Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Ten facts about the Ebola Virus Disease

Published:Wednesday | August 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Arusha Campbell-Chambers, skin, hair & nail health

West Africa is unfortunately experiencing its largest outbreak of the Ebola virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other health organisations are trying to educate health-care workers and the public globally about this deadly disease.

Here are a few facts put out mainly by the WHO about Ebola:

1. Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness in humans, with a death rate of up to 90 per cent. It affects humans and non-human primates like monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees. Fruit bats are believed to be the natural hosts of this disease.

2. Infection occurs from direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes with the blood or other bodily fluids (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected individuals.

3. Infection can also occur if broken skin or mucous membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient's infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen, or used needles.

4. During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are:

❐ health workers;

❐ family members or others in close contact with infected people;

❐ mourners who have direct contact with the bodies of the deceased as part of burial ceremonies.

5. WHO does not advise families or communities to care for individuals who may have symptoms of Ebola in their homes. Rather, seek treatment in a hospital or treatment centre staffed by doctors and nurses qualified and equipped to treat Ebola victims.

6. Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat are typical signs and symptoms of Ebola. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (bruising, nosebleeds, bloodshot eyes, bleeding from gums, in vomit and stool). A measles-like rash can occur mainly on buttocks, trunk and upper arms. Initially, symptoms may be are red spots around hair pores progressing to red spots and bumps which may group together. There may be generalised redness and blisters in the mouth as well. Survivors may then get stripping of the skin.

7. The incubation period, or the time interval from infection to onset of symptoms, is from two to 21 days. The patients become contagious once they begin to show symptoms. They are not contagious during the incubation period.

8. Ebola infections can only be confirmed through laboratory testing.

9. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. There is no specific treatment and no vaccine against this disease. Experimental drugs may be helpful.

10. People are infectious if their blood and secretions contain the virus. Therefore, infected patients receive close monitoring from medical professionals and receive laboratory tests to ensure the virus is no longer circulating in their systems before they return home. Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery.

Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: