Ebola is a disease that is known to many for its infectiousness and fatality. In 2014, the world witnessed an unprecedented case of Ebola outbreak that saw hundreds dead in parts of West Africa such as Sierra Leone and Liberia as well as other parts of the world.
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Aside from medical practitioners, laboratory researchers, and other health and aid workers, majority of people across the world are not very well informed about the Ebola virus. This has led to a lot of myths and inaccurate information circulating about the disease. In line with this, here are some top things you may not have known yet about this virulent infection:
It first occurred in DR Congo
The first known case of the disease was discovered in a patient in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa in 1976. The case occurred near the Ebola River and courtesy of this, the disease got to be referred to by its current name.
Bats and monkeys are the natural hosts of the virus
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Ebola is a zoonotic disease, that is a disease that affects both animals and humans. It is however only symptomatic and fatal in human beings. Certain species of bats and monkeys are believed to be natural carriers of the Ebola virus. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), four of the five known strains of Ebola virus occur in animal hosts which are native to Africa. Human beings get infected by the disease upon coming in contact with blood and body fluids from infected animals.
It spreads through person to person contact
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In human beings, Ebola infection usually spreads through direct person to person contact. When you come into direct contact with blood, secretions, and body fluids from infected persons, you are likely to get infected with the disease. The same applies to coming in contact with surfaces, clothes, or syringes and needles contaminated with blood and body fluids from infected persons. The virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membranes.
Sexual transmission of Ebola hasn’t yet been confirmed
Lately, there are growing concerns about the possibility of the Ebola virus spreading from one person to another through sexual contacts. There however haven’t been any scientific confirmation of these speculations yet. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has in the meantime advised survivors of the disease and their partners to practice safe sex until their semen has been tested twice and found free of the virus. Male Ebola survivors should have their semen tested three months after the onset of symptoms and then in the subsequent months too.
Ebola can be successfully treated at early stage
Even though 50% of the current Ebola infections are fatal, it is possible to successfully treat the viral disease if it’s diagnosed early enough. When the disease is detected at its onset stage, a patient can be successfully treated through re-hydration therapies and treatment for specific symptoms.
Ebola symptoms are nearly similar with common cold, malaria, and other diseases
With the absence of distinct symptoms such as external and internal hemorrhaging, Ebola symptoms can easily pass for those of other diseases like malaria, typhoid, and even common cold. The major symptoms of Ebola infection include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach ache, chest pain, cough, rash, and in certain cases bleeding from the orifices. These symptoms are usually preceded by sore throat, muscle pain, and fever. Because of this, you can easily assume the developing symptoms of the virus to be those of a simple common cold. It is important to note that the Ebola virus can also cause kidney and liver problems.
There isn’t a specific medication or vaccine for the virus
Researchers are yet to come up with a specific medication or a vaccine for the deadly virus. The disease is currently being treated only through oral re-hydration and intravenous fluids and also through medications for specific symptoms such as diarrhoea and hemorrhaging. The WHO and other health bodies are however currently working on drug therapies for the disease. There are even two vaccines which are currently being tried on some test subjects. Should they be found appropriate then the WHO may license them.
It is prevented through isolation, surveillance and other public health measures
Because of the infectiousness of the virus, it can easily get out of hand if appropriate measures are not taken to contain it Persons infected or suspected to be infected with the disease should be isolated from the rest immediately in order to prevent further spread of infection. People who came in contact with the victim should also be isolated and placed under observation for a period of 21 days. There is a possibility that they might have contacted the virus from the victim.
Intense disease surveillance and public health education should also be conducted to help prevent disease spread. Also, people should practice proper hygiene to help break the channel of infection. In addition to everything, medical practitioners handling infected persons should also wear protective gear to protect themselves from the disease.
More about the Ebola virus
The Ebola infection is a pandemic infection and is among the diseases listed by the WHO as notifiable diseases.