Recent Health Concerns

Stay Informed About Ebola Outbreak

Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is a severe, often fatal disease caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. The first Ebolavirus species was discovered in 1976 the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.The natural reservoir host of ebolaviruses remains unknown. Four of the five subtypes occur in an animal host native to Africa. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to ebolavirus, although 8-10 days is most common.

Symptoms

  • Fever (greater than 38.6° C or 101.5° F)

  • Severe headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Weakness

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain

  • Lack of appetite

Transmission

Because the natural reservoir of ebolaviruses has not yet been proven, the manner in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is unknown. However, researchers have hypothesized that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal. When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. The virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with

  • a sick person's blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen)

  • objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected body fluids

  • infected animals

During outbreaks of Ebola HF, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to ebolaviruses can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff is not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves. Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.

Prevention

Because we still do not know exactly how people are infected with Ebola, few primary prevention measures have been established and no vaccine exists.

Barrier nursing techniques :

  • wearing of protective clothing (such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles)

  • using infection-control measures (such as complete equipment sterilization and routine use of disinfectant)

  • Isolating patients with Ebola from contact with unprotected persons.

If you must travel to an area with known Ebola cases, make sure to do the following :

  • Practice careful hygiene. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.

  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.

  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.

  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.

  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.

  • After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.

Laboratory tests used in diagnosis include :

Timeline of Infection Diagnostic tests available

Within a few days after symptoms begin

  • Antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing

  • IgM ELISA

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

  • Virus isolation

Later in disease course or after recovery

  • IgM and IgG antibodies

Retrospectively in deceased patients

  • Immunohistochemistry testing

  • PCR

  • Virus isolation

 

Treatment

No specific vaccine or medicine (e.g., antiviral drug) has been proven to be effective against Ebola.

Symptoms of Ebola are treated as they appear. The following basic interventions, when used early, can increase the chances of survival.

  • Providing intravenous fluids and balancing electrolytes (body salts)

  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure

  • Treating other infections if they occur

Timely treatment of Ebola HF is important but challenging because the disease is difficult to diagnose clinically in the early stages of infection. Because early symptoms, such as headache and fever, are nonspecific to ebolaviruses, cases of Ebola HF may be initially misdiagnosed.

However, if a person has the early symptoms of Ebola HF and there is reason to believe that Ebola HF should be considered, the patient should be isolated and public health professionals notified. Supportive therapy can continue with proper protective clothing until samples from the patient are tested to confirm infection.