What is it?
The Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe condition caused by a virus from the Filoviridae family. Known to be a condition that is transmitted from animals to humans, this virus spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal.
How is it transmitted? What are its causes?
According to scientists there are five different types of the virus, all of which have the potential to infect humans. According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) this disease can be transmitted from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In humans the disease can be transmitted by the following methods:
- Coming into contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of an infected person.
- Healthcare workers may contract the disease through transmission as well through contact with infected bodily fluids.
- Handling the meat from infected animals.
- Contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who has passed away.
Who is most likely to get infected?
Dr Ratan Kumar Vaish, Senior Consultant, Department of Internal medicine, Rockland Group of Hospitals, Delhi-NCR says, ‘The condition is contagious, so migratory populations are most likely to get infected and transmit the virus. Interestingly, this condition is also a hospital acquired infection and is commonly transmitted to hospital staff. Apart from that, high risk individuals include diabetics, immunocompromised patients, patients with kidney and liver failure and HIV infected people.’
What are the symptoms?
The incubation period (or the time between when the actual infection takes place to the time when a person sees symptoms of this condition) for this disease is about one week. After this period a person will commonly see the signs that are considered as ‘early symptoms’. According to Dr Ratan, the early symptoms include fever, rashes, headache, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Apart from that a person may also experience symptoms like pain in the lower back, arthritis like pain all over the body, diarrhea and a sore throat.
Once the condition has progressed a person may notice symptoms like:
- Bleeding from the mouth, ears, nose and ears.
- Increased sensitivity to pain on the skin,
- Genital swelling
- Rashes all over the body,
- And reddening of the roof of the mouth.
How is it diagnosed?
Usually a doctor will be able to diagnose the condition with the symptoms alone, but in order to confirm the diagnosis he/she may prescribe tests like CBC (Complete Blood Count), coagulation studies (a test to check for the amount of time a person’s blood needs to clot), viral antigen testing (a test to check for the presence of the viral antigen) and a liver function test.
Once diagnosed, what kind of treatment does the disease have?
Dr Ratan says, ‘There is no definitive treatment, and common anti-viral therapies do not work on the Ebola virus. Therefore the goal of the treatment is to treat the symptoms and prevent secondary infections or complications like pneumonia and liver failure.’
What is the prognosis?
According to the WHO reports, on an average, 80% of the people infected with this virus do die. Their death is usually due to a drop in their blood pressure and failure of organs.
How can it be prevented?
According to Dr Ratan, ‘There aren’t any vaccinations available as of now, so basic hygiene is of importance and a must be followed in order to prevent the onset of the condition. Simple activities like washing your hands well, drinking water from a clean source, maintaining general hygiene and cooking your meat well, can all serve as precautionary measures. Apart from that people should avoid crowded places, or those that are known to have an outbreak. It is also important that if they notice any early symptoms, they should visit a doctor immediately.’
Should people in India worry?
‘It s not prevalent in India, but people living in remote areas, where living conditions are poor, are always at risk of getting infected. But largely there is no need to worry as such.