Ebola has fallen out of the regular news cycle, chiefly because there have been little occurrences in America and no outbreaks. Hospitals and clinics are also much better prepared for incoming patients and identifying symptoms.
Symptoms of Ebola include:
• Severe headache
• Muscle pain
• Abdominal (stomach) pain
• Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years. This is why we saw Ebola survivors donate blood to be concentrated for infusion into a patient with symptoms. The experimental treatment is purported to act as a boost or kickstarter for the patient’s immune system.
Ebola is found primarily in several African countries. Since 1976, Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the following countries:
• Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
• South Sudan
• Ivory Coast
• Republic of the Congo (ROC)
• South Africa (imported)
• Sierra Leone
During outbreaks of Ebola, those at highest risk include healthcare workers and the family and friends of a person infected with 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 (IV) fluids and balancing electrolytes (body salts)
• Maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure
• Treating other infections if they occur
Timely treatment of Ebola is important, but challenging, since the disease is difficult to diagnose clinically in the first few days, or early stages, of infection. Because early symptoms such as headache and fever are not specific to Ebolaviruses, cases of Ebola may be initially misdiagnosed with more commonly occurring diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever.
There are several situations where a patient should be treated as though they have tested positive for Ebola and cleared later. If a person has symptoms of Ebola and:
• had contact with blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola
• contact with objects that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids of a person sick with Ebola
• or contact with an infected animal
In these cases, the patient is isolated and public health professionals notified. Supportive therapy continues with proper protective clothing until samples from the patient are tested to confirm or rule out infection.
Currently there are no specific vaccines or medicines (such as antiviral drugs) that have been proven to be effective against Ebola.
The above information has been sourced from the CDC and NIH, and has been reviewed by a medical doctor in Wisconsin that specializes in infectious diseases. A reader recently asked if we would put together a background on Ebola, so this post is for Grisela in Green Bay, WI.