Eye on Superbugs-Special Report: Ebola

This week’s “Eye on Superbugs” series is a Special Report on the virus currently wreaking havoc in West Africa: Ebola. According to the World Health Organization, this is the “largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.” This outbreak has been the focus of major news sources around the world. Due to the fact that in its history this virus has shown to have a mortality rate from 50 – 90%, these recent outbreaks have been causing worldwide panic.

We have made Ebola the focus of this week’s Special Report for our “Eye on Superbugs” series because it is important to learn the facts about this virus, be up-to-date on the initiatives being taken to control it, and to help decrease the hysteria that has ensued. The situation has been suspicious in West Africa and there are now two confirmed cases of healthcare workers in Texas who have contracted the virus. This, in turn, has caused outrage among many Americans, namely because it is the treatment of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan that the contraction of the virus occurred.

Many people say he, and others who were brought back to America for treatment, shouldn’t have, because of the possibility of spreading this disease further. The situation in Africa and in Texas is being closely monitored by the CDC and World Health Organization, and at this point in time, the situation seems to be under control. Keeping informed with the facts and staying up-to-date is the best way to protect oneself in this type of situation. Continue reading to better educate yourself about this virus known as Ebola.

Ebola: What is it?

Ebola was discovered in 1976 in Zaire, which is more commonly known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, located in Central Africa. Named after the Ebola River, this virus is causing worldwide stir because of recent outbreaks causing illness in approximately 8,400 people and has caused at least 4,033 deaths, as reported by the CDC.* The reports are saying that one out of every two people who have contracted the virus has died during this outbreak. There are two cases currently in Texas, of healthcare workers who contracted the virus, according to the CDC website, which is being updated frequently.

Ebola was once known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever due to the fact that a fever is one of the known first symptoms of contraction of the virus, along with unexplained hemorrhaging (bleeding or bruising). Other symptoms are similar to the cold or flu: severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, and vomiting. These symptoms can appear anywhere from 2-21 days post-exposure, and the person is not infectious until symptoms are occurring. If exposed, people must be monitored for symptoms for at least 21 days in isolation, under medical supervision, so as to not transmit the virus to healthy people if he/she is found to have the virus.

How Ebola got to Humans and how it is Treated

The transmission of this virus is listed on the World Health Organization website, which states, “It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope, and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest. Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

Treatment must occur immediately in order to help the person’s chances of survival. While at this point in time there is no known exact treatment of the virus, there are treatment options available that have been proven effective against the virus. There are also several types of vaccines that are being developed to prevent further spread of this disease, but none have been approved as of mid-October. If someone passes away from this disease it is extremely important for them to be buried promptly and safely to prevent more people from contracting the virus from the deceased person.

*Case counts updated in conjunction with the World Health Organization updates and are based on information reported by the Ministries of Health. (updated October 10, 2014)

Fast facts you need to know about Ebola:

  1. Symptoms: Fever (101.5 or higher) severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  2. As with any concern with all viruses and bacteria, good hand washing and proper hygiene can decrease your risk of contracting diseases.
  3. There is no known vaccine is available.
  4. Ebola has a 50-90% fatality rate.
  5. Only two cases have been reported within the United States, and are being contained by health officials.

**Click here to check out a great infographic detailing the West Aftrica Ebola outbreak


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