Ebola – What you need to know
Since the first signs of an Ebola outbreak surfaced in Guinea just over 5 months ago, the threat of Ebola in West Africa has become an International Health Emergency, and the virus has spread through Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and just recently to Nigeria.
When we began reporting on this crisis in early May, there were over 300 confirmed cases with around 60 fatalities. Today, reported cases, according to the CDC (Centres for Disease Control) total 2127, with over 1,100 deaths, most of which (over 400) are confirmed in Liberia.
Efforts to control the virus are beginning to show signs of hope, and help has come from the CDC, Médecins sans Frontières, and volunteers from North America, and various countries in Europe. At this time, the CDC is increasing their support by sending 50 additional healthcare workers to help bring the outbreak under control.
What is Ebola?
- The Ebola virus, first detected in 1976, is extremely infectious,
- The incubation period is from 2 to 21 days…meaning that a person might be infected without showing any symptoms for up to 3 weeks,
- At the time of writing, there is no known cure,
- Healthcare workers, and friends, family, and any person who is in close contact with an Ebola victim are at the highest risk,
- Early symptoms, such as sore throat, muscle pain, and headache, can easily be mistaken for an attack of influenza, all of which present the added danger of a patient not seeking a medical attention.
First, please bear in mind that Ebola is not an airborne virus. Most importantly, when you have a cold, you can easily transmit it to others just by sneezing or coughing, causing the germs to become airborne. In the case of Ebola, the only way a sneeze can infect you is when the actual droplets come in contact with your skin.
The Ebola Virus is so virulent that even with the highest levels of protection, including complete body coverage, facial covering, and hygiene, healthcare workers, and others who come into contact with infected patients, still run the risk of falling victim to the disease.
How to protect yourself
All caution must be exercised when caring for, visiting, or otherwise assisting an Ebola victim. The secretions from an infected person such as blood, saliva and urine carry the virus, and protective covering, including gloves and facial protection, are essential.
Here are just a few additional points to remember:
- Remember to wash your hands frequently, and thoroughly, back and palm, and dry with a fresh paper towel,
- Carry anti-bacterial hand cleaner gel with you and use if often, and especially after touching any surface including doorknobs, bathroom taps, fixtures of any kind in a public place,
- When using the bathroom, wipe the taps with a paper towel before AND after use,
- NEVER sit on a public toilet seat, no matter whether you are in an infected area or not,
- Drink only fluids that you have brought with you, only drink out of the bottle, and refrain from using drinking glasses provided in a public place,
- Carry a few pair of plastic, surgical-type gloves for emergencies,
- Avoid handling any sharp objects, such as needles, when you are in contact with an Ebola patient, there is much greater risk if you have an open cut.
Should I be afraid of travelling to West Africa?
Keep informed with information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who are providing up-to-date travel advice for the countries and regions that are affected with this outbreak. In transit, observe all hygiene precautions, and remember that there are documented transit cases, where, for example, U.S. travellers have carried the virus from Africa and have since been diagnosed with Ebola. These cases, however, are rare. If travel is necessary, all possible care should be taken.
We invite you to contact us one of our Travel Clinics in London prior to embarking on any overseas journey during this crisis or at any time afterwards. Do feel free to call us at any time should you have questions or concerns regarding the Ebola virus, and your medication requirements for future travel.