Ebola virus: What you need to know about the deadly 2014 outbreak
As of April 28, two Americans, a Fort Worth, TX doctor, Kent Brantly and missionary hygienist, Nancy Writebol both working with Samaritan's Purse, have tested positive for Ebola and are receiving intensive medical care.
Dr. Samuel Brisbane, a top local Liberian health official, died of Ebola while treating patients at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced this as one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks, with over a 1,200 people throughout Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia infected since April when Ebola symptoms were first observed this year. The outbreak appears to be centered in West Africa. Limited Ebola outbreaks have occurred in 2012, 2011, 2009 and earlier, but the current human fatalities in 2014 are the highest since Ebola’s discovery in 1976.
After an air traveler brought it to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, health experts now fear infected air passengers who do not realize they have the virus could spread it around the world, as airlines with flights from Nigeria have destinations in Britain, other European countries and North America.
Airlines from these African countries are now screening air passengers, but experts say this may be ineffective because Ebola has an incubation period of 2-21 days and cannot be diagnosed on the spot.
What is Ebola?
First discovered in Sudan and Zaire in 1976, Ebola was named after the Ebola River in Zaire. Researchers believe that the virus is zoonotic, or animal-borne, with bats being the most likely source.
Symptoms of Ebola typically include weakness, fever, aches, rash, red eyes, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, chest pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing with symptoms that progress to impaired kidney and liver function and internal and external bleeding. Symptoms appear 8-10 days after exposure to the Ebola virus, but can take as long as 21 days to incubate and manifest symptoms. Ebola has a fatality rate of up to 90% according to the WHO.
Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Avoid contact with the blood, secretions of an infected patient or anything they come in contact with. Healthcare providers have an increased risk of transmission specifically within health care settings.
For those traveling, avoid cities in countries where an outbreak is occurring. Limit or avoid direct physical contact with those demonstrating any similar symptoms, and all bodily fluids. To prevent vector-borne (organisms, such as mosquitoes, ticks or sandflies that act as a transmitter) Ebola, travelers should use insecticide-treated bed nets and wear insect repellent.
There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, and treatment consists only of "supportive therapy,” including IV fluids and electrolytes, anticoagulants (to prevent blood clots) during early infection, procoagulants during late infection to control hemorrhaging (bleeding), maintaining oxygen levels, pain management, and administration of antibiotics or antimycotics (antifungal medication) as needed.
Critical Health Resources
More education information and updates on Ebola virus outbreak can be found on these resource websites:
- World Health organization: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/
- USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/28/ebola-potential-to-spread/13267909/