What You Need to Know About Ebola

     Thousands of miles from the midterms that have consumed most of Brandeis residents in the last few weeks, the average student might feel that the devastating news pouring out of western African nations bears little relevance to their lives. This unawareness, coupled with the hysteria regarding Ebola, has pushed many of the facts to the background. In an age where knowledge is power, here are some facts of which students should be aware.     Ebola, previously known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by an infection with a virus of the Filoviridae family. Of the identified Ebola virus species, four are known to cause disease in humans. The central danger of this deadly disease rests in its resemblance to common ailments or other viral infections. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, unexplained hemorrhage, and may appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure. 

 

          Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa. This outbreak, however, has seen more cases and deaths than in all others combined. Since the first case in March 2014, the disease has spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia, to Nigeria, and to Senegal. Already vulnerable due to weak health care systems following periods of political and social conflict and instability, the most severely affected countries have been Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.     The original Ebola host from this outbreak has not yet been identified; however, scientists believe that the first patient became infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate. Human-to-human transmission follows through blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola. Despite many rumors to the contrary, Ebola  cannot spread through the air or by water.

        The real question is whether or not Ebola is treatable. Recovery is entirely dependent on quality of care and the patient’s immune response. Supportive care-rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms exponentially improves a patient’s chances of survival. No proven treatment or vaccines been approved, but a range of potential treatments are currently being evaluated.     Even if Ebola isn’t hitting Boston anytime soon, students should not be ignorant to the crisis at hand. The virus has a higher and faster infection rate than almost any other seen by humans. Several cases have been reported in the United States, adding to the 9,936 known cases, with a rate of about 20 new cases every day, as of October 19, 2014. 

 

 

Sources:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)The World Health Organization (WHO)http://www.scilogs.com/tenacious-telomere/files/Slide16.jpg