Ebola- Why Most Don’t Need to Worry, What You Need to Know

EbolaThe August 2014 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article “Ebola- Underscoring the Global Disparities in Health Care Resources”, highlights the real issues concerning the current world Ebola crisis. 

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now claimed over 1000 lives, mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.  Ebola has now also spread to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.  Given the case fatality rate of 60% quoted for this outbreak, it tends to bring that sense of panic to the minds of everyone.  

What is important to realize is that this RNA filovirus is only transmitted through body fluids.  It is not respiratory. The images in the world media of the Americans being flown to the USA in plastic containment units, with everyone around them in full body mask and protective gear, misleads us all to thinking that this is a respiratory virus and that just sitting near someone with Ebola will put you at risk.  You only catch Ebola from body fluids; usually feces, vomit, oral secretions, or blood.  This makes sense.  With a fatality rate of about 60% for this current outbreak, if it were respiratory, it would quickly wipe out entire villages and cities.  

The incubation is typically 5-7 days but can be 2-21 days. The symptoms may include fever, weakness, diarrhea, and a rash with about half of those infected developing bleeding and hemorrhage. 

For those living in regions of risk (West Africa), the key is avoiding contact with body fluids, and if handling those who have died from this disease, use gloves when you are in contact with the body, and wash your hands after any contact with anyone who might be infected.  It would be wise to avoid intimacy, where exchange of body fluids could occur, including kissing on the mouth.

This crisis will not likely become a world-wide epidemic, because good hygiene and sanitary systems will prevent spread from person to person.  At the government level, money might best be spent improving water and sanitation systems in the countries suffering from Ebola. 

You can read the article in the New England Journal of Medicine here…

 

 

Dr. Paul

 

 

 

 

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