Understanding Ebola

Ebola is a serious contagious disease and once believed contained in Africa. However, the facts are outstanding and in the summer of 2014, the largest recorded epidemic to date had over 1400 cases and 1100 deaths. Profound ignorance and superstition led to fear and panic which impeded reporting early cases and proper care. African health workers had limited resources and had bleached used needles, but it was not enough to kill the virus. Used needles and syringes  transmitted the disease.

All suspected cases and cadavers of Ebola require strict isolation and precautions. Anyone assisting in the care of someone with Ebola must suit up in long sleeved isolation gowns, gloves, mask, hair cover, including beards, eye gear, and shoe covers. It is essential to wash hands between and after care. It is estimated that a terminal patient of Ebola loses between 2-3 gallons of sweat, saliva, and droplets. The incubation period is known to be 21 days.

Early symptoms: headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough, chest pain, sore throat, and possible fever.

Mid symptoms: conjunctivitis, jaundice, photophobia.

Next symptoms: bleeding into mucous membranes, body orifices, and puncture sites. A rash develops on the trunk around day 5. After two weeks of symptoms there is either a gradual improvement or multisystem organ failure with necrosis.

Human to human transmission occurs as the result of contact with the skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids. Epidemics occur sporadically. Most cases are related to non-human exposure in Africa such as primates.

Health care workers should stay alert for patients that may have traveled recently to one of the affected countries and use precautions. To stay up to date on the latest information on Ebola there are now online resources such as: www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html or


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