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Ebola Virus

INTRODUCTION

1. Ebola is a rare but deadly virus that causes bleeding inside and outside the body.
2. The first Ebolavirus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.
3. As the virus spreads through the body, it damages the immune system and organs. Ultimately, it causes levels of blood-clotting cells to drop. This leads to severe, uncontrollable bleeding.
4. The disease, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever or Ebola virus.
5. Kills up to 90% of people who are infected.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus, although 8-10 days is most common.

Some who become sick with Ebola are able to recover, which has not been fully understood, why? However, patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death.

Early signs and symptoms include:

  1. Fever
  2. Severe headache
  3. Joint and muscle aches
  4. Chills
  5. Weakness

Over time, symptoms become increasingly severe and may include:

  1. Nausea and vomiting
  2. Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  3. Red eyes
  4. Raised rash
  5. Chest pain and cough
  6. Stomach pain
  7. Severe weight loss
  8. Bleeding, usually from the eyes, and bruising (people near death may bleed from other orifices, such as ears, nose and rectum)
  9. Internal bleeding

TRANSMISSION OF EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE

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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

Healthcare workers and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids

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.

EBOLA OUTBREAKS (PAST AND CURRENT)

Past Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the following countries:

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Gabon
  • South Sudan
  • Ivory Coast
  • Uganda
  • Republic of the Congo
  • South Africa

The current (2014) Ebola outbreak is occurring in the following West African countries:

  • Guinea
  • Liberia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Nigeria

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.

When cases of the disease do appear, risk of transmission is increased within healthcare settings. Therefore, healthcare workers must be able to recognize a case of Ebola and be ready to use practical viral hemorrhagic fever isolation precautions or barrier nursing techniques.

Barrier nursing techniques include:

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 a patient with Ebola dies, direct contact with the body of the deceased patient should be avoided.

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing Ebola HF in an individual who has been infected for only a few days is difficult, because the early symptoms, such as red eyes and a skin rash, are nonspecific to Ebola virus infection and are seen often in patients with more commonly occurring diseases

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. Samples from the patient can then be collected and tested to confirm infection.

TREATMENT

Ebola does not have a known, proven treatment. Standard treatment for Ebola HF is still limited to treating the symptoms as they appear and supportive care. This consists of:

balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes
maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure
treating them for any complicating infections

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