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Ebola times - How to protect yourself Featured

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Yes I call this period 'ebola times' because 'ebola' is the new song on everybody's lips now. Some people don't even really know what it is.

 What is more important than shouting about Ebola is finding how to stay away from this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of hundreds and still counting?

 

What is ebola?

Ebola is an infectous and generally fatal disease marked by fever and sever internal bleeding, spread through contact with infected body fluids by a filovirus (Ebola virus), whose normal host species is unknown.

Ebola is a notoriously deadly virus that causes fearsome symptoms. The most prominent being high fever and massive internal bleeding. This deadly virus kills as many as 90% of the people it infects. It is one of the viruses that is capable of causing hemorrhagic (bloody) fever.

There are five known strains of Ebola, which first manifested itself in humans in the year 1976, and in a village in Zaire near the Ebola River, from which the deadly disease draws its name. Four of the five have caused disease in humans, while the fifth, Ebola Reston, caused disease only in primates. The Reston strain is named for Reston, Virginia, where the strain was discovered in a commercial monkey house in 1989. It killed hundreds of monkeys, and many more were euthanized, but never made the jump to humans.

Signs and Symptoms

Ebola virus (also known as Ebola hemorrhogic fever), along with being one of mankind's deadliest diseases, is also one of it's most brutal. It causes extreme body aches, high fever, profuse vomiting, diarrhea and heavy internal and external bleeding, sometimes through body orifices and pores of the skin.

Doctors and journalists who have observed those dying of Ebola have described the process, horrifically as watching human beings "dissolve".

Infection with Ebola virus in humans is incidental. Humans do not "carry" the virus. The way in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is yet to be determined. However, it has been hypothesized that the first patient was infected through contact with an infected animal.

Transmission

Ebola virus is transmitted by contact with blood, faeces, urine, vomit, and other bodily fluids from an infected person or by direct contact with the virus, as in a laboratory. People can be exposed to Ebola virus from direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person. This is why the virus has often been spread through the families and friends of infected persons: in the course of holding, feeding, or otherwise caring for them, family members and friends would come into close and direct contact with such secretions. People can also be exposed to Ebola virus through contact with objects, such as needles that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

The incubation period, the period between contact with the virus and the appearance of symptoms - ranges from 2 to 21 days. Symptoms can manifest themselves between two and twenty one days after exposure and usually begin with headaches and fever. There is no cure for the disease, which has been fatal in up tp 90 percent of patients during some outbreaks, though the current outbreak has killed about 60 percent of those so far infected.

The initial symptoms are usually high fever, headache, muscle aches, stomach pain, and diarrhea. There may also be sore throat, hiccups, and red and itchy eyes. The symptoms that tend to follow include vomiting, rashes, bleeding problems with bloody nose (epistaxis), spitting up blood from the lungs (hemoptysis), vomiting it up from the stomach (hematemesis), and bloody eyes (conjunctival hemorrhages). Then finally comes chest pain, shock, and death.

A protein on the surface of the virus has been discovered to be responsible for the severe internal bleeding (the death-dealing feature of the disease). The protein attacks and destroys the endothelial cells lining blood vessels, causing the vessels to leak and bleed.

Transmission of the virus occurs when a person comes into contact with the body fluids - blood, vomit, feces - of one who is infected. This puts health workers tending to Ebola patients in an extremely dangerous position as patients can throw off huge amounts of their fluids during uncontrollable fits of pain and vomiting. Walls, sheets, and medical equipment can become soaked in the highly infectious substances. Patients are kept in isolation to avoid infecting others in a clinical setting.

Even with the body suits health workers wear, transmissions still occur. Several American missionaries, doctors and nurses operating in suits have contracted Ebola. The chief doctor who was at the fore front in fighting the outbreak in Sierra Leone, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, recently caught the virus while treating others and died.

Prevention

The prevention of the spread of Ebola fever involves practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions, or barrier nursing techniques. These techniques include the wearing of protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles; the use of infection-control measures, including complete equipment sterilization, and the isolation of Ebola fever patients from contact with unprotected persons. The aim of all these techniques is to avoid any person's contact with the blood or secretions of any patient. If a patient with Ebola fever dies, it is equally important that direct contact with the body of the deceased patient be prevented.

Prognosis and Treatment

There is no known specific treatment for the disease yet. Currently, patients receive supportive therapy. According to the World Health Organization, this consists of managing the patient's fluids and electrolytes, treating them for any complicating infections, maintaining their oxygen level and blood pressure, as well as blood pressure and kidney function, all of which are in jeopardy as the infected bleed out of organs and even blood vessels. Death can occur within ten days of the onset of symptoms.

Current Developments

The immigration and embassies also have a huge role to play in these precautionary measures. In Nigeria, which had an imported case of the virus in a Liberian-American who flew to Lagos, authorities are making efforts to trace all passengers and everyone who had contact or may have crossed paths with him, in order to avoid the kind of spread other countries in the region have suffered.

The West Africa outbreak which began in Guinea in February has already spread to Liberia and Siera Leone. With more than 1,300 cases and over 729 deaths, it is the largest since the Ebola virus was discovered almost 40 years ago.

Sierra Leone has declared a state of public emergency to tackle the outbreak, while Liberia is closing schools and considering quarantining some communities.

There has been concern about the possibility of using the Ebola virus as a weapon for bioterrorism. However, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, in a 1999 report considered Ebola virus to be an "unlikely" biologic threat for terrorism. This is because the virus is very difficult to obtain and process, unsafe to handle, and relatively unstable.

 

Written by Esther Keshi Nwaozo
Edited by Dr. Godwin E. Ibe

Read 3772 times Last modified on %PM, %09 %949 %2014 %21:%Sep
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