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Ebola Virus Threat
Aug 06, 2014

Ebola, officially known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe disease caused by the Ebola virus that was first recognized in Africa in 1976. Early symptoms can include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some cases, the disease causes rashes, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding.

During the early- to mid-1990s, Ebola virus was portrayed as a global threat, a fierce predator emerging from tropical areas in Africa and spreading rapidly to the rest of the mobile and interconnected world. Ebola fever is now seen as a deadly local disease requiring a universal kind of “rapid response,” based on standard public health strategies to halt transmission and control outbreaks at the source.

It does not spread through air like the SARS virus that sent the world into a panic about 10 years ago. Nor is it like swine-flu, where every incoming aircraft from an infected region brings with it the immediate danger of transporting the HINI virus.

The WHO’s emergency committee met to further assess if the Western Africa Ebola outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern and whether temporary measures need to be in place to curb its spread.  Last week, the US Centres for Disease Control warned against non-essential travel to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The infection by the Ebola virus could be a possibility in a patient showing high fever with rash, bleeding and multi-system dysfunction, especially if the person had returned from West Africa in the last three weeks. The virus has a maximum three-week incubation period between infection and the symptoms showing up in the person.

The disease spreads through close contact with an infected person, and through body fluids like blood and urine. Local doctors need to be advised on the Ebola virus’ modes of transmission, clinical and laboratory features and measures to prevent transmission in healthcare settings.

To check its menace greater vigilance needed at transit points such as airports where people come from affected countries. It is not about the numbers, but travellers should be screened and isolated if they show symptoms and are travelling from infected regions.

The disease is a worry because of the high case fatality. If 100 were infected, about 80 to 90 could lose their lives. Patients with Ebola are treated with supportive therapy, which includes balancing their fluids, maintaining their oxygen levels and blood pressure, and treating them for any complicating infections.

Types of Ebola Virus: There are five subtypes of Ebola virus:

1. Ebola-Zaire

2. Ebola-Sudan

3. Ebola-Ivory Coast

4. Ebola-Bundibugyo

5. Ebola-Reston

All of these subtypes are found in Africa, except for Ebola-Reston, which is found in the Philippines. The Ebola-Reston virus is also the only subtype that will not cause illness in humans—it only affects animals.

In a recent development, The World Bank has pledged USD 200 million in emergency funding to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help the West African countries contain spread of deadly Ebola infections and improve public health systems.


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