(WTNH) – The Ebola virus has been all over the news for the past several days due to a deadly outbreak in Africa that has left two American health workers infected and Liberia’s top Ebola doctor dead. But what exactly is this dangerous disease that is killing so many people.
The World Health Organization reports that as of July 23rd, 1,201 people have been infected with the Ebola virus and 672 people have died in this current outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The National Geographic says this is the worst Ebola outbreak in human history and this virus is one of the deadliest ever, gruesomely killing up to 90 percent of its victims.
Last week, The National Geographic reported that a Liberian man died from the disease after his plane landed in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the world’s largest cities. Officials from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases believe that the same thing is likely to happen again, with a passenger ending up in Europe or the United States.
The Ebola virus is a disease made up of a group of viruses that cause hemorrhagic fever. There is no cure or vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus can be spread through:
- Direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person
- Exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions
- Through families and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions when caring for ill persons
During outbreaks like the one currently in West Africa, Ebola is transmitted quickly within health care settings and workers can become infected if they are not wearing the proper protective equipment or if instruments are not properly cleaned and disposed of. The World Health Organization says that so far 100 health care workers have been infected, and 50 have died.
The CDC lists the following as the signs of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
Some patients may experience:
- A Rash
- Red Eyes
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bleeding inside and outside of the body
Symptoms usually appear two to 21 days after the body is exposed to the virus. Some people are able to recover from the virus while others die usually because they don’t develop an immune response.
The earliest signs of Ebola are usually the red eyes and skin rash. Patients are then isolated and health care workers are notified to begin diagnosis tests and treatment. There is no cure for the Ebola virus. Treatment of Ebola is limited to supportive therapy which the CDC specifies as:
- Balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes
- Maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure
- Treating them for any complicating infections
While you can only contract Ebola through body fluids, prevention is very challenging in outbreak settings. The most important thing is to avoid contact with the blood or secretions of an infected patient. Wearing protective clothing like masks and gloves, routinely using disinfectant and completely sterilizing all equipment, along with isolated all patients, are primary measures that can be taken for prevention
The CDC’s list of locations where there have been confirmed cases are:
- Sierra Leone
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- South Sudan
- Ivory Coast
- Republic of the Congo (ROC)
- South Africa (imported)
The Ebola virus gets its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was near one of the original outbreak sites when the virus was first reported in 1976. That year two simultaneous outbreaks happened in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the WHO, the natural host of the disease is believed to be certain kinds of fruit bats. The disease is believed to be first spread from wild animal to human.
For more information on the Ebola virus, click here.