The Ebola Virus disease, commonly known as Ebola, is a viral hemorrhagic fever affecting humans and other primates. It is an acute, serious illness with an average case fatality rate of 50%. The genus Ebolavirus consists of 6 known species and was previously known as the Zaire Ebola virus, having been named after the strain found in Zaire(Democratic Republic of Congo)–that caused the West African Epidemic of 2014–2016. The disease was first detected in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak in Congo took place in a village near the Ebola River, from where it gets the name.
How did the African Ebola Disease spread?
Fruit bats are assumed to be responsible as the primary hosts of The Ebola virus. The cause behind Ebola spreading is humans coming in contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected animals like the infected Ebola bats or primates such as chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, etc. who had initially contracted the disease. The disease then spread through human to human transmission via direct contact of broken skin or mucous membranes. The methods of Ebola spreading are as follows:
Blood/ body fluids of a person infected (alive or dead) with Ebola transmits to healthy people like family or health worker. Objects contaminated with blood/ feces/ vomit etc. from a sick person (alive or dead) comes in contact with a healthy population
Transmission is common in hospitals during treatment by health care workers or among family members during a homestay and/or burials of an Ebola patient. A pregnant Ebola patient, when recovered from the disease, still carries the virus in her breast milk and issues, thus posing a risk to the fetus.
Is Ebola Contagious?
The symptoms become prominent post the incubation period of the virus which lasts somewhere between 2 to 21 days. Transmission of the disease is possible only after an infected person develops the Ebola Virus Disease symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever?
What Ebola does is present itself as rather mild symptoms at first before exploding into serious afflictions of the body.
- Muscle Pain
- Sore Throat
Later Stage Complaints
- Impaired Kidney and Liver Functions
- Internal and External Bleeding such as oozing from the gums, blood in the stool
- Low white blood cell and platelet count
- Elevated liver enzymes
Clinical differential diagnosis of Ebola from the likes of Malaria, Typhoid fever or Meningitis is a difficult process. Pregnant women suspected of being infected must be tested rapidly. The methods employed to detect an Ebola Virus infection are:
- Antibody capture Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)
- Antigen Capture detection tests
- Serum neutralization tests
- RT-PCR Assay
- Electron Microscopy
- Cell culture for isolating the Virus
Diagnostic tests are selected carefully based on standardized technical specifications, incidence & prevalence of the disease, as well as the social and medical implications of the final results. The samples collected for testing pose biohazard risk, hence the tests are conducted under maximum containment conditions.
Is Ebola Curable?
Ebola treatment consists of supportive care and symptomatic treatment. As we have yet to have any proven Ebola virus treatment against the EVD, the best we can offer patients is rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids. Potential treatments such as immune therapies & blood products are currently under evaluation. A Multi-Drug trial is underway to combat the ongoing 2018-2019 Ebola outbreak.
Are there any vaccines for Ebola Disease?
The vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV proved to be highly effective in a major trial done in Guinea in the year 2015. There was no case recorded in the 5000 plus people who received it, for 10 days or more after vaccination. The same is being tested in the current outbreak.
How can we prevent Ebola? What are the methods to control an outbreak?
Preventing Ebola consists of a combination of interventions like case management, surveillance & contact tracing, well-equipped laboratories, safe burial services, and community engagement. To successfully control the outbreaks, we need to raise awareness about the risk factors and boost the availability of protective measures.
Risk reduction focuses on:
- Wildlife to human transmission
Animals and animal products like meat need to be handled under strict protective guidelines
- Human to Human transmission
Regular hand washing after handling patients, or visiting hospitals, appropriate protective clothing while tending to ill patients, avoiding contact with body fluids of infected persons, etc. are some of the protection norms.
- Outbreak containment measures
Includes safe burial of the dead, contact tracing of people who come in contact with the infected, monitoring the health of suspected cases for 21 days, separating the healthy from the suck, and maintaining good hygiene practices.
- Possible Sexual Transmission
Male survivors are recommended to observe safe sex practices for 12 months from the date of onset of symptoms or until their semen test negative two times for the dreaded Ebola virus.
- Pregnancy-Related Transmission
Pregnant women who survive an Ebola scare need Antenatal Care visits so that their health and delivery needs are met with.
The fight against Ebola is an ongoing one and both medical personnel and civic society at large need to act fast to prevent transmission and control possible outbreaks if ever it was to break through into South-East Asia.