Haemorrhage from your ears, mouth, skin, and every conceivable part of the body was the picture painted by the media. The one thing that was uniform in all renditions of the deadly disease was apathy, poverty, remote areas in Africa, and lack of modern amenities.
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However, all these changed when the first victim of the disease, a doctor, infected a nurse in The United States of America (Chappell and Rampton par.1). All hell broke loose and overnight, quarantines and screening areas in airports became the norm (Belluz, par.11). Ebola, the disease that had achieved notoriety for its high mortality rate threatened to become a global problem.
Ebola is a viral disease that attacks all the cells of the body in a systematic process starting with the white blood cells (Tam, par 14). It takes about two to 21 days before symptoms appear. The virus remains active in the host’s body even after the host is dead. Moreover, patients who are recovering from an infection continue to spread the Ebola virus through breast milk or semen for up to seven weeks (World Health Organization, par.10).
Ebola virus spreads through animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelopes, and porcupines (World Health Organization, par.7). The animals may be either ill, or dead. These animals are known to host the virus naturally. However, to be infected, one has to be in close contact with body fluids or organs of the infected animal (World Health Organization, par.6). Human-to-human transmission of virus is similar to that between human and animal.
The initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, and sore throat. Later, victims show symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, vomiting, diarrhoea, and rash with possible signs of internal and external bleeding (World Health Organization). A low white blood cell and platelet count coupled with elevated liver enzymes will be shown in a laboratory test (World Health Organization, par.11).
Due to the similarity of the symptoms Ebola shows with other diseases prevalent in the tropics, such as malaria, doctors conduct further tests. After doctors ascertain the infection, treatment ensues using supportive care and treatment of itemised symptoms to reduce the mortality rate (World Health Organization, par.12). No licensed product is available for treatment, but there exist experimental drugs.
Prevention includes reducing wildlife-to-human and human-to-human transmission, and outbreak containment measures such as proper disposal of fluids and burial of infected dead (World Health Organization, par. 16-20).
Belluz, Julia. How Ebola quarantines actually work, explained. 2014.
Chappell, Tami and Roberta Rampton. Obama defends U.S. Ebola guidelines, backs American volunteers in Africa. 2014.
Tam, Ruth. This is how you get Ebola, as explained by science. 2014.
World Health Organization. Ebola virus disease. 2014.