According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).
While it is still unknown how an outbreak begins, researchers believe the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal. Once a human is infected is can be transmitted to others by means of:
- Direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person
- Exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions
The CDC said during an outbreak, families and friends are most at risk because they come in contact with infectious secretions when caring for an ill loved one.
Symptoms of Ebola HF typically include:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
Some patients may experience:
- A Rash
- Red Eyes
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bleeding inside and outside of the body
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola virus, though 8-10 days is most common.Some who become sick with Ebola HF are able to recover, while others do not. The reasons behind this are not yet fully understood. However, it is known that patients who die usually have not developed a significant immune response to the virus at the time of death.TreatmentStandard treatment for Ebola HF is still limited to supportive therapy. This consists of:
- Balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes
- Maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure
- Treating them for any complicating infections
Risk of Exposure (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
In Africa, confirmed cases of Ebola HF have been reported in:
- Sierra Leone
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- South Sudan
- Ivory Coast
- Republic of the Congo (ROC)
- South Africa (imported)
The natural reservoir host of Ebola viruses, and the manner in which transmission of the virus to humans occurs, remain unknown. This makes risk assessment in endemic areas difficult. With the exception of several laboratory contamination cases (one in England and two in Russia), all cases of human illness or death have occurred in Africa; no case has been reported in the United States.(AP Photo/Kjell Gunnar Beraas, MSF)
The prevention of Ebola HF presents many challenges. Because it is still unknown how exactly people are infected with ebola HF, there are few established primary prevention measures. Barrier nursing techniques include:
- Wearing of protective clothing (such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles)
- The use of infection-control measures (such as complete equipment sterilization and routine use of disinfectant)
- Isolation of Ebola HF patients from contact with unprotected persons.
The aim of all of these techniques is to avoid contact with the blood or secretions of an infected patient. If a patient with ebola HF dies, it is equally important that direct contact with the body of the deceased patient be prevented.
The CDC says anyone who has recently traveled to West Africa should watch for fever, headaches, and body aches in the next 3 weeks. If you get sick, call a doctor. Tell the doctor where you traveled.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/travel or call 800-CDC-INFO.
The CDC recommends anyone who has to travel to affected regions protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.*Information from the Centers for Disease Control