EBOLA

BY Liv Collings

Ebola is a severe viral disease, that causes death in 90% of cases.

Ebola causes the victim to bleed viciously internally and externally, through orifices such as the eyes or ears. The virus usually kills within 6-10 days of showing symptoms.  

The virus is mainly blood borne; it is transmitted through the exchange of blood, body fluids - something as small as sweat or saliva - and tissues of infected animals or people. Although, a recent outbreak in West Africa is raising suspicion of a new strain of Ebola that could be airborne.

The origin of the virus is unknown, but fruit bats are the most likely suspect. They can easily spread the virus through saliva and blood exchange when feeding, and pass on the disease to any animal; such as a primate, dog, cat, pig etc. From there, the virus can easily infect a human.

Ebola has an incubation period of 2-21 days, but this can change from each outbreak. The first symptoms are very cold like - fever, muscle fatigue, sore throats and headaches. From when symptoms occur, the victim is now contagious and are putting others are risk of infecting others. After a few days, a flat, red rash may appear over the skin (in 50% of cases). The early symptoms of Ebola can often be confused with other illnesses such as malaria, dengue fever or other tropical diseases before it progresses into the bleeding phase.

In the bleeding phase internal and subcutaneous bleeding may present itself through reddening around the eyes or bloody vomit. All people infected show some symptoms of impairment of the circulatory system including, an inability of blood clotting. Bleeding from orifices and mucous membranes (e.g gastrointestinal tract, nose, vagina and gums) is reported in 40-50% of cases. Types of bleeding known to occur in Ebola include vomiting blood, coughing up blood or blood in the stool. Heavy bleeding is rare and only happens internally in the gut. Blood loss, is usually the ultimate cause of death.

Ebola outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests. The timing of the outbreaks is unpredictable, as is their length. Some outbreaks can carry on for only a few months, or sometimes in extreme situations, they can carry on for years, even decades. In between outbreaks, the virus almost completely disappears, apart from one or two cases spotted throughout Africa. If you are around an area where an outbreak has recently occurred, you are at risk of infection because the virus may still be lingering.  

The is currently an epidemic occurring in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. It has been going on since February last year and the death toll has risen to over 830 and over 1600 known cases. 60 of the deaths have been doctors helping cure the people, one of them has been brought back to the US and is at risk of infecting others.

The severity of the 2014 outbreak is clear in this graph

Once infected with Ebola, your chance of survival without medical help is approximately 10%. However, once seeking the help of a doctor, your chance of survival raises to roughly 40%. But the odds are still against you. Treatment includes, intravenous (IV) fluids to avoid dehydration and maintain electrolytes, oxygen and devices that help with breathing, medications to help control fever, help blood clot and maintain blood pressure, antibiotics to prevent secondary infection and good nursing care. In the countries where Ebola strikes sometimes the high level of care required isn't available.

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