Along with everything else we generally get on the news, recently we’ve been hearing more and more about the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, and that American citizens with the disease have been flown into the U.S. for the first time. This can be very scary, especially when you don’t really know what Ebola is, so I’ve created this guide to help you understand the history, current state and the likely future of Ebola.
What is Ebola?
Its official name for the disease is “Ebola hemorrhagic fever” due to the severe internal bleeding it causes. The Ebola virus can infect both humans and primates and is often deadly.
The name “Ebola” comes from the Ebola River in Congo where the disease was first identified back in 1967. Since then, there were more identified cases in Zaire, Gabon, Sudan, Sierra-Leon, Guinea, Liberia, The Ivory Coast & Uganda.
How do you contract Ebola?
Though its main method of infection is through contact with blood and other bodily secretions of infected people. However, it’s been found that in some cases, the disease was contracted through contact with bodies of the victims, as well as wearing clothes or using beddings that were used by the infected.
The main risk with Ebola is the incubation period in which infected are already contagious, but are still asymptomatic. This helps spread the infection between family members and friends, as well as in hospitals, prior to diagnosis. Other than people and primates, the virus can be carried by pigs & fruit-bats.
What are the Symptoms?
- Joint, muscle, and abdominal pain
- Dehydration due to vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite
(Less common symptoms)
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble swallowing
After a few days, more severe symptoms appear:
- Bleeding from orifices (mouth, nose, anus, genitals)
- Hematomas in the skin and eyes
In the last stages, the virus attacks the liver, nervous system and then the rest of the internal organs. Within 10 days of the first symptoms appearing, about 40%-90% of the infected will die.
Is there a cure or treatment?
At this time, there’s no official cure or vaccine for Ebola. The only known way to slow down the symptoms is by flooding the patient’s system with antibiotics and hooking them up to a respirator. It’s important to note that recently, 2 U.S. citizens who contracted the virus were treated with a drug called ZMAPP (which is still in clinical trials) and have shown considerable improvement within an hour.
Ebola is highly infectious, yet it is also very delicate and can be destroyed (externally) by washing your hands with water and soap. That being said, it’s recommended to still use disinfectants that contain Ammonia or Alcohol when treating contaminated surfaces, with the use of gloves, goggles and medical aprons for protection.
The 2014 outbreak is the most severe outbreak of Ebola recorded (number of infected & fatalities) since 1976. Guinea was the source of the outbreak in December 2013 but was only detected in March 2014. It then spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
The World Health Organization reported 1,975 suspected cases and 1,069 and designated the outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern”. This designation was only used twice before (2009 - Swine Flu & 2014 - resurgence of Polio). It invokes legal measures on disease prevention, surveillance, control, and response by 194 countries.
Suspicion of infection?
Since Ebola’s initial symptoms resemble the flu, basing your diagnosis on that is pure speculation and is not recommended. However, if you recently returned from a country where the disease was recently reported, please contact your local physician and explain the situation, as certain tests and preventative measures must be taken.
If you suspect others have been infected, contact your local center for disease control or health authorities with due haste!
If you suspect that you’re infected, make sure to drink a-lot of fluids (one of the early symptoms is dehydration), with mineral water and sports-drinks being most recommended for maintaining your body’s levels of electrolytes.
A short video with more information: