Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ebola Outbreak: Much Ado About Nothing???

Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever is a viral illness characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This can suddenly graduate to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding. Natural reservoir of the Ebola virus is in the rain forests of Africa and in areas of the Western Pacific.

The disease infects humans through close contact with infected animals including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.  It spreads from one person to another: by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

People can also be exposed from direct contact with the blood and/or secretions of an infected person —  dead or alive. Nosocomial transmission within a health-care setting, such as a clinic or hospital is also possible.

Thus, the virus is often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with such secretions when caring for infected persons. People can also be exposed through contaminated objects.

Signs and symptoms typically begin abruptly within five to 10 days of infection. Early signs and symptoms include:- Fever, Severe headache, Joint and muscle aches, Chills, Sore throat, Weakness...

Over time, symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:- Nausea and vomiting, Diarrhea (may be bloody), Red eyes, Raised rash, Chest pain and cough, Stomach pain, Severe weight loss, Bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, eyes and ears.

Precautions are simple. Avoid contact with potential Ebola patients and their bodily fluids. Do not touch anything which could have become contaminated in a public place. Wearing of masks, gloves and other protective equipment is mandatory as is thorough washing of hands.

Since the latest outbreak of Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the threats in neighbouring West African countries, people have stopped sharing personal items such as towels, toothbrushes, cups, cutlery and hankies.

The tendency to indulge in shaking of hands, hugging, kissing or even having sex has reduced significantly. Public gatherings involving large crowds have virtually disappeared. Healthcare providers are reluctant to attend to patients with symptoms of fever and other suspected signs of illness.

In affected communities, everybody is going about wearing hand gloves and is wary of touching anything that might serve as a mode of transmission of the deadly virus.

The practice of killing and consuming bush meat, fruit bats, antelopes, porcupines, monkeys and other tainted delicacies has ceased. Such is the magnitude of the threat of the disorder which kills nine out of 10 victims.

Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) noted in Conakry, the Guinean capital, that it is facing an unprecedented epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases.

MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years but say the geographical spread of this outbreak is worrisome because it is greatly complicating control of the epidemic.

The WHO also warns against consuming raw bush meat and any contact with infected bats or monkeys and apes. Fruit bats in particular are considered a delicacy in the area of Guinea where the outbreak started.

In Nigeria, the Federal Government has confirmed there is no case of Ebola in the country but already there is a red alert. So what can be done if anyone is infected? Not much, really. There are no vaccines, though some are being tested, along with new drug therapies. Patients frequently become dehydrated: They should take in fluids.