Ebola Symptoms and Treatment
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Ebola is a viral disease that was once known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Ebola is a very severe disease and often fatal in humans, and it can be spread to humans by animals. Once a human is infected, it can spread quickly from human to human. The virus is not air-born and can only be spread through direct contact with "blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids. Due to the method of transmission, health care workers and medical researchers are at a high risk, as well as family and those that gather to mourn the dead and prepare them for burial. This is what is currently happening in West Africa. A toddler in Guinea was infected by an animal, presumably a fruit bat. The illness spread from that one child to over 3000 people throughout Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.
While the potential fatality of the disease is severe, so are the symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola symptoms include:
- A high fever
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness
One of the reasons Ebola spreads so rapidly is because individuals can be infected for days or even weeks before they start showing symptoms. While the average is 8-10, it can take as long as 21 days. Unfortunately, the symptoms of Ebola can be very similar to the symptoms of other diseases such as malaria, meningitis, and typhoid. There are specific tests that can specifically determine if the patient has Ebola.
Treatment for Ebola
While there are treatments for Ebola, there is no clear cure. A patient's ability to recover depends on a wide range of factors including the individual patient's immune response to treatment and the level of clinical care the patient receives. Many of those infected in West Africa rely on natural healers, which have led to high mortality. The health care and sanitation conditions in West Africa have also increased the spread of Ebola. Many people have been infected while preparing those that died for burial.
Treatment for Ebola includes re-hydration and symptomatic treatment. The excessive vomiting and diarrhea often lead to extreme dehydration, which weakens the patient further and can lead to their ultimate death. Re-hydration helps the patient stay as strong as possible while fighting the disease. The same applies to other symptomatic treatments. By treating the symptoms of Ebola, the health care workers are keeping the patients strong and more able to fight the infection.
Meanwhile researchers are actively working towards finding a cure to treat Ebola patients and stop the spread of Ebola. According to the World Health Organization, there are two potential vaccines currently being evaluated by researchers. Despite the lack of a medical cure, there is a highly debated treatment being administered to some patients. According to the CDC, once a person recovers from Ebola, they develop antibodies in their system that protects them for at least 10 years. Dr. Kent Brantly recovered from an Ebola infection after receiving a transfusion from a 14-year-ild boy, who had already survived Ebola. Since surviving, Brantly has now donated his blood to Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse, who contracted Ebola while caring for the first Ebola patient in the United States. While the effectiveness of this treatment is still in question, health officials argue it is their best option at the moment. Additionally, conducting transfusions like this to transfer antibodies that have yet to be produced outside the human body has been used throughout history. Extracting the antibodies produced by a survivor is referred to as a "convalescent serum." According to a spokesperson from World Health organization, "Convalescent serum is high on our list of potential therapies and has been used in other outbreaks".
Aside from treatment, health care workers are trying to stop the spread of Ebola through preventative measures. Although the problem is truly in human-to-human transmission, people are being strongly urged to avoid consuming raw meat and avoid contact with wild animals. They are using protective gear when treating Ebola patients and isolating patients from non-infected individuals. They are also working to ensure those that die are buried quickly and with as little handling as possible.