ebola mapAs many of you have already heard from friends, family, strangers, or the news, the largest Ebola outbreak known to man is occurring right now in Africa.  The Ebola virus awakens in Africa every several years and causes a fatal outbreak due to the severity of disease, lack of medical care, and poor hygiene in Africa.  The Ebola virus claims 6 out of 10 lives on average.  This year is not only marked by its monumental outbreak, but it also marks the first year that an Ebola patient is being transported into America:  Atlanta, Georgia – CDC headquarters.  Most people should not worry about this.  The CDC takes these matters very seriously.  These infected patients will not be traveling by US Airlines, and they will not be sitting in first class next to anyone else on an airplane.  They will be on a highly secluded airplane with containment systems in place for the entire transit.  I am confident that the CDC does not want an American outbreak just as much as we do not want an American outbreak.  Despite this protection, the incubation period of the Ebola virus is anywhere from 2 days to 3 weeks.  Therefore, it is possible for an infected patient to make it onto US soil without symptoms or knowledge of their infection.  This means that a perfectly healthy traveler can land in America unbeknownst to anyone that they are about to become infected and contagious with the deadly virus.  The US will be able to handle any outbreaks much better than Africa, and the CDC is confident that any “outbreaks” in America will be small and contained.  Even still, the deadliest strain of the flu virus only kills 1% of its victims; the Ebola virus carries a much heavier toll.  No one knows what the mortality rates of the Ebola virus would be in the American healthcare system.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of the Ebola virus are similar to the flu except more extreme.  Patients immediately develop malaise, fatigue, severe headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, weakness, joint pain, and chest pain.  Shortly thereafter, vomiting and diarrhea begin.  After these symptoms have progressed, patients then can begin to hemorrhage internally and externally, which is why Ebola is called “Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever” or “Ebola HF”

How is it diagnosed?

It is diagnosed with lab testing that identifies a human’s antibodies towards the virus.  It can only be diagnosed after the patient’s immune system has mounted a significant response, which usually takes a few days.  This test is called an ELISA test or Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay

How is it treated?

The viral infection itself cannot be treated.  It needs to be destroyed by your immune system.  Poor immune response is associated with higher death rates.  This is why it is important to keep your immune system in perfect condition at all times.  If you have not had your Vitamin Panel checked recently, you are overdue.  See our nutritional page for further details.

The treatment of infected patients includes supportive care while they fight the virus.  Their fluid status is maintained with IV fluids and hydration.  If they develop the hemorrhagic version of Ebola, then their blood counts are maintained with blood transfusions.  Infected patients usually have lung complications (similar to the flu virus), and respiratory support is provided with inhaled medications and ventilators if needed.  One of the reasons for high mortality rates with the Ebola virus is due to the lack of medical care in Africa.  However, even with advanced medical care, the Ebola virus is very deadly.

ebola life cycleHow is it transmitted?

It is suspected that bats are the reservoir for the disease.  They spread it to other wildlife, and humans get it from being exposed to body fluids of these animals.  Once a human is infected, human-to-human transmission becomes rapidly contagious.

Human-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus occurs via DIRECT CONTACT with body fluids such as saliva, tears, and mucous.  It can even be found in semen 2 months after an infection.

ebola sneezeDroplet transmission can occur with the Ebola virus.  This requires close contact of particles released by coughing or sneezing.  The subtle difference between droplet and aerosol transmission can be confusing.  Droplet transmission requires someone to cough on you without covering his or her mouth.  You would probably feel particles of mucous on your skin with this mode of transmission.

On the other hand, Aerosol transmission has not been seen in Ebola virus outbreaks thus far.  Aerosol transmission involves a longer distance for particles to travel in order to be infectious.  An example of aerosol transmission is being on an airplane and getting the disease from a coughing passenger in a completely different area of the plane.

How is it prevented?

ebola aerosolThe main way to prevent Ebola HF is to avoid direct contact with anyone infected.  If you are a healthcare worker around sick people, then you need to know that the early symptoms of Ebola are similar to other viral infections:  red eyes, sore throat, cough, fever, etc.  In order to prevent transmission, you can wear a mask to avoid direct particle exposure from a patient who is coughing or sneezing.  You should avoid any contaminated blood products, needles, scissors, and other sharps.  You may even wear fully protective garments (PPE) such as gown, face shield, hair net, and shoe covers.  Frequent use of disinfectants like alcohol, chloraseptic, Lysol will help lower transmission rates.  Washing hands or using hand sanitizer is always a good idea.  Be sure to add lotion routinely in order to prevent drying skin and dyshidrotic eczema.  Lastly, please be sure to appropriately isolate anyone who is suspected of having the Ebola virus.

The virus can even be spread after a patient has died, so please do not allow loved ones or any other healthcare personnel around the body without adequate barrier methods.

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