Ebola: a Brief Outline and Some Key Facts

By Dr.Rhwa H. G. Qader:

Nowadays, the Middle East (in general) and Kurdistan (in particular) are facing a range of crises, from Islamic State aggression to the economic crisis from the withholding of Kurdistan’s budget by the Iraqi government.These crises have widely become the center of media and public debate, discussed by many politicians, analysts, observers, and even the general public, formally in interviews and articles, or informally on social media. In this essay, I would like to shed light on a global threat that is not less of a danger that the current crisis in the Middle East (at least from the Western authorities’ point of view): that threat is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Ebola is considered the most recent dangerous disease that is endemic in many countries in Africa, and more recently has found its way to the USA and parts of Europe with much potential to spread globally and on a larger scale sometime soon. Scientists consider it as life-threatening as H5N1 and H1N1 influenza virus. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola virus disease (EVD) (formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) often becomes a fatal disease in human. The incubation period, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms of the disease, is 48 hours to 3 weeks. First symptoms include a sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat (Flu-like symptoms). These symptoms are then followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver functions and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

In 1976 the first outbreak was discovered in villages of Central Africa near tropical rainforests (in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo). However, the most recent outbreak has occurred in both urban and rural areas in West Africa. This disease originally has transmitted from wild animals to human being. In fact, approximately 75% of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin and about 60% of human pathogens are zoonotic. This shows the importance of collaboration between veterinary and human medicine.

The latest outbreak started in March 2014 and it is the most powerful (fast spreading) and the most dangerous (more lethal) ever since the disease was first reported in 1976. This disease is highly contagious which means it can spread very quickly. Soon after the first case in Guinea, the disease has crossed the border to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Furthermore, the disease also appeared in Nigeria, where it was was transmitted by just one air traveler, as well as in Senegal, transmitted by one land traveler. Recently, according to Doctors without Borders, the mortality rate  was 100 % in a particular village in Sierra Leone. From this we can easily imagine how this fatal disease is dangerous to the whole community in terms of severity and causality. As a result, since August, the WHO declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The counties with poor health care systems, such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, are more susceptible to the disease and the most severely affected. In West Africa, so far more than 4500 people have been killed by Ebola and the victims are increasing at an alarming rate. These countries are also suffering from long-term conflicts and instability for decades that has led to shortages of human and infrastructural resources. International News agencies are reporting that these countries are running out of many basic requirements such as death-body bags. Surprisingly, managing a single Ebola patient each day requires about 50 gallons of water, 20 gallons of bleach, 8 pairs of rubber gloves and about 3 pairs of body suits. Therefore, it is difficult for these countries to cope with Ebola without international involvement.  Health-care workers treating Ebola patients are at a very high-risk of contracting the disease. The risk is mainly due to direct exposure to the virus if the precaution protocols have not been well practiced. On the other side of the story, these staff might become another means for transmitting the virus to others as they have contact with other hospital visitors.

Recently, Ebola cases in the USA and Spain have been confirmed and all of the patients are health-care workers. To prevent spreading, these patients have been isolated from the public and are under medical surveillance. At the same time investigation has been launched by the USA government to detect any flaw in the protocols, especially when one of the health care workers who was treating anEbola patient was allowed to travel on a plane.

As for the origin of the virus itself, one family of fruit bats are the natural hosts of the Ebola virus and the infection came from contacting fluids and secretions of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats and monkeys. In humans, Ebola is transmitted from human-to-human via direct contact with an affected person’s blood and other bodily fluids.

Treatment and prevention of Ebola are major challenges since no specific treatment for it has been found yet. The only actions that might improve survival is rehydration (because patients are losing excessive amount of body fluids) and treating some symptoms like fever. Unfortunately, at the moment there is no proven vaccine against this virus. Currently, there are two potential vaccines that are now undergoing human safety testing. Nevertheless, approving these vaccines may take a long time and may not pass in any of the three stages of safety tests. In addition, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated.

To conclude this essay, if there is one lesson to be learnt from this outbreak it is that establishing a modern health care system will significantly improve measurements for controlling any endemic disease, reduce causality and improve survival rates. The disease is very quickly spreading in poor countries which face difficulties in controlling the disease. On the other hand, although the WHO suggests that the incidence of spread of Ebola in the USA is quite low, the US president Barrack Obama has ordered a “much more aggressive response”.

Sources: WHO, CDC, The independent, BBC world News/Africa and CNN.

Dr.Rhwa H. G. Qader:  Msc. Microbiology and Immunology (Nottingham University, UK),  Bachelor in Veterinary Medicine (Sulaimani University), working in the Veterinary Directorate, Sulaimani 


One Response to Ebola: a Brief Outline and Some Key Facts
  1. sigue leyendo
    November 16, 2014 | 18:50

    La terrible enfermedad del Ebola ha llegado al continente africano dejando tras de
    si de muertos hace tiempo que en este lugar http://www.caesaremnostradamus.com/Lo%20cumplido_archivos/Ebola%20en%20Africa.htm lo avisaron hace mas de cinco años

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