The world’s deadliest outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) is now attacking Africans in multiple countries. Those infected need prayers and physicians, but to those left untouched by the disease, vigilance and hygiene are also required.
Since 18 July, the outbreak has affected lives in Sierra Leone (12 new cases and 13 deaths), Liberia (28 new cases with 11 deaths), and Guinea (5 new cases and 4 deaths). This data comes from the World Health Organization, one of many entities with boots on the ground in these nations. The borders are now shut in Liberia, according to a BBC report. One airline stopped flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone when an infected traveler recently flew to Nigeria. The latter country is on alert since a Liberian died of Ebola at Lagos airport.
Since February, EVD has killed 660 in West Africa. WHO offers a quick description of the deadly effectiveness of the disease:
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.
Some affected communities are under quarantine. Authorities are using media to inform the public about health and safety, including proper hygiene. Responding medical teams are wearing protective gear to protect themselves, although some specialists have succumbed to the disease. Even if properly conducted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that treatment and response have risks:
The viruses that cause Ebola HF are often spread through families and friends because they come in close contact with infectious secretions when caring for ill persons.
During outbreaks of Ebola HF, the disease can spread quickly within health care settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to ebolaviruses can occur in health care settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, gowns, and gloves.
Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.
If you have a moment today, click on a few of these links to learn more about this very dangerous and powerful disease.