Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian, was the first patient in the United States detected with Ebola virus on 30 September 2014. He had been visiting his family in Dallas when he was diagnosed with the disease at a Dallas hospital. Duncan defected from condition serious but stable to critical by October 4, and finally succumbed to the Ebola disease by October 8.
Ebola virus is not new and has been existent since the mid-70s. The origins of Ebola disease have been sporadic, reported over time since its first reporting across countries like England (1976), USA (1989, -90, -96), Philippines (-89, -90), Ivory Coast (-94), South Africa (-96), Russia (-96), Uganda (2007, -08, -11, -12) and others. The deadliest of all the outbreaks is that which has taken place the latest in the African subcontinents in March 2014, and is claimed to be the largest epidemic in history. The following are some Ebola virus facts you need to know:
1. Outbreak – 2014:
The 2014 outbreak has affected multiple countries. Countries with widespread transmission are from Central/Western Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone. The Ebola disease has affected these countries almost completely geographically. Travel warnings have been issued for travelling to these three countries under current Ebola situation.
Countries with limited transmission (initial case/localized transmission) are Mali and the US (Dallas, TX, New York City). In US, currently five major international airports screen patients coming from the three above mentioned African countries.
Countries that were previously affected include Nigeria, Senegal (Dakar) and Spain (Madrid).
2. Causes, transmission of Ebola virus:
The virus is known to be transmitted to people from infected wild animals (fruit bats, or primates like monkey, chimpanzees etc.), and spreads through human to human transmission in the human population.
Not airborne or waterborne, the disease is spread via direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes. The common media that aid in the spread are blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, semen, breast milk. Objects contaminated with Ebola virus also are virus transmitting agents: needles, syringes, clothing, bedding etc.
The incubation period of theEbola disease is 2-21 days, but on average the symptoms start showing in 8-10 days. Symptoms include:
– sudden fever fatigue – headache – muscle pain – headache – sore throat – vomiting – diarrhoea – impaired kidney and liver functions symptoms – stomach pain – unexplained haemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Other viral infections like Flu show similar symptoms which makes predicting a case of Ebola disease more difficult.
The Ebola disease if left untreated is fatal. As of November 9, 2014, total deaths in the widespread African countries are 5147 out of 8688 laboratory-confirmed cases. While in the US and Mali combined total deaths are 5 out 6 confirmed cases. The fatality rate goes well above 50%.
5. Ebola disease treatment, vaccination:
There is no proven treatment available for the Ebola disease. However, through supportive care rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms, the survival chances increase.
As per WHO, a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development and undergoing human safety testing.
Some more quick facts: 1. It is unknown how long the Ebola virus can exist on external surfaces, but it is thought to be surviving only for a little time outside of the body, in particular when it’s dried onto hard surfaces like glass or metal. Ebola gets killed by bleach and detergent.
2. People are not infectious until symptoms develop.
3. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Even people who have recovered from Ebola disease can transmit virus through semen for a period of three months.
4. Patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure.
5. Potential vaccines that are being currently tested, if proven successful in treating the Ebola disease, will first be administered to protect high risk groups.
6. Experimental drugs like ZMapp are being used in treatments, but their effectiveness hasn’t been proved.
7. An infected person that has recovered from the disease is unlikely to contract (at least the same species of Ebola virus) the disease for another ten plus years. Life-long immunity to the disease is being studied.