Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is caused by a virus that can affect humans, animal primates, and pigs. The virus was first identified in 1976 in Africa where it has caused periodic outbreaks since. The five known strains of ebola virus cause virtually identical symptoms, though the fatality rate ranges from a low of 25 percent in Ebola-Bundibungyo to a high of 74 percent in Ebola-Zaire.
Only one case of Ebola-Ivory Coast has ever been reported when a scientist became infected with the virus after performing an autopsy on a chimpanzee in Africa’s Tai Forest. The scientist was treated in Switzerland and fully recovered.
The newest strain, Ebola-Bundibugyo was first identified in 2008 and has caused just one outbreak in Uganda as of 2010. Ebola-Reston has appeared in laboratory monkeys and domestic pigs in the United States, the Philippines, and Italy. Thirteen people who worked in close contact with the animals developed antibodies to Ebola-Reston, but none showed any symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
Symptoms of ebola begin suddenly and include fever, headache, severe weakness, sore throat, and muscle pains. Vomiting and diarrhea follow quickly in most patients with some developing rash, and failure of the kidneys or liver. Patients may experience both internal and external bleeding, especially around injection sites.
Since there is no cure or medication for ebola, patients are treated with supportive therapy. Doctors and nurses work to keep infected people hydrated through oral electrolyte solutions or intravenous fluids. Ideally, patients suffering from ebola should be kept in isolation, though this does not always happen in rural hospitals. Health care providers need to practice ‘barrier nursing’ by wearing protective gear to avoid catching the disease themselves or spreading it to other patients.
Ebola is transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood and other bodily fluids. Transmission can be common in households where family members are taking care of an infected individual or in clinical settings where appropriate precautions are not taken. Gloves, masks, and other protective gear are extremely beneficial in preventing the transmission of ebola virus. Likewise, it’s very important for health care providers to dispose of or sterilize any needles since used needles will rapidly transmit the disease from one patient to another.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever has received media attention because of its high fatality rate and rapid mode of transmission. Researchers believe that the virus’s natural reservoir is in the jungles of Africa and the western Pacific. Severe human outbreaks and deaths have occurred in seven countries in Africa – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and Zaire.
Check with your health care professional for more information. If you or anyone you know has any symptoms of ebola hemorrhagic fever or may have been exposed to any communicable illness, seek professional medical help.