The Ebola virus (Filoviridae Family) has four subtypes: Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Reston, and Zaire. The Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) that results from the Ebola virus infection causes death in 50% to 90% of those who are unlucky enough to come down with it.
How It Is Transmitted
A person can become infected with the ebola virus by coming in direct contact with the blood or fluid secretions of a person who has Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever. It can also be transmitted by receiving an organ donation from a person who had the disease. An unfortunate transmission also occurs when mourners come into direct contact with the body of a deceased Ebola victim and the disease is passed on to those who mourn when they touch the deceased body.
There have also been documented cases of animal to human transmission of the disease from cynomolgus monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas and also forest antelope.
Health care workers need to be diligient concerning the proper usage of infection control measure and barrier methods in order to not transmit the disease from one patient to another or to themselves.
Symptoms of Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever
- A very sudden onset of fever
- An intense feeling of weakness
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
Following the initial symptoms, the following symptoms will then appear:
- Impaired kidney and liver function
In rare cases internal and external bleeding does occur.
Lab tests show a low white blood cell count which decreases the patient’s ability to fight off infection and low platelet counts. The liver enzymes will be elevated. If specialized tests are run, they will reveal specific antigens and or genes of the ebola virus and if allowed to grow, cell cultures will reproduce the virus. Laboratory cultures are an extreme biohazard and are rarely conducted and when they are, they must be done under maximum biological containment conditions.
New diagnostic techniques include non-invasive methods of testing by way of saliva and urine samples.
Ebola patients usually require intensive care as they need to be given intravenous fluids or oral rehydration and electrolyte therapy.
Research is always being done and several vaccines are being tested and a new drug therapy also. Hyper-immune sera on animals did not show any promise for protection against ebola; so the efforts so far to find a preventative measure have not been successful, but scientists are still working to discover ways to protect humans against this deadly virus.
Containment of those suspected of having Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever is an important way to stop the spread of the disease. All suspected individuals of having ebola must be kept in isolation and strict nursing procedures followed to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Another important tactic to follow is to contact anyone that may have been exposed to ebola so that they can be isolated and monitored to help stem the spread of the disease. This task is made difficult do to the isolated living conditions especially in rural areas.
Protective equipment and other essentials like gowns, gloves, masks and goggles must be worn at all times by hospital staff when patient contact is made with an infected individual. Containment, protective equipment and strict nursing practices must be in place and enforced if the transmission rates are to decrease.
Because transmission can also occur through soiled clothing and bed linens it is mandatory that there be procedures in place to properly disinfected these items before they are handled by workers.
Community officials where active cases of ebola are located, should keep the members of that community well informed about the disease and the measures that are being taken to contain the disease. Containment of the disease also includes burial procedures for deceased ebola victims. If members are to follow safety measures then they need to be educated about why it is important to follow them. Especially where traditions are involved like burial procedures for victims of Ebola.
History of death caused by the Ebola Virus
Epidemics have occured in Yambuku, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nzara and also southern Sudan. 431 deaths were reported in 1976. In 1977 there were 22 deaths attributed to ebola. A large epidemic in Kikwit, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1995 claimed an additional 250 fatalities. 2000 and 2001 had 224 deaths collectively.
There were deaths occuring between October of 2001 and December of 2003 in several outbreaks of the Zaire subtype, were reported in Gabon and the Republic of Congo that resulted in 254 deaths. As of this writing (Dec. 2007) total of 1,200 individuals have lost their lives to the ebola virus since it was first identified.
Image: Wellcome Images
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