EBOLA! Does the word ring a bell? Highly likely none of us heard it before and all of a sudden the healthcare fraternity is panic struck by the 5 letter word.
THE EBOLA OUTBREAKAugust 19, 2014 305 0 0
History of ebola
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is particular to tropical regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was first described way back in 1976 in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo hence called Ebola a French name for the Congo River. However the reason for the dreaded disease to be back in news is the ongoing outbreak in Western African regions of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. Around 1700 suspected cases have been reported till date. A poor town of Njala Ngiema in Sierra Leone is at the epicenter of this catastrophe. Ebola has claimed lives of 60 people in the village with a population of 500 odd people; thus risking Njala Ngiema to be erased from the world map. Similar apathy has struck Guinea and Liberia.
Fear has gripped the globe. Are we safe?? Or is it just blown out of proportion?? Is the outbreak for real?? Well, the bad news is EVD is very violent and highly fatal about 90 % of affected victims falling prey to it. Yes, the outbreak is for real. The assuring part is that it is extremely rare and till date has only affected the poor African countries.
It seems to have been contained at source, and other parts of the world are yet to report any cases of EVD. However two Americans and a Spaniard working in the areas of outbreak contracted the disease. They were treated with an experimental drug ZMAPP that has no documented trial yet. Response to the Miracle drug is yet to be established.
WHY IS EBOLA DANGEROUS TO DEAL WITH?
BLEED UNTO DEATH
Ebola virus affects the blood system in humans. It shows Flu-like symptoms within a week of contracting the virus. Begins with fever, sore throat, headache and generalized body pain however it progresses rapidly to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Eventually due to fluid loss and dehydration the kidney and liver functions are affected causing multi organ failure. Around this time when the patient’s immunity goes for a toss the virus becomes stronger and causes bleeding internally or externally leading to death.
EVD is passed on to humans through contact with infected animals (Monkeys, fruit bats and pigs). Though the disease does not affect the animals they prove to be carriers. The infected person can spread the infection via blood and other body fluids like sweat, semen, saliva, vaginal discharge. At this stage it becomes highly contagious and physical contact can lead to sudden outbreaks. Farmers, cattle breeders, shepherds, those related to animal husbandry, those traveling to the affected countries, doctors and paramedics treating affected victims are at higher risk of contracting the disease. Also high risk sexual behavior without adequate protection, sharing needles or unsterile items can cause transmission from person to person. EVD does not spread through air.
POOR DIAGNOSTIC EVALUATION TOOLS
EVD symptoms are similar to that of Malaria, Dengue and other viral haemorrhagic fever hence tests are first done to rule out the more commonly occurring infections. In suspected cases the diagnosis is confirmed by blood tests for viral antibodies, Viral RNA and the Ebola virus itself. In India National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune is designated for testing of suspected samples.
FAINT HOPE OF SURVIVAL
Ebola virus fever has no specific treatment however efforts are made to save the patient by maintaining adequate hydration in form of saline infusion through the veins, pain and fever control medication, injections to avoid bleeding and supplementary oxygen as necessary. Confirmed or suspected high risk cases are quarantined. Since the outbreak an experimental drug ZMAPP has already been used with a mixed response.
PREVENTION IS PROTECTION
Checking animals for infection and taking appropriate measures to do away with the animal if the disease is discovered.
Frequent hand washing and using sanitizer. Avoiding unnecessary physical contact.
Cooking of meat at high or prolonged heat and use of personal protective equipments (PPE) like cap and mask, gowns, gloves etc. while handling meat.
Disinfecting the surroundings as the Ebola virus cannot stand disinfectants, high temperature, heat, direct sunlight, detergent and soaps.
Fumigation if you have pests or rodents. Disposing-off dead bodies with utmost caution as dead bodies CAN transmit the virus.
Those at high risk who come in contact with victims body fluids like doctors and paramedics, relatives also to use PPE.
Non-essential travel to the affected countries is to be deffered. Also the airport authorities need to screen frequent travelers who have any symptoms of flu like illness.
In India, New Delhi Ram Manohar Lohia hospital has been identified for treatment and management of EVD.
Staying informed, educating the neighborhood and being watchful of our surroundings is equally important. Panic will do little but precaution and simple but stringent measures can go a long way to curb the looming threat of Ebola virus.