Travel Clinic London – Travel Alert, Ebola Viral Infection, 3 June 2014

Travel Alert – West Africa, 3 June 2014: Travel Clinic London

Reports from The World Health Organisation (WHO), and the International Medical Corps, confirm that since April, there have been increasing numbers of Ebola cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and, more recently, in Liberia. This deadly virus was first identified in 1976 during outbreaks in the Congo and Sudan, and is easily transmitted through human to human contact. There is no cure for this infection, and it has proven to be fatal in up to 90% of diagnosed cases.

Where did Ebola come from?

The Ebola Viral Infection, originally named Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, is introduced to humans through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

The known source animals, or hosts, have been found mostly among fruit bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas, although the infected primates are now thought to be accidental hosts, like humans.

The infection is then spread through the human population by direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with an infected person, again, through blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids. The virus can also be transmitted through indirect contact with environments contaminated with these fluids.

What happens when someone contracts the Ebola virus?

Early symptoms of Ebola include sudden onset of fever, headache, sore throat, intense weakness, and muscular pain. These are soon followed by severe vomiting and diarrhoea, accompanied by rash, as well as impaired kidney and liver function. In extreme cases, the patient will also experience internal and external bleeding. Patients suffering from Ebola are highly contagious, as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus.

Can anything be done to stop Ebola from spreading?

In the absence of an effective treatment and a human vaccine, the only way to help curb the spread of this virus is through raising awareness in communities affected by Ebola, teaching and reminding people about proper hygiene, and encouraging protective measures, including:

– Frequent and thorough hand washing

– Wearing protective covering when treating patients

– Avoiding close physical contact with patients

– Avoiding direct contact with infected animals

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that early symptoms of Ebola are non-specific, thus making the disease harder to identify and diagnose. Healthcare workers, as well as Laboratory workers are at risk, and must take all precautions: such as, wearing gloves, and protective clothing, and avoiding any exposure to the patient’s blood and bodily fluids. The disease can also be transmitted through instruments such as needles, and laboratory instruments sharp enough to pierce a glove.

Ebola Outbreak West Africa 2014

Since April 2014, when the first cases were reported in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, there have been 154 suspected cases of Ebola, with a total of 84 deaths reported thus far. The majority of these cases have been in Guinea, with the virus now spreading over the border with Sierra Leone and, more recently, into Liberia. Guinea has a population of more than 10 million people, and one can only hope that all efforts to contain and treat the victims of Ebola meet with decisive and rapid success.