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Ebola In West Africa: March 2015 Update

by Dr Bob Kass - March 13, 2015

EBOLA in WEST AFRICA: March 2015 update

It is now over 14 months since the Ebola outbreak first started in West Africa and much has changed since we wrote our first article in August 2014.  Case numbers have risen from a few hundred to many thousands. Almost 10,000 people have now died according to official statistics but many more in reality . A small number of travel-related cases have been diagnosed in Europe, the USA and other countries in Africa. One person has died outside of West Africa (Texas, USA).  Cases have been reported in African countries (Nigeria, Senegal and Mali) other than the primary outbreak area of Guinea, Liberia and Sierre Leone.

There is some good news. No new cases have been confirmed in the last week (to 1 March 2015) in Liberia. This is the first time since May 2014 and may indicate some degree of containment.

During the course of the epidemic potential major outbreaks have been avoided in Nigeria, Senegal and Mali and is testament to the quick action of health authorities to invoke strict infection control measures and carry out contact tracing. 

A secondary Ebola case in the USA was most disturbing given the setting .

It also demonstrated the nature of the disease and the importance of strict attention to procedures when dealing with a case of Ebola. Potential Ebola cases require expert management.

Cases may still be reported outside of West Africa and it is important that we are diligent in the detection and management of these cases if they occur. It is also important to understand that travellers from Africa may have health issues apart from potential Ebola. Many of the symptoms of Ebola can fit with other diseases. We must not miss a case of malaria as this canalso be fatal if treatment is delayed.

Much knowledge has been gained from this outbreak and hopefully we will see a renewed interest in the development of a safe and effective vaccine for the people of West Africa.  Ebola is NOT a new disease and previous outbreaks have helped us understand how the disease is transmitted and who are at risk.

It is unfortunate that many media reports have focused on Africa as infected with Ebola rather than the actual countries of concern (Liberia, Sierre Leone and Guinea). Other countries were certainly at risk but much preparation was undertaken at  country level to identify individuals at risk and contain the disease should it occur.

Ebola isn’t like pandemic influenza! 

The Ebola virus is NOT spread through:

  • Casual contact
  • Air
  • Water

It cannot be contracted from an individual without symptoms!

Ebola is contracted through:

  • direct contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is unwell (symptomatic) at the time or who has died from Ebola. Bodily fluids include blood, vomit, urine, faeces, sweat, semen and saliva.
  • exposure to objects contaminated by the virus ie medical equipment or needles.
  • Infected fruit bats or other primates (monkeys, apes)

According to CDC the signs and symptoms of Ebola include:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising

These symptoms can appear at any time from 2 days to 21 days after exposure to an Ebola case. The average time is 8 to 10 days.

If you are unwell or become unwell after returning from an area of risk or have been exposed to some-one who has been diagnosed with Ebola, it is important that you alert by phone a health attendant as soon as possible. You should not have contact with others until the nature of your illness is discussed.

 

A similar message (below) is being communicated in West Africa.  The only difference is our housing and excellent health system.

The following resources may be useful:  CDC recommends advance notice to a medical service should you become unwell.

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/qa.html

More information can be obtained by visiting:

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/ebola-algorithm.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/west-africa-outbreak-infographic.pdf

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/ebola


Author

Dr Bob Kass

Dr Bob Kass is Medical Director of Globe Medical. He holds specialist qualifications in paediatrics and public health medicine and is one of Australia's pioneers in the discipline of Travel Medicine. 

Full professional biography