What is Ebola?
Ebola is a deadly and serious virus disease transmitted by humans and nonhuman primates. Caused by contamination with the virus of the Filoviridae family i.e. genus Ebolavirus, the disease is considered a zoonotic virus i.e. originated from animals and spread through humans.
The First Ebola case was reported in 1976 in Yambuku (near the Ebola River in Zaire i.e. Democratic Republic of Congo) and in Nzara (Sudan). Ever since the virus has spread across continents and outbreaks have been found across the United Kingdom, United States (U.S.) Italy, Philippines, Spain, South Africa, Russia, etc. The infection occurs through physical contact with people and the incubation period is 2-21 days.
Ebola symptoms vary from individual to individual depending upon their age, health conditions, etc. The symptoms start showing up upon incubation around 2-21 days after a person is infected. Some of the common symptoms are listed below for your understanding:
- Cold, flu, sore throat and coughing
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Bleeding inside or outside the body
- Skin rashes
As the immune system of different individuals responds to the virus in different ways, there can be serious complications in people with poor immunity system. These effects include:
- Joint problems
- Hair loss
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Inflammation of liver and eyes
- Sensory changes
People with co-morbidities or other health conditions can experience some deadly complications i.e. failure of multiple organs, coma, shock, severe bleeding, etc.
Who is at Risk?
Ebola risk factors differ from individual to individual depending upon their lifestyle, travel history, health conditions, immunity, etc. Certain red flags for when an individual might be at risk are:
- Physical contact with people or animals infected by Ebolavirus
- Traveling to areas of Africa that have confirmed cases of Ebola
- Providing personal or medical care to people infected with Ebola
- Preparing burial of people infected with Ebolavirus
- Researchers who are carrying on tests on Ebolavirus
Ebola reason can be traced in the presence of the Ebolavirus in one’s body. The transmission usually happens when there is physical contact with infected humans or animals. This could happen by coming in contact with people who are infected, extending medical care to them, or even coming in contact with animals like monkeys, chimpanzees, forest antelope, porcupines, etc who are known to be the carriers of Ebolavirus.
How is Ebola diagnosed?
Ebola has some early symptoms similar to cold, flu, typhoid, malaria, fever, etc. Ebola diagnosis depends on a series of tests are conducted by doctors to identify the virus.
- Ebola Tests – As on physical examination, the symptoms are similar to the common cold, flu, etc, the doctor conducts blood tests to check on antibodies, white blood cell counts, platelet count, liver enzymes, etc. These give a direct indication of the Ebola disease.
- Assessing Community infection – Doctor tries to trace the presence of zoonotic disease prevalent in the patient’s community to weigh the risk factors and identify infection
How is Ebola treated?
As of now, no vaccine or medicine has been found as an effective treatment for Ebolavirus. And so Ebola treatment is taken by supportive care and extension of generic medicines that help in the Ebola cure. The treatment includes:
- Maintaining electrolyte balance
- Medications for treating blood pressure, cold, flu, etc
- Additional oxygen for people who experience difficulty in breathing
- Treatment of coexisting infections
- Intravenous or additive fluids for dehydration
- Hygiene maintenance and cleanliness
- Ebola medicine that has been found somewhat effective in treating symptoms
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How can Ebola be prevented?
Individuals can take certain preventive measures to protect against Ebolavirus. These Ebola prevention measures include:
- Avoiding physical contact with people or animals known to be infected by Ebola
- Avoiding contact with other’s body fluids and blood
- Practicing hygiene and sanitation anywhere and everywhere they go
- Wearing protective cloth in areas prone to infection and wildlife
- Refraining engagement in rituals like marriage, parties, funeral, etc of people handling or infected by Ebola
People infected with Ebola are recommended to isolate themselves from others to save further community spread of the virus.