10 Things You Should Know About the 2014 Ebola Outbreak
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever in humans, which affects multiple organ systems in the body and is often accompanied by bleeding. Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, and a sore throat, with more severe symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues and unexplained bleeding following shortly thereafter. We are currently seeing the deadliest outbreak of Ebola virus on record, with most of the cases centered in West Africa. Here are some of the things you need to know about the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
- Over 3,000 people have died from the Ebola virus so far, with most of the deaths occurring in West Africa and almost 6,000 cases of Ebola diagnosed to date. Direct contact with an infected person is required for the virus to spread. This means that the risk to the public in the U.S. is very low.
- The 2014 outbreak began with just a handful of cases in Guinea in March and today has been declared to be an international health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Early treatment has been shown to be critical in this outbreak. Early supportive care that focuses on rehydration and treatment of symptoms can significantly improve one’s chances for survival. Ebola, in fact, carries a mortality rate of 90 percent if left untreated, but that number is reduced to 50 percent when treatment is sought. It can be difficult to tell the difference between Ebola virus and other infectious disease like typhoid fever and meningitis. Laboratory tests generally need to be performed to identify the presence of the virus in the blood and/or bodily fluids.
- There are actually five subtypes of the Ebola virus. The Zaire strain (the first to be identified) is considered to be the most deadly, and preliminary tests are showing the 2014 outbreak to be caused by this strain.
- There is no cure for Ebola at this time. Scientists so far have been unable to come up with a course of treatment that neutralizes the virus. However, work is promising in this area, and there are a number of blood, immunological, and drug therapies that are currently under development.
- There is no vaccine for Ebola at this time. Although there are two potential vaccines that are being tested and evaluated, at this point there is no inoculant available to stop an outbreak were it to occur.
- In the current outbreak, doctors have had some success with an experimental treatment called ZMapp. This was given to a British nurse, American missionary, and aid worker, all who made a full recovery following treatment. However, there have been two known fatalities following this treatment as well. One of the problems with ZMapp is that it’s slow to produce.
- As reported in the New York Times on September 30, 2014, officials are confident in the standard procedures currently in place in the U.S. for controlling the spread of an illness like Ebola and will be able to effectively contain the spread of infection.
- There was a 2012 Ebola outbreak in Uganda that was successfully controlled through the establishment of a control area around the treatment center.
- The Ebola outbreak will be considered over once forty-two days have passed without any new cases (this is double the incubation period of twenty-one days).