What you need to know about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The Ebola virus has been detected in several West African countries. Here’s what you need to know about Ebola and what’s going on (so far):
The back story on this particular outbreak of Ebola in West Africa:
It began early this year in the forested villages of southeast Guinea.
For months, the infected went undiagnosed. It wasn’t until March 23 that the news finally hit the World Health Organization. And by then, Ebola had already claimed 29 lives, the organization reported in a one-paragraph press release.
Since then, the organization has dispatched nine additional updates on a ballooning outbreak that’s received modest notice in the West, but has sent waves of panic across the African continent.
What exactly is Ebola?
Ebola is one of the deadliest virus diseases in humans. Known formally as the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (EHF), it is caused by any one of the five known Ebola virus species:
- Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV)
- Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV)
- Reston ebolavirus (RESTV)
- Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV)
- Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).
What’s the history of this virus?
Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
Here’s another infographic about Ebola’s history.
How does one get Ebola?
The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus. Consumption of a contaminated animal, close contact with an infected animal or it’s blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids can also lead to infection.
Once a human being is infected and comes in to contact with others, the disease continues to spread.
EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
What happens when you get Ebola?
EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.
People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Ebola virus was isolated from semen 61 days after onset of illness in a man who was infected in a laboratory.
The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is 2 to 21 days.
Which countries has the outbreak occurred in?
Guinea and Liberia have both confirmed multiple cases of Ebola. Ghannareported tests on a suspected case were negative. The WHO says Sierra Leone has ruled out Ebola in its two suspected cases, and two of Mali’s six suspected cases have been cleared. Nigeria’s Minister of Information confirmed there was no outbreak of Ebola earlier this month.
How many people have died so far in this particular outbreak?
As of April 8th, 2014, 98 people in Guinea and 10 in Liberia have all been confirmed dead as a result of Ebola.
Is there a cure for Ebola?
EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%. So far, there is no specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.
What about treatment?
No specific treatment is available. New drug therapies are being evaluated. No vaccine for EVD is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use.
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ETA: I’m not a medical doctor or health practitioner so feel free to rectify anything you see here that’s incorrect.
(top image via usatoday)
Horrifying. Under no circumstances should we underestimate contagious virus even if it’s far away from us geographically… Remember that it has no cure and vaccine…