Ebola Virus Disease

The Ebola Virus Disease in 2014 is the largest Ebola outbreak - now called an epidemic - in history. It is affecting multiple countries in West Africa, including Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. One case was reported in Senegal of a man who traveled from Guinea. There is a threat to other nations, both closeby and via international travel as this disease is unblievably contagious.

On September 12, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a "Detailed Hospital Checklist for Ebola Preparedness". This guideline helps prepare U.S. hospitals for potential ebola patients including personal protective equipment for hospital staff and environmental control measures to prevent the infection of anyone else in or around the hospital.

Days later, the CDC issues additional warnings for airline personnel flying into and out of Africa, stating that they should treat all bodily fluids as if they are contagious with Ebola. Of course, one reason for this measure is that diagnosing anyone with the Ebola Virus Disease shortly after they have been infected is very difficult. Everyone wants to stop the spread of this horrible disease. The Ebola outbreak has killed 2630 people to date and infected another 5347. If everyone who exhibits signs of the Ebola virus are checked out, then perhaps the outbreak of Ebola can be contained.

How can a person be checked out?

The CDC suggests four types of testing that can be done as soon as symptoms appear.

  • Antigen-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing
  • IgM ELISA
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • Virus isolation

It is difficult to know who all has access to these types of tests, though. Are these available to medical clinics in small villages in Liberia? That is a good question.

Ebola symptoms are: fever (temperature of 101.5°F/ 38.6°C) and any of the other following symptoms: headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding.

There is no FDA-approved Ebola vaccine.

Interestingly, no one seems to know how this whole outbreak of Ebola began. The CDC even acknowledges that it doesn't know who "Patient Zero" is. Tracing back the first case is important to know how the disease started. It could be useful in preventing another Ebola epidemic in the future. There is at least one case where a pregnant woman killed a "bush animal" and contracted the Ebola disease shortly thereafter. She died on August 11, 2014. However, she was not the first person infected with Ebola at that time. Many others had already been infected in other places. As early as March 25, 2014, "According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea has reported an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in four southeastern districts" so says the CDC's web site. At that time, 59 people had already died in Guinea.

Of course, the CDC says everyone in the United States has nothing to fear. Perhaps we don't. At the same time, the CDC offers this: "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 significantly improve the chances of survival:

  • Providing intravenous fluids (IV)and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
  • Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
  • Treating other infections if they occur

Some experimental treatments developed for Ebola have been tested and proven effective in animals but have not yet been tested in randomized trials in humans."

The first line is probably the most critical of them all. If a person has a fever, diarrhea and/or vomiting and you can keep them hydrated, you are certainly ahead of the problem.