EBOLA AT A GLANCE
Ebola 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, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Fatality rates during outbreaks can be as high as 90%.
Ebola has a history of outbreaks mostly in remote villages in West and Central Africa. However, isolated cases have been reported in the United States, the Philippines and Russia. The virus first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The fruit bat is considered to be the natural host of the virus. The outbreak in DRC killed 280 people in a village located on the Ebola River, from which the virus got its name. The 2014 outbreak in West Africa was unprecedented and declared the worst outbreak in the virus’ history.
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. 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.
No vaccine for Ebola 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.
People Most at Risk:
The virus spreads through direct contact of bodily fluids of an infected person. Anyone living with and caring for a person infected with Ebola are at high risk for infection. Corpses are highly infections and anyone who comes in contact with these bodies are at risk.
Avoiding physical contact with infected patients and dead bodies that harbor the virus, to keep it from spreading, is the key to prevention. Practicing simple personal hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing is crucial. Also, avoiding eating wild animals or found dead animals, especially monkeys, chimpanzees and bats that are known to carry the virus will eliminate the opportunity to reintroduce the disease into the community. Also, it is important not to have contact with infected people or the remains of someone who has died of Ebola. Health care workers should wear protective clothing, gloves, masks, gowns and eye shields. Infected people should be isolated from others. Dead bodies should be buried by specially trained and equipped ‘burial teams.
Other Infectious Diseases:
For 30 years, a significant number of International Medical Corps’ responses have included technical assistance for the treatment and control of epidemic diseases. We work to help vulnerable communities prevent and respond to infectious diseases that have the potential to cross borders and become acute public health risks including: