Ebola is an illness that cause death in up to 9 out of every 10 persons infected.It is caused by a tiny particle called a virus. Some viruses cause mild illnesses (like common cold). Others like Ebola virus cause very severe illness and quite often, death. Ebola was first described in 1976 in Yambuku in the Ebola river basin of the then Zaire. Since then, there have been several outbreaks of the disease in West, Central and East Africa.Ebola is believed to have an animal reservoir, most likely bats but this has not been confirmed by research. Human beings and apes get infected by direct contact with infected tissue or body fluids. Ebola can be sexually transmitted through semen.Hunting for or eating “bush meat” may contribute to outbreaks of Ebola. Poor health facilities and burial rituals (for dead victims) lead to infections of medical workers and caregivers. Travel also helps spread the illness from country to country.About three days after exposure to infected material, symptoms of fever, severe headache, sore throat and body pains may appear. This may be mistaken for malaria or other common fevers.
After these, a rash may appear in fair people. The eyes may become very bloodshot. Eventually, most organ systems in the body begin to fail and patients may be noticed to bleed excessively from different places. Most patients (40 – 90%) do not survive beyond this stage. Survivors begin to show a gradual recovery after 2 weeks of infection. Special tests are required to confirm Ebola. These tests are not readily available in most areas affected by these disease. Hence, Ebola outbreaks are usually full-blown before they are recognized. There is no specific treatment or cure for #Ebola. No preventive vaccine is currently available. Many drugs have been tried but with disappointing results. In treating #Ebola, the aim is to support the victim’s systems with fluids, proper feeding and to provide comfort. Attempts are made to control spread of the disease by nursing patients under special restricted conditions. All infected materials (beddings, etc) is specially disposed of. There are many conditions that Ebola resembles especially in the initial period.In view of the ongoing outbreak, physicians and the public should be on high alert especially when in contact with an ill person who travelled to Ivory Coast, Sudan, DRC or other neighbouring countries recently.That fever may not be “ordinary” malaria or typhoid especially if there is severe headache or sore throat.Testing kits for Ebola should be made readily available by government at all levels.