Over 3,000 people have died from the Ebola virus, predominantly in west Africa, in an outbreak declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). But on Wednesday, a man from Texas became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola on US soil. So what is Ebola? And it be treated?
What are the disease’s symptoms?
The early signs of Ebola can be similar to flu-like symptoms, including: fever, severe headaches, general weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and unexplained bruising or bleeding. In its later stages, according to the NIH, the disease causes a severe rash; bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, and rectum; and death.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of Ebola HF.
The more you know about recognizing the symptoms of infection, the better protected you’ll be. While the symptoms of infection are somewhat general, you can use your judgment to determine whether or not your proximity to the infection and the symptoms you note might signify the presence of the disease. Symptoms have appeared anywhere from 48 hours following exposure to three weeks after exposure, though most symptoms should appear in about a week.
- Common symptoms of the disease include:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Stomach pain
- Lack of appetite
- Less common symptoms include:
- Redness in the eyes
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Bleeding inside and outside of the body
How does Ebola spread?
Ebola is not airborne. It is spread through bodily fluids, and patients are contagious only while they’re displaying symptoms.
What is the Ebola virus’s survival rate?
The average Ebola survival rate is about 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization, but it varies greatly, in part because of the different medical resources available to treat different patients.
In past outbreaks, all of which have been in Africa, survival rates ranged from 25 percent to 90 percent.
The actual survival rate in the current outbreak in West Africa could be far lower, as many cases have gone unreported. American Ebola survivor Kent Brantly said his clinic in Liberia had only one survivor in a month and a half of treating patients.
Among patients treated in the U.S., the survival rate is 100 percent so far. Previously, four patients already diagnosed with Ebola had been taken to the U.S. for emergency care. Two were treated and released from Emory University Hospital, one was treated and released from Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and a fourth is currently in treatment at Emory. A fifth American who was exposed to the disease in Sierra Leone was brought to the National Institutes of Health this week for monitoring and participation in a research study.
Is there a cure for Ebola?
No. The first people treated for Ebola inside the U.S. lived, but no one knows exactly why. A few drugs are being developed and have been used, but we don’t know whether they worked or simpler interventions did the job on their own. There’s also no vaccine, though one is being tested by the National Institutes of Health. Officials didn’t say whether the U.S. patient would receive an experimental medicine.
What is the incubation period for Ebola?
The incubation period for Ebola can span anywhere from two to 21 days. Symptoms most often begin to appear eight to 10 days after exposure.
How to prevent from getting Ebola or any kind of virus?
Avoid areas in which infections have been reported and suspected.
For now, the disease has only been confirmed in central and west Africa, and now one case in the US, and spread primarily around healthcare facilities where patients are being treated. For the most up-to-date travel warnings and information about potential outbreaks, visit the Centers for Disease control website here.
Avoid direct contact with infected people.
Because the disease is spread primarily via direct contact with infected patients, the best way to avoid infection is to steer clear of people who are already sick. Blood and other bodily secretions from infected patients are linked closely with the spread of the disease.
Avoid eating wild-caught bush meat.
Researchers have their suspicions that the disease came to humans via animals, probably through the consumption of the meat of primates. If you’re in an area where the disease has been reported, avoid purchasing, eating, or handling wild game to stay on the safe side.
Wash your hands regularly.
Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap is absolutely essential, especially if you’re in an area of infection. You should wash your hands, up to the elbow, before removing your hospital gown and other protective wear, and again after removal is complete.
Maintain your electrolytes and stay hydrated.
There is no vaccine for Ebola HF, so most of the treatment available involves addressing the specific symptoms and making the patient comfortable. One of the most uncomfortable symptoms of the disease is severe diarrhea and nausea, making it important that you stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes up. Sports drinks can be used for mild dehydration, but IV-drip should be used in serious cases.