Friday, July 4, 2014

What is Ebola and Why is it So Deadly? Should You Be Worried? What Should You Do?

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In March, an outbreak of Ebola began with a just a handful of cases in Guinea. As a public health afficionado if not practicioner, I've had my eyes on the reports of the outbreak, but recently Atala has been asking me what I know about the virus and he is becoming worried. So what is Ebola?

The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, and symptons can resemble the flu. The virus is named after the Ebola River in the DRCongo (formerly Zaire), where one of the first outbreaks occurred in 1976. Of Ebola's five sub-types, the Zaire strain is considered the most deadly.

The WHO has said preliminary tests on the Ebola virus in those cases in Guinea in March suggest the outbreak there is the Zaire strain, although that has not been confirmed.

However, as of June 30, at least 759 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been infected by Ebola since its symptoms were first observed four months ago. 467 of them have died. That's a 61.5 percent mortality rate.

The outbreak is now the deadliest outbreak of Ebola virus on record. The "largest in terms of the number of cases and deaths as well as geographical spread," said WHO.

Not only is it uncontained, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) describes Ebola as "one of the world's most deadly diseases," adding,

"It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90% of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities."

There is also no vaccination against it.

The scientist who first discovered the Ebola virus in the 1970s, Dr. Peter Piot, told CNN that the situation is "unprecedented."

"One, [this is] the first time in West Africa that we have such an outbreak," he said. "Secondly, it is the first time that three countries are involved. And thirdly it's the first time that we have outbreaks in capitals, in capital cities."

New cases of the virus continue to be reported.

Between June 25 and 30, 22 new cases of the virus were reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, WHO said. Of those, 14 died.

The WHO says "drastic action is needed" to contain the virus, which has spread from rural areas to cities in West Africa. It has dispatched teams of experts to the region and is holding talks this week with the health ministers from 11 countries about what to do next.

So should you be worried? If you live in West Africa especially, try to be vigilant and ensure to go for tests when you have a fever, and ask those you're caring for to do the same.

1 comment:

  1. Blessings and happy fourth.
    hmmmm, consider this, viruses are man made. God help us all.


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