Ebola: ‘Fear’ is a worse disease than the Ebola Virus
The fear of Ebola is more deadly than the virus itself. How has this been proven? In just two days, ‘the rumored cure’ of ‘a salt and water bath’ has claimed two lives and hospitalized twenty more in somewhere like Jos due to infirmities like high blood pressure and the like resulting from high body ... Continue Reading
The fear of Ebola is more deadly than the virus itself. How has this been proven? In just two days, ‘the rumored cure’ of ‘a salt and water bath’ has claimed two lives and hospitalized twenty more in somewhere like Jos due to infirmities like high blood pressure and the like resulting from high body salinity. In almost a month, the Ebola virus has claimed two lives in Nigeria with about nine other cases recorded. This means that the fear of Ebola has done in just two days what the virus could do in about a month.
The malaria sickness caused by the plasmodium parasite of the female mosquito claims the lives of more than a million people per year. This statistics boils down to more than a thousand people predominantly African children per day, although it can be prevented and cured. The point once again being made is that even malaria that drugs of less than five hundred naira can cure is more deadly than the Ebola virus which from its inception and discovery in 1976 has not claimed up to the number of lives that malaria sometimes claims in a day.
The Ebola virus is a highly preventable and curable disease that can only be transmitted by direct or indirect contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. It is not an air-borne disease as would have you believe. Simple hygiene tips like washing of hands as often as possible in a day with soap and water, use of disinfectants and sanitizers are advised.
Hypochondria or health phobia is an unnecessary preoccupancy and worry about having a serious illness. Medical research has it that this is a major cause of illnesses and diseases. This is the disease plaguing a lot of us, some who are even at a less than one percent risk of contracting the virus. The spread of Ebola can be curtailed in Nigeria if we arm ourselves with adequate information about the disease, its transmission, spread and prevention as research continues on how the disease can be cured.
What you need to know about The Ebola Virus
The Nigerian government has previously raised red alert on the Ebola virus disease outbreak that has been reported in several countries in the West African sub-region. While the alert stated that there has not been any reported case of the disease in Nigeria, it is necessary that you become informed on how to prevent and control the disease. The Ebola virus causes Ebola virus disease (EVD) in humans, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease has a case fatality rate of up to 90 per cent, this means about 90 per cent of individuals that suffer from the disease could die.
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.
Signs and symptoms
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.
Other diseases that should be ruled out before a diagnosis of EVD can be made include: malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. Ebola virus infections can be diagnosed definitively in a laboratory through several types of tests:
- enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
- antigen detection tests
- serum neutralization test
- reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
- virus isolation by cell culture.
Samples from patients are an extreme biohazard risk; testing should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions.
Prevention and treatment
No vaccine for EVD is available. Several vaccines are being tested, but none are available for clinical use. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and require oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluids. No specific treatment is available yet. New drug therapies are being evaluated.
In the absence of effective treatment and a human vaccine, raising awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death. In Africa, during EVD outbreaks, educational public health messages for risk reduction should focus on several factors:
- Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
- Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission in the community arising from direct or close contact with infected patients, particularly with their bodily fluids. Close physical contact with Ebola patients should be avoided. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.
- Communities affected by Ebola should inform the population about the nature of the disease and about outbreak containment measures, including burial of the dead. People who have died from Ebola should be promptly and safely buried.
Pig farms in Africa can play a role in the amplification of infection because of the presence of fruit bats on these farms. Appropriate biosecurity measures should be in place to limit transmission. For RESTV, educational public health messages should focus on reducing the risk of pig-to-human transmission as a result of unsafe animal husbandry and slaughtering practices, and unsafe consumption of fresh blood, raw milk or animal tissue. Gloves and other appropriate protective clothing should be worn when handling sick animals or their tissues and when slaughtering animals. In regions where RESTV has been reported in pigs, all animal products (blood, meat and milk) should be thoroughly cooked before eating.
Controlling infection in health-care settings
Human-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus is primarily associated with direct or indirect contact with blood and body fluids. Transmission to health-care workers has been reported when appropriate infection control measures have not been observed.
It is not always possible to identify patients with EBV early because initial symptoms may be non-specific. For this reason, it is important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, the use of personal protective equipment (according to the risk of splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.
Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply, in addition to standard precautions, other infection control measures to avoid any exposure to the patient’s blood and body fluids and direct unprotected contact with the possibly contaminated environment. When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with EBV, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).
Laboratory workers are also at risk. Samples taken from suspected human and animal Ebola cases for diagnosis should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.