus has a case fatality rate of up to 90%.


Symptoms

  • A sudden onset of fever
  • Intense lethargy
  • Muscular pains
  • Headaches
  • A sore throat

 

Complications

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • A maculopapular rash
  •  Impaired kidney and liver function
  • Reduced white blood cell and platelet counts
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Internal and/or external bleeding

 

Risk Factors

  • Living in close proximity to a tropical rainforest.
  • Handling infected chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
  • Consuming infected fruit bats.
  • Having close direct contact with someone hosting the Ebola virus (through broken skin and mucous membranes).
  • Health care workers are at high risk if treating and caring for those who are infected; particularly if strict infection control measures have not been maintained. Nb. Bodily samples from patients are considered an extreme bio hazardous risk.

 

Prevention and Treatment

  • No licensed vaccine for EVD is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use.
  • Severely ill individuals will require intensive care support and rehydration therapy.
  • Cadaveric incineration rather than shallow grave burials are preferred.
  • So far Ebola cases have been restricted to the African continent. West African states often have porous borders. Restricting travel and tightening border controls are current measures being implemented in the recent outbreak regions.

 

References

World Health Organisation (2014) Ebola Virus Fact Sheet 103

 

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